The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

When Crime Solving Sucks: Exploring TV’s Fascination with Vampire Detectives

Written by: Katherine Faigen, Special to CC2K

Image I’ve got a great new idea for a television show!  Get this…are you ready? 


That’s right, I said it, vampires.  But not just any old show about vampires, I’m thinking outside the box here and I’ve got a great new twist: DETECTIVE VAMPIRES!  Vampire heroes who track down and defeat the evil forces threatening our non-believing world…

Wait, what?  They’ve already done that?

That’s right.  Three years after Joss Whedon’s Angel – a television series about a vampire PI with a tortured soul – went off air, television execs at Lifetime and CBS decided that, what the hell, the idea might have already been used, but maybe there was something to be said about this vampire detective shtick.  Moonlight and Blood Ties were born.

Moonlight follows vampire detective Mick St. John and his reporter/sexual-interest Beth as they stop bad guys and…well…solve crimes.  Blood Ties works similarly, only this time it follows ex-cop turned PI Vicki Nelson as she and her vampire friend Henry Fitzroy solve the supernatural crime cases that the police can’t seem to close.

Now, while those who watched Angel back in “the day” can’t help but roll their eyes as these two new (and completely cliché) programs, one still has to take a step back and admit that maybe there’s something to this abused idea.  Maybe CBS and Lifetime aren’t too far off of television gold.  Maybe they did their homework and came up with a formula for maybe not great, but certainly profitable television.

Let’s look at the facts:

Vampires sell.  They just do.  You might roll your eyes and claim that you’ve never really been interested in vampires, but you’re probably kidding yourself.  Vampires are sexy, and in this day and age, sex sells… to everyone.  Seriously.  Let’s take a look at the literature.  Bram Stoker had it right when he made Dracula into a handsome, foreign count with numerous wives and human sex slaves.  And Dracula’s a classic isn’t it?  Now let’s look at our recent history with vampires and literature.  Anne Rice.  Anne Rice had the right idea.  According to her, vampires are sexy.  They’re strong, handsome, dangerous, and tortured.  Pole around Borders and you’ll see that Interview with a Vampire is on many middle-school reading list tables.  Building off of this, if you wander over to the New Fiction rack with all the paperbacks, you’ll see that most of the New York Times Bestsellers fall under a very new category of fiction: Paranormal Romance. 

It's not just books either. Here's a website that lists most of the vampire movies and TV shows that have been made since television began.  Prepare yourself: the list goes on for MANY pages.

So now that we've established that the public (whether they admit it or not) is more than a bit obsessed with vampires, we can ask the question: why are so many of them private investigators? The answer once again points right to commerce:

Crime Sells. Take a look at how shows like the numerous CSIs, Law and Orders, and Monk, are all hovering near the top of the ratings each week.  Crime Drama is good television and it’s easy to create.  Open episode with crime, spend episode solving crime, throw in twists along the way…  It keeps an audience hooked and they tune in every week to watch!

So the obvious step three, after establishing that we sort of can’t…cough…getenoughofvampires, and that we like Crime Dramas, is to blend the two together.  In theory it makes a beautiful birthday-cake of a TV show. 

We may roll our eyes and groan, “Oh HOW formulaic!”  But are we tuning in every week?  There might just be something to this formula, and as much as we might want to admit that we’re above such cliché drama – that we need something original and intelligent to hold our attention – the stats don’t lie!  If you’re not tuning in, well…check out Moonlight and Blood Ties!  Hey, it’s all in the Halloween spirit, and you might be surprised to find yourself getting into it!