TV UK, 13 July

Vampire High: There are worse ways to spend the time until The Real One is back with us.

Dolan Cummings

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer is dead, and not due to be resurrected until October in the USA and later still in the UK. Sky One and BBC2 are still showing repeats, but viewers with a taste for fresh blood will be tempted to watch Vampire High (Sky One, Saturdays at 5pm).

It’s inferior, of course. My flatmate says it’s just a great big goth fantasy, and he should know: he’s from Nottingham. Vampire High is thin on jokes and thin on violence. And with episodes of less than 23 minutes (padded out to 40 with adverts), it has more in common with Saved by the Bell and other crappy Saturday morning fare than with the mighty Buffster. And that dreadful voiceover recalls Poltergeist: the Legacy. Don’t even go there.

Still. There is something likeable about this show. Like Buffy, it plays on the rich metaphorical potential of vampire mythology. In this case, a group of young vampires are sent to school by The Elders on a kind of recovery programme called The Experiment. Dr Murdoch, the head of Mansbridge Academy (Man’s Bridge – get it?…never mind) is charged with civilising the young vamps, and protecting them from The Fury.

At the same time, Dr Murdoch must protect his Day Students from the vamps. But guess what. Sherry is an innocent and somewhat dopey kid who longs for true love. She too has been sent to Mansbridge to be straightened out; her parents have threatened to send her to an all-girl military school if she screws up. How is she going to find true love then? (Too late, smart ass – Buffy’s already been there.)

Anyway, Sherry’s romantic pining vibes are picked up by the psychic vampire Drew. (All the vamps have their own special powers, like Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.) Drew falls in love with Sherry – ‘The One’, in vampire lore – and the show is on the road. Add in a handful of decent vampire one-liners (‘This place sucks, and not in a good way’) and there are worse ways to spend the time until The Real One is back with us.

What Vampire High certainly does lack, at least in the first three episodes, is a strong female character to rival Buffy. BBC2’s Asian slot, East, features Girls on Top this week (Tuesday 17 July at 7.30pm). The programme follows three young women who defy the stereotype of the submissive Asian female. An interesting idea, but significantly we are not talking about the thousands of young Asian women who reject their traditional roles to become doctors or accountants: that’s a bit boring. The three women featured are all very raunchy and keen to show some flesh. Sadly, though, there is not a high kick or a slaying to be had.

There is more aggression in John Pilgers’s The New Rulers of the World (ITV, Wednesday 18 July at 10.40pm), which cannot help but recall Jon Ronson’s The Secret Rulers of the World (1). Pilger’s piece is more earnest, of course. He sets out to expose the dominance of multinational corporations and undemocratic institutions run from Washington. As a veteran campaigning journalist, Pilger brings a sharpness that might otherwise be lacking, as well as some useful insights.

In pursuit of bloodsucking capitalists, Pilger goes to Indonesia to look at the effects of an experiment in ‘globalisation’. Indonesia was the World Bank’s model pupil until its economy collapsed in 1998, and it is still in recovery. Pilger’s approach is refreshingly impassioned, which just about makes up for his narrow focus: similarly damning points could be made about Western environmentalist agencies, for example.

As Buffy has shown us, not all vampires look like Bela Lugosi.

Dolan Cummings is publications editor at the Institute of Ideas, and editor of Culture Wars. He is also the editor of Reality TV: How Real Is Real?, Hodder Murray, 2002 (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).

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spiked-issue: TV

(1) More bloodsucking: TV UK, 4 May

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