Now, you guys don’t need me to review the TV series. All you have to do is look around this website to find out all you need to know about the show, and just how fantastic we think it is. If you haven’t seen it, then watch it. Now. That’s an order. Trust me, you’ll thank us for it. So assuming you’re all fans, you’re here to find out about the DVD; what the set looks like, what special features there are, how good they are, and just what Vee wore for her DVD interview (a fetching rust-brown jacket and an amber pendant that puts Bonnie’s to shame, just so you know).
When I initially saw the proposed cover for the DVD, I was a little disappointed at the use of an image that had been used in so much advertising already. I’ve had time to get over that, and while it may be overused, it is at least symbolic of the show. The rest of the artwork on this DVD set is pretty fantastic, though, with illustrations of scroll work, vines and crows on the the spine, top and back of the cardboard sleeve. There’s also a movie poster-type image of the main trio on the back of the plastic DVD case.
I have to say that I’m impressed with how economical this packaging is. It’s got five discs packed into a standard DVD case (six in the case of the Target DVDs with the bonus Paley disc). It has everything you need without wasting materials like a lot of DVD box sets have a tendency to do. The Vampire Diaries set is going green, and it’s fantastic to see that the WB have produced a DVD set that fits with that ethos.
Vee Note: The Target edition of the DVD is thicker than the regular release, but not by much. If you bought Season 4 of Supernatural, you’ll know the size.
The set also comes with a booklet that amounts to a useful episode list with promos and episode stills. A typo of ‘Stephan’ in place of ‘Stefan’ under the Blood Brothers synopsis had me reaching for a pile of sticky notes, but – just this once – I’ll let them off that on account of attention to detail on the rest of the packaging.
Vee Note: My release does not have the dreaded ‘Stephan” error, but does have a giggle-worthy ‘Mystic River’ in place of ‘Mystic Falls’ under the There Goes the Neighborhood synopsis.
These are a simple affair, and not at all flashy. The main menu uses the same image from the cover of the DVD, with the sub menus using various promotional stills. While it might have been nice to see a little more effort with jazzing up the art work (some of the scroll work from the cover, perhaps), it’s worth trading that off for simple menus that do what they need to rather than flashy menus that are a pain to navigate. It would have been nice to have seen the episode titles along with numbers on the menus, to make finding a particular episode a little easier to do at a glance. A big bonus is the original score by Michael Suby has been featured as the background music on the menus. While this music is going to be released on the soundtrack in October, there are plenty of fans who will be happy to hear the tracks in full in this way until then.
It’s also extremely heartening to find that English subtitles for the hard of hearing are included – a feature that can often be annoyingly overlooked on many DVDs. Not only that, but these subtitles extend to the special features, which is something that is sadly more often missing on DVDs than not. Kudos to the WB. Other subtitled languages on the UK/R2 DVDs include Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish. The North American/R1 DVDs have English, Spanish, French, Korean, Portuguese, Thai and Chinese Traditional subtitles, along with a Portuguese audio track.
Sound & Video
I don’t have a fancy television or sound system, so I can’t tell you how the quality of this set is when you bung it on your home theatre system with your surround sound immersing you in the awesome soundtrack, and every neck snap, slurp, and sarcastic quip Damon makes on his way through Mystic Falls. However, I can say that the sound and video on both my laptop and non-fancy TV are fabulous.
To be perfectly honest, I think many fans would have been satisfied with even half the amount of special features on this set. I feel almost spoiled with the amount there is, with videos featuring the producers, actors, fans and guest specialists. There is so much love and detail gone into these extras, and they have a warm, cosy and personal feel to them, welcoming you into the Vampire Diaries family. Huge credit to Retrofit for making all of this look so great.
Commentary: This was actually very disappointing, for one reason; there’s only commentary on the Pilot episode. This is not to say that it’s bad commentary – on the contrary, it’s excellent stuff. Julie Plec, Kevin Williamson and Marcos Siega talk us through that first episode with insight, humour, an obvious ease with one another, and love and affection for this series. Like with a lot of the things we hear from the set, you really are left with the impression that this is a group of people who have come together as a family on this project. This is the stuff that audio commentary on TV episodes should be like. But many fans – myself included – were hoping for more, with varying cast members on different episodes. Fingers crossed for the season 2 DVD set, eh, guys?
Deleted Scenes: Rather than being incorporated into the episode, these are an extra menu item next to the episode they’re from, and it’s easy enough to guess where in the episode they came from. Many clips are nice little extended scenes that don’t reveal anything new, but are nice to see. Others are awesome, giving us more insight into some characters and relationships, and it was a shame they weren’t in the show. There’s a compelling scene between Harper and Stefan in Let the Right One In, in which Stefan explains why he doesn’t feed on humans. Others scenes caused my brain to explode from unexpected revelations. In A Few Good Men we have a fantastic scene with Kelly Donovan that adds a whole new angle to her story, and goes a long way towards explaining much about Vicki Donovan’s own troubled personality.
Vee Note: As awesome as these deleted scenes are, they are also all attached to the wrong episode and I have a theory as to how this happened. Judging from comments on Twitter, a lot of fans have figured out that the deleted scenes are off by one episode, showing up on the episode previous to the one it is actually from. I think the production numbers are to blame. As anyone who’s followed details of the show knows, the Pilot was considered episode 100 in the production timeline, while Night of the Comet (EP02) was 101, Friday Night Bites (EP03) was 102, and so on. I think this comes down to simple confusion about episode numbers vs. production numbers. Once it clicked, I became amused at the mistake because it haunted us all during Season 1. So this is classic Vampire Diaries. Here’s a list of which deleted scene is from which episode, just in case anyone’s confused:
Night of the Comet: Deleted scene is from Friday Night Bites
You’re Undead to Me: Deleted scene is from Lost Girls
Lost Girls: Deleted scenes are from Haunted
Haunted: Deleted scene is from 162 Candles
The Turning Point: Three deleted scenes are from Bloodlines
Fool Me Once: Deleted scenes are from A Few Good Men
A Few Good Men: Deleted scene is from There Goes the Neighborhood
There Goes the Neighborhood: Deleted scenes are from Let the Right One In
Let the Right One In: Deleted scene is from Under Control
Into Mystic Falls: This is a nice, in-depth look at how the series was created and evolved into the show we know and love. There’s a whole lot of stuff packed into this, going into details about the things we’d already heard about – such as the changes from book to screen and how Kevin and Julie became involved – but also delving into the things we’ve not heard about, such as what it was that drew Marcos Siega to be involved in the project, and details Paul M. Sommers’ approach to lighting the show in a distinctive manner as Director of Photography. The familiar details are neatly woven in with all the new things, making this a feature that keeps your attention even when you’re aware of the facts.
When Vampires Don’t Suck: First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. OMGWTFBBQ!!! They featured Vampire-Diaries.net! That was one of the most amazing feelings I have experienced in my life, seeing the website that Vee and I worked so hard to create being featured like that. Thank you to everyone over at the Vampire Diaries and Retrofit for doing that for us. We are truly touched.
Now that’s out of the way…
There are quite a few things covered in this section, with interviews from the usual suspects (cast and crew), along with Zap2It’s Carina MacKenzie and our very own Vee. The myth of the vampire in folklore and on the screen, and just why it is that people are so attracted to them these days, is explored by the cast, producers and guest experts on the subject, which then segues onto the popularity of the show, and the fans and fandom. None of this is exactly news to fans of the show, but it’s great to see it documented in the special features, and you can’t help but get drawn in to the enthusiasm of the fans from the Hot Topic events.
A New Breed of Vampire: When they were casting for the roles back in February 2009, we saw a lot of casting videos going up on YouTube. They were a little embarrassing, to put it politely, and so I wasn’t entirely sure what the videos for the final cast would be like. It’s actually a revelation to see these videos, firstly because this is what decent casting videos are like, and secondly because you can see why it was exactly these cast members were chosen. Very much worth watching for more insight into the show and into the casting process.
Vampires 101: A nice little feature that covers the basics of the vampire lore in the Vampire Diaries in the form of a pop quiz. Bonus points for the use of Mr. Tanner and Alaric in their teaching roles to add a little humour into the mix.
A Darker Truth: This was a bit of silly fun to build up a bit of anticipation in the run up to the premiere of season one. It’s not exciting on its own as I’m sure most of us have seen the videos online already. But it adds a nice historical completeness to the DVD, and it’s nice to see it in higher quality than was available on the internet.
A Second Bite: I have a weakness for bloopers and gag reels. If such a thing is missing from a DVD, I am heartbroken. Well, maybe not quite that bad, but I can work up a good sulk about it. The WB released a section of the blooper reel a few weeks back, and as funny as that was? They saved the best stuff for the DVD itself. Falling over backwards in her hoop skirt wasn’t the only thing that Nina got up to while playing Katherine, and I just hope that statue was a prop and not an actual garden ornament…
The Awakening audio book: It’s a nice touch to see the books represented on this DVD set. I don’t think it would have been taken amiss if it wasn’t included, as the books are mentioned quite a bit in the special features already. But as a book fan, I do appreciate that little extra to show where the TV series originated from. Personally I’m not a fan of audiobooks, but from what I heard when I was playing with the feature, it’s actually a well-read telling of the first book of the Vampire Diaries. Top job, Rebecca Mozo.
Vee Note: Target PaleyFest bonus disc – Props to Warner Bros. for not going cheap and having Target throw some b.s. extra disc in a sleeve. The Paley bonus is in the set and has the same artwork as the rest of the discs. The feature is oddly edited – and starts off saying this panel was at the New York PaleyFest when it was actually in Los Angeles – but, overall, it’s a fantastic addition to a set that’s already loaded with awesome features. In fact, I’m a little sad that this wasn’t included as a standard feature as the event highlights how funny and relaxed the producers and cast are, and especially since it’s so at odds with a lot of the standard sit down interviews you see with Ian, Nina, and Paul (you know, those ones where they’re answering the same questions as the ten previous interviews). It’s spontaneous, it’s funny, and it’s a fantastic showcase of everyone’s chemistry.
Despite some minor niggles, this is a great DVD set that all Vampire Diaries fans will love to own. It’s out now in the USA, Canada, UK and Australia, and can be ordered online from Amazon and other retailers.
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