Genre series tend to ebb and flow on the wave of the television landscape. There are certainly mainstays to be had—medical and police dramas are an eternal TV fixture—but television is as susceptible to trends as any other creation that resides at the intersection of art and business. Among the many subgenres that have emerged over the last several decades, the vampire show attracted throngs of adoring fans who made these sexy monsters appointment viewing week after week, for years at a time in some cases. The Sopranos is rightfully declared as the harbinger of Peak TV, but there’s an argument to be made that its more youth-oriented contemporary, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, also played a role in the shift of viewer sensibilities within the realm of televised drama. A few years after Buffy finished its run, inevitable successors emerged, such as CW’s soapy The Vampire Diaries, which also enjoyed a lengthy run, but when it comes to cultural cache, nothing was quite like the behemoth that was HBO’s True Blood, which took the PG-17 sexiness of Buffy and cranked the dial up to an 11. It was the kind of mammoth hit that even made non-viewers familiar with the likes of Sookie and Vampire Bill.
For the most part, things have been quiet on the vampire front since True Blood concluded in 2014 as the world took a breather from what may have been perceived as an oversaturation of vampire television (research for this article reminded me of a number of forgotten shows, including the utterly doomed Jonathan Rhys-Meyers NBC Dracula update which aired the same year as the True Blood finale). There’s been a few offerings here and there, including A Discovery of Witches and The Strain—neither their series’ runs nor viewer numbers came anywhere close to their predecessors—but for the most part, vampires were placed back in their proverbial coffins as the 2010s genre landscape was dominated by fantasy (namely a little show called Game of Thrones) and zombies, which is still shuffling along despite the long-awaited conclusion of The Walking Dead thanks to its seemingly countless spin offs. The pendulum has started to swing back the other way, with this year ushering multiple vampire television shows.
So why does it seem like hardly anyone is tuning in?
Yes, there’s a number of more low-profile contributions that had short shelf-lives since 2020, whether by choice or (more commonly) cancellations. There was the Australian import Firebite and the imaginative but awkward NOS4A2. Netflix’s sapphic vampire drama First Kill was yet another victim of the streaming platforms merciless cancellation habit, receiving a stake through the heart only a mere two months after its premiere, which garnered Netflix deserved criticism over the way it treats lesbian and Black (the show heavily features both) stories.
The second half of 2022 seemed poised to bring vampires back in a big way (First Kill notwithstanding), especially with AMC acquiring what should be the new crown jewel in their programming: Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. With such a long-standing intellectual property, I thoroughly expected the series to be a smash hit; once I saw it for myself, I mentally willed it to be a smash hit, as it wildly exceeded my expectations. When the trim 7 episode season finally concluded earlier this month, I awaited audience reactions with bated breath, anticipating the slightly exasperating but inescapable “I’ll wait to binge watch it” contingent of people to finally catch up on the deeply toxic but alluring vampire romance at the show’s center. It never happened. While the premiere reportedly drew large numbers (via Variety), I suspect those numbers dropped over the weeks (exact numbers reported from AMC were murky). Although the network, confident in readers’ enduring love for Rice’s most famous work, approved a second season prior to the premiere, I fear that without more fanfare, Interview will meet the same fate as the aforementioned NOS4A2.
The most recent established vampire IP to make a go of it is Showtime’s Let the Right One In, a loose adaptation of the 2004 Swedish hit novel of the same name (Låt den rätte komma in) with a Swedish film adaptation in 2008 and an American version in 2010. Part of this may have to do with the fact that the network itself has lagging subscription numbers, with many doubting its future as a standalone network. But for those who may want their vampires on the less sexy/more science-y side, it’s an entertaining watch, with Demián Bichir as a desperate father trying to discover a cure for his vampire daughter (Madison Taylor Baez) who was attacked ten years earlier (also starring Anika Noni Rose and Zeljko Ivanek).
More light-hearted affairs aren’t faring any better. Peacock’s revamped (no pun intended) Vampire Academy has invoked little discussion except among some loyal readers, while SyFy’s coming-of-age comedy Reginald the Vampire is virtually unknown. Thus far, the only real winner in the vampire series struggle is FX’s What We Do in the Shadows, and even season 4, which just aired this past summer, received slightly muted cheers (I wasn’t able to review it because time gets the best of all of us, but this latest season was the series at its absolute knee-slapping best).
I can spend hours asking “what gives,” but the immediate causes can likely be chalked up to an unfortunate combination of a possibly confusing number of platforms, an overabundance of content, and marketing. Though part of me can’t help but wonder if it’s a case of audience indifference, a signal that perhaps the time of the fearsomely seductive vampires may be coming to an end, or at least in the form as we know it. It’s impossible to imagine the world of television without them entirely, as they’ve been a fiction staple ever since an Irish author named Bram Stoker sat down to write his epistolary magnum opus in 1897. But judging by the less-than-enthusiastic reception of the current offerings, despite how good they may be (I can’t overstate how amazing Interview is, folks), it’s possible that the timing for this previously timeless tale simply isn’t right.
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t cheering on sexy monsters, she can be found on Mastodon here.