Is there anything more cringeworthy than that moment when the non-genre show you’re watching suddenly decides to introduce a “vampire”? Jayne Nelson takes a look at a few fang-filled offenders...
“Looks like Buffy’s visiting the Big Apple,” quips Nathan Fillion’s dashing author, Richard Castle, in this tongue-in-cheek Halloween episode of the otherwise non-supernatural cop show. Not surprising, really, seeing as he’s just found a body in a graveyard wearing fangs and with a stake through its heart...
In case you’ve never caught Castle , Fillion’s a superstar crime writer trailing a New York detective as research for his latest novel. “Vampire Weekend” sees the investigators seeking out a vampire cult led by an Anne Rice reject named Morlock (who’s actually just sensitive to sunlight rather than being a real bloodsucker). Thankfully the Castle writing team are more clued in to the nuances of geeky behaviour than most American show writers (hell, Fillion even wore his old Firefly costume in one episode!), which is probably why the vampires aren’t presented with that horrible faux-seriousness afflicting other
shows (see Law & Order ) and it’s all a bloody good laugh. Literally.
Vamp or no vamp? Just a bunch of obsessives mucking around.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent
“Lost Children Of The Blood”
Here’s the set-up: a goth student goes to a club; meets a hot vampire-type; gets bitten; is found dead the next day. It’s a prime example of a hitherto straight TV show trying to pull off a “vampire” story by utilising goth subculture... written by someone who has probably never even passed a goth on the street. Because yes, all female goths go up to their boyfriends and inform them them they’re “mistresses of the night”, don’t they? And as for the rest of the dialogue, how about this for a chat-up line from the broody vampire (with a freakin’ mullet, if you don’t mind): “I could make you my next meal. First bite? [You’d taste] like a dark chocolate truffle. [Second bite] like a lamb, filleted of its skin, bleating, but quivering and wanting more.” Come on ladies, wouldn’t that work on you?
The show tries valiantly to bring meaning to the subculture it’s exploring so badly by throwing in some Jung, but when the sister of the victim says, “I knew something was wrong from the way she was dressing and her eye make-up,” you know the writers think all goths are freaks. Bad show! We’re going to pretend you never happened.
Vamp or no vamp? Just wannabe vampires being all wannabe
“Giselle Blaylock & Legend Chandler”
The season five finale of this outrageous plastic surgery drama manages to do something rather clever. Doctor Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) has discovered he only has six months to live, and the writers tie in his fear of death with the wishes of his two latest patients to be immortal. Ooh, that’s, like, deep...
But Nip/Tuck isn’t big on subtle, so there’s a lot of silly stuff too. Patients Giselle and Legend wear vampire teeth and drink each other’s blood because they say it makes them feel fantastic, but they’re not real vampires: “If you want to label us, we prefer to be called ‘sangs’,” one of them declares haughtily. They’re visiting the surgeons because they have matching neck-bites they need to have repaired – particularly Giselle, who lost a considerable amount of blood and nearly died after Legend accidentally bit into her artery (whoops). Did we mention that Nip/Tuck is anything but subtle? Their operation is conducted to the strains of the Soho Dolls’ “My Vampire”, and later in the episode Christian catches the couple glugging down bags of red juice after discovering the clinic’s blood bank (“It’s like we’re dying. It’s like we’re corpses without the blood”).
Om nom nom nom...
Vamp or no vamp? Just a loving couple who like to share everything, even their inner fluids.
The IT Crowd
“The Red Door”
Anyone who’s ever watched this hilarious sitcom from Father Ted writer Graham Linehan will be more than familiar with this brilliant episode, which features a classic turn from Mighty Boosh style pixie Noel Fielding. He’s the mysterious stranger living behind a hitherto-unnoticed red door in the IT department office, a stranger whose very appearance causes manager Jen to scream upon sight. Is he Nosferatu? Some kind of terrifying vampire creature lurking in the darkness of an otherwise ordinary office building?
Actually he’s just a goth named Richmond, but the sweet homage to vampire tropes is executed perfectly. And he proved so popular, he came back… and back… and back…
Vamp or no vamp? Merely a goth-in-hiding, though later episodes suggested he did have some supernatural powers.
Starsky & Hutch
This ’70s cops-and-robbers classic often swung wildly from deep, serious drama featuring rape and murder to downright ludicrous pantomime plots in which its two stars would look embarrassed to have turned up for work that day. This one sits uncomfortably in the middle: after the murder of a ballet dancer, the fang-marks on her neck and her missing blood lead a baffled Hutch and slightly more open-minded Starsky to conclude that her killer was a vampire.
They dig around, find a house full of occultists, put two and two together and finally discover that the murderer is actually Enter The Dragon icon John Saxon (how he must rue this role...). He’s a nutjob who’s taken to wearing a cape and living the vampire high life – although, as he discovers at the end, vampires are just as likely to go “splat” when falling from a great height as anybody else. Ouch.
Vamp or no vamp? No vamp, just your common-or-garden cape-wearing whackjob.
The Casebook Of Sherlock Holmes
“The Last Vampyre”
Jeremy Brett, who probably would have taken one look at Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes and called him a wally with a silly hat, proves his take on the Great Detective is the only one that matters in this feature-length adventure from 1993. An adaptation of the original Arthur Conan Doyle story “The Adventure Of The Sussex Vampire” – we don’t know why they renamed it and added a “Y”, either – it features a bucketload of good olde English folklore and superstition for our pipe-smoking hero to wade through.
The village of Lamberley has been experiencing a plethora of unexplained events, from the death of a baby to the paralysis of a family dog. The blame has fallen upon a man named Stockton (Roy Marsden), descended from a line of vampires according to local lore, but Holmes isn’t convinced that he’s a real vampire despite the evidence piling up around him. When Stockton is killed in an accident and, after his funeral, a young woman is found with two marks on her neck, it looks as though he’s risen from the dead...
He hasn’t, of course: the actions were merely the result of a young cad with a grudge and his poisoned arrows. Not very sporting, eh, chap?
Vamp or no vamp? Gossip, rumour and misinformation. No vampires required.
CSI: New York
A girl is found dead with two wounds on her neck, and the first suspect the police encounter is a tattoo artist with a piercing (because piercings = goth = probable vampire, obviously. Sigh...). It’s then decided that the cult who might have been responsible for the death are “sanguine vampires”, as opposed to gothy “lifestyle vampires”. And so we get to explore a bunch of ordinary folk, some of them rich and powerful, who regularly cut each other and exchange blood to “get to a higher place”. Barely a piercing in sight – how refreshing!
Shame the rest of the episode’s so relentlessly dull, however, and it takes a real talent to make bloodsucking boring.
Vamp or no vamp? Just a bunch of twits who think blood is cool.
How could we not mention the antics of these wacky escapees from the Warner Brothers’ lot? Yakko, Wakko and Dot spend a night at Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, much to the bemusement of the vampire in residence, who really can’t figure out their zany antics. With Dracula voiced by The Simpsons’ Dan Castellaneta and all the usual Animaniacs shenanigans, this is a fang-tastic treat. And if nothing else, it brings us this priceless exchange... Dracula: “I am Count Dracula.” Yakko: “Didn’t you used to teach math on Sesame Street ?”
Vamp or no vamp? Oh yes. But only in ’toon form.