May 16, 2013



Planted spin-off pilots are almost always awkward, and THE ORIGINALS, which aired as an episode of The Vampire Diaries, was no exception.  The timing of Originals was particularly odd in the Vampire universe, because it yanked two of the show’s most notable supporting characters, original vampires Klaus (Joseph Morgan) and his brother Elijah (Daniel Gillies) abruptly to New Orleans and away from the season-long battle for a vampiric “cure” that’s been sending Vampire hurtling toward its season finale.  The cure could have the side effect of releasing all the dead in history (including all the supernatural dead) back to present-day Earth, perhaps dooming the human race, and it’s a fight in which Klaus and Elijah have been very much involved–but they instantly bailed, all because another Vampire character, the doppelganger Katarina (Elena Dobrev), who’s the show’s most constant liar, left Klaus a letter saying, basically, “Hey, you should go to New Orleans!”  (Another Original, their sister Rebekah, played by Claire Holt, stayed behind in Mystic Falls and was barely present in the pilot, but she will be a regular on the Originals series, so perhaps her deal wasn’t done when the pilot script was written.)

Once you got over the hump of its placement in Vampire chronology, though, Originals was a very promising starting point for a spin-off.  Written by Julie Plec, who co-created Vampire with Kevin Williamson and who’s brilliantly guided the show through 4 seasons as showrunner, Originals was clearly going to need a good reason to pry Klaus out of Mystic Falls, where he’s been enmeshed on-and-off since Season 2, and have him take up residence in The Big Easy, and Plec came up with one:  through some supernatural anomaly, he’s become the first vampire ever to father a child (it’s because he started as a werewolf and then became a hybrid, if the details matter), with the expectant mother being werewolf Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin, a survivor of The Secret Circle who must be glad Plec saved her phone number).  One of the reasons that Vampire has worked so well is that all its arcane, intricate and sometimes seemingly arbitrary plot twists are firmly rooted in character, and it makes sense that Klaus, who’s been cut off from family and meaningful romance (admittedly, because he’s tried to kill just about everyone close to him), would find himself attracted to the idea of a new–so to speak–bloodline.

Of course, Klaus needs a new adversary, and he’s been given the “King of New Orleans,” Marcel (Charles Michael Davis), who was sired by Klaus but now seems a worthy match, determined to hold onto his town.  (This rather takes a step toward True Blood and its “King of Louisiana,” but we’ll let the vampire networks fight that out for themselves.)  Marcel has established brutal control over the French Quarter witches, and that makes Sophie (Daniella Pineda) an uneasy ally for Klaus, who we know is no fan of witches.  The token human on hand is Camilla (Leah Pipes), a bartender who’s also a psych student–which could come in handy with the Originals–and not so coincidentally looks a bit like Klaus’s Mystic Falls almost-girlfriend Caroline (Candice Accola).

There are plenty of possibilities here, and also no reason why beloved Vampire characters couldn’t make crossover guest appearances in New Orleans and vice versa.  The Originals pilot also has handsome production values as directed by Chris Grismer, although viewers shouldn’t get used to all those genuine New Orleans locations, as the plan would be to shoot the series largely in Georgia, where Vampire is shot.  The parent show will miss its Originals, who’ve been a major part of just about every storyline of the past 2+ seasons, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing for a veteran show to clean house every so often, and this gives Vampire the chance to develop new aspects of its mythology next season.  (It’s a little more worrisome that Plec will inevitably give most of her attention to her new show in the fall, but we’ll have to hope she has an effective succession plan in place.)

I missed the NCIS spin-off pilot, not being a viewer of the parent show, but The Originals is certainly far superior to NBC’s busted attempt to build a spin-off of The Office out of Dwight Schrute’s family life.  If The Originals series holds to the level of its pilot, its presold concept and characters should give CW something it’s never had before, and indeed a commodity precious to any network:  a sure thing.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."