Ranked: Vampire TV Shows

Only some of these shows suck

Image Sesame Street doesn't count

Is it possible that Sesame Street’s debonair Count von Count may have predisposed the current generation of TV watchers to regard most vampires as gorgeous rather than grotesque? Almost all of the television Undead are portrayed with some level of allure; for the hundreds of disposable vamps staked by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there’s always the dangerously attractive Angel, Drusilla, and Spike.

The classic vampiric traits of sensuality, immortality, violence, and angst can add appeal to almost any story. Even relatively obscure shows inspire devotion, with fans of Forever Knight’s vampire detective Nick Knight or Blood Ties’ Henry Fitzroy showing up to passionately plead their case in the comments of the omnipresent Internet polls asking readers if they prefer the Zeitgeist-dominating vamps of Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, or True Blood.

Modern vampires quickly made the jump from literature to film, but their small-screen presence has increased sharply as of late. Dark Shadows began featuring a recurring romantic undead character in 1966, and vampires began to manifest in programs such as ’70s supernatural detective show Kolchack: The Night Stalker and Dr. Who.

Image Luke Wilson may or may not have big buck teeth

The Canadian show Forever Knight ran for four years in the ’90s, while south of the border vamps showed up in daytime soap Port Charles. Monster-of-the-week appearances continued as paranormal game-changer The X-Files provided the wretched “3” and the lighthearted “Bad Blood,” which featured a foxy exsanguinating Luke Wilson, and David Hasselhoff offered vampire stories in both Baywatch and Baywatch Nights. UK series The Hunger has recently been getting DVD play in the U.S., while 1998 BBC miniseries Ultraviolet features a young Stephen Moyer playing a less gentlemanly vampire than he does in his current gig on True Blood. Unsurprisingly, bloodsuckers also visited supernaturally themed shows like Charmed, Smallville, Supernatural, and The Wizards of Waverly Place.

On the current global airwaves, the BBC’s Being Human is beginning its third season, and the Israeli teen vampire drama Split appears to owe a lot to Buffy, including its trenchcoat-wearing bad boy vamp and the dorky friend crushing on the female protagonist. And with its international cast leading the way, HBO’s True Blood is a worldwide phenomenon. The third season premieres this Sunday at 9pm, bringing werewolves into the already heady supernatural mix.

Here’s a look at some past and current vampire-themed television shows:

10 Vampire TV Shows Ranked from Best to Worst
Show Network and Year(s) Netflix Metascore Users
1 Buffy the Vampire Slayer UPN/WB, 1997-2003 n/a n/a
Over seven seasons, Sarah Michelle Gellar's iconic Slayer and her quippy sidekicks traversed the treacherous grounds of demon-filled Hellmouths, high school betrayals, black magic, and first loves with increasing subtlety, reaping acclaim for episodes like the tragic “The Body” or the exhilarating musical “Once More, with Feeling.” The Chosen One was recently voted #3 in an EW list of top 100 TV characters. Not surprising, considering she saved the world. A lot.
2 Being Human BBC, 2008-present 79 8.4
This witty dramedy follows the travails of three twentysomething Bristol roommates -- who happen to be a vampire, a ghost, and a werewolf, respectively -- as the reluctant supernaturals try to fit into both the real and paranormal worlds. The second season premieres on BBC America on July 24, while Syfy is currently developing an American version. Boo.
3 True Blood HBO, 2008-present 74 8.5
Alan Ball’s insanely enjoyable escapist drama takes as its starting point Charlaine Harris' popular Southern Vampire Mysteries and expands their first-person narrative into a metaphorically rich melange of sexuality, sin, and the South. Out-of-the coffin vampires, telepaths, shapeshifters, small-town bigots, politicians, drug dealers, and other creatures revolve around one another in a pleasurably dense narrative that navigates camp, mystery, romance, humor, horror, violence, and heartbreak with sultry finesse.
4 Angel WB, 1999-2004 n/a n/a
Buffy's vampire beau Angel (David Boreanaz) left one Hellmouth for another in this spinoff, heading to L.A. to combat the demonic corporate law firm Wolfram & Hart. Metaphors abounded as the firm was sustained by human evil while interdimensional demons (“Senior Partners”) manipulated the strings. Angel was canceled despite its popularity, and the fantastically dark last season ended with an apocalyptic showdown that continued in the comic book Buffyverse.
5 Dracula: The Series Syndicated, 1990 n/a n/a
This tongue-in-cheek half-hour Saturday morning serial follows two young Van Helsing descendents, their uncle Gustav, and their friend Sophie as they try to foil smooth-talking international corporate bloodsucker Alexander Lucard (hint: spell “A. Lucard” backwards).  Geraint Wyn Davies, who appeared occasionally as a Dracula protégé (Draculackey?), would later star in another Canadian vampire series, Forever Knight. Wall Street 2, eat your heart out. Literally.
6 Dark Shadows ABC, 1966-71; NBC, 1991 n/a n/a
What started out as a gothic soap turned increasingly supernatural after ghosts appeared in its sixth episode, followed by other paranormal beasties such as the romantic yet creepy vampire Barnabas Collins. One in four households watched the premiere of the 1991 revival, but preemptions from the real-life horror of the Gulf War led to cancellation. Über-fan Johnny Depp will take on the Collins role in director Tim Burton’s 2011 movie version.
7 The Vampire Diaries CW, 2009-present 50 6.0
Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) and Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder) flaunt sharp teeth and sharper cheekbones as the respectively good and evil vampire brothers battling for the attentions of damaged yet feisty high schooler Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev). Based on the popular book series by L.J. Smith, this paranormal small-town show was created by Scream/Dawson's Creek alumnus Kevin Williamson. Team Pacey!
8 Blade: The Series Spike, 2006 49 7.5
This action drama, based on the comic book character and film series, starred rapper/actor Kirk "Sticky Fingaz" Jones as the half-vampire, half-human vampire hunter and Jill Wagner as Krista Starr, his reluctant human partner with her own agenda. Blade was the first scripted show for the young male-oriented Spike network; show creator David S. Goyer wrote all three Blade films and also co-wrote The Dark Knight.
9 Moonlight CBS, 2007-08 38 9.3
Like Angel before him, hunky private investigator and vampire Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin) attempts to exorcise his personal demons by helping others in this well-liked though mostly critically unacclaimed paranormal romance. Luckily, St. John can go out during the day. Veronica Mars' Jason Dohring shines as St. John’s undead friend Josef and Dr. Who's Sophia Myles tries her best American accent as a reporter/love interest Beth Turner.
10 Kindred: The Embraced Fox, 1996 n/a n/a
Loosely based on the RPG Vampire: The Masquerade, this San Francisco-based show follows the organized crime-like machinations between five groups of vampires known as The Kindred, who are discovered by police detective Frank Kohanek (C. Thomas Howell) and of course an intrepid blonde reporter played by Gossip Girl mom Lily van der Woodsen (Kelly Rutherford). The show was canceled after only eight episodes.

What do you think?

What is your favorite vampire show? Are you a fan of True Blood? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Comments (115)

  • Mitch  

    What about Hex? Weren't they vamps?? Pretty good series, though horrible finale....

  • Anya  

    Hex actually had Nephilim (fallen angels/demons).

  • JT  

    I've seen one or two episodes of each of these shows and they've all been horrible

  • Jason  

    I never found True Blood that interesting. Not bad, but not that good either. As far as silver screen vampires go, Buffy was spectacular and Angel was good, but the rest can't hold a candle. On to movies. I enjoyed Interview with the Vampire, From Dusk Til Dawn, and Dracula (1992) wasn't bad, but off the top of my head I can't think of anything worth remembering. Blade 2 was fun and kitschy I guess. As far as literature, I liked Salem's Lot and the Dark Tower by Stephen King (the latter only featuring Vamps late in the series), and of course Anne Rice's early works (Interview, Vampire Lestat, Queen).

  • ajsuk1  

    Glad True Blood was quite hugh up. Tongue is cheek yet twisted, dark and sexy. its a fun, entertaining and very engaging show. Cop out that Buffy was number 1 (its not- and Angel? eh?), otherwise thanks to Metactritic, I do much enjoy lists like this!

  • kluu  

    As films go, the Underworld series were nicely done. Created their own mythos while still capturing the standard and much liked aspects of both Vampires and Werewolves.

    I'm a big Buffy/Angel fan so I agree with those choices. I've never seen True Blood but heard form a friend that it was not very good.

    Kindred: the Embrace was disappointing. If they had stayed more to the RPG mythos it would have been better. The short lived 1990 Dark Shadows was also disappointing.

    Why isn't Nick at Night not on the list. It should be at number above the original Dark Shadows at least.

    Where would you place Grandpa and Lily of the Munsters on the list? I'd put the Munsters above Kindred: the Embrace.

  • aggy  

    Moonlight wasn't a bad show. It wasn't Buffy, but it was just getting warmed up when it was snuffed. Blade, though: how can anyone watch that crap? The movies were horrible. The show was worse. Vampire Diaries is too much a teen soap, and True Blood is basically just soft porn, but with less story and worse acting.

  • mjkbk  

    Buffy was named one of EW's 100 Greatest Characters in all of POP CULTURE, not just TV.

  • Serra  

    End of Hex was really bad. Loved that show, hated the end. Wanted at least one more series to finish it up.

    I loved Buffy, Angel and Being Human. Vampire Dairies is good, not buffy good, but good. I also like Moonlighting because I loved the main characters. It should have been rated better, but it is a short list.

  • Robert  

    BUFFY was a no brainer. Not just the best vampire show, but one of the top 3 or 4 TV series of all time, one of those few shows that redefined TV on multiple levels.

    I would have put ANGEL #2, but would have put BEING HUMAN next. I would have dropped TRUE BLOOD to 4.

    I don't get the DARK SHADOWS appeal. I tried to watch it and just fell asleep. I've tried several times, and no such luck. I would have put FOREVER KNIGHT above some of the shows that made the list. One of my summer viewing projects (I try to catch up in the summer on shows I didn't watch during the season -- I write on TV so I watch 45 to 55 shows during the year and watch another 15 to 25 on DVD to catch up) is to watch THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. I started watching it, hated it, but have been told it got better.

    But unless VAMPIRE DIARIES turns out to be OK, I think the list of good vampire shows is really short. BUFFY and ANGEL were both great. BEING HUMAN is very good. TRUE BLOOD is very flashy and good, but not very deep. Then there are several that are OK, like FOREVER KNIGHT, MOONLIGHT, and possibly THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. All the rest are really horrible though.

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