Billed as “The Ultimate Guide to Vampire Television,” Brad Middleton’s Un-Dead TV (published by By Light Unseen Media; 512 page trade paperback; $21.00) is a sizable tome, providing a broad, 30,000-foot view of vampires on TV, covering everything from the first appearance of a vampire on TV — in the form of Bela Lugosi appearing as Dracula on The Texaco Star Theater in September 1949 — right up through recent bloodsucker appearances in 2013.
In his Foreword, J. Gordon Melton provides a succinct, high-level view of the subject matter, noting that “Dark Shadows set the stage for the vampire to become a fixture in the nation’s living rooms,” before going on to decry how little research or scholarship there has been on vampires on the small screen…with one particularly notable exception:
“There is…one exception to the general lack of interest in the television vampire — Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In fact, it is the inconvenient truth for vampire scholars that over half of all the scholarly comment on the broad subject of vampires penned through the last century have been directed at Buffy…”
Middleton certainly tries to do his part to increase vampire scholarship with Un-Dead TV, which is broken into the following sections:
- Single Episodes
- The Series
- Telefilms and Pilots
- Documentaries and Reality TV
- Variety Programming and TV Specials
- Non-Traditional Vampires
- No Vampires Here! (stories thought to feature vampires, but which do not)
- The Forthcoming and the Forgotten (projects in development, and abandoned projects)
- Non-English Programming
- A Trivial Pursuit (miscellanous facts and statistics compiled during writing of the book)
Each entry in each section includes production details and a synopsis, and many also include a review and some trivia. The reviews feature both brief qualitative analysis and star ratings on a scale of Bomb to 4 stars (well, actually from a stake to 4 vampire bats, but you get the idea).
The sections seem well-researched and borderline exhaustive. The “Single Episodes” section, for example, chronicles shows as varied as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, CSI, The Drew Carey Show, The Love Boat, and Night Gallery, to name but a few. In addition to that impressive variety, there are some intriguing episodes rated four stars, such as installments of Quantum Leap, Reaper, and Sledge Hammer! The categories used serve as a strong organizational aid, making it easy to navigate the book, and a thorough index helps even further.
In terms of drawbacks… the book suffers from a distinct lack of graphics, resulting in page after page filled with paragraph after paragraph of unbroken text, while countless intriguing entries cry out for illustration. (But I have to admit that adding a large number of graphics would have likely upped the page count significantly, resulting in higher production costs and likely a higher cover price.) Also, I am somewhat mystified by the relative amounts of coverage afforded to various shows. As a random but prime example, HBO’s influential True Blood gets a five-line entry, while Italian network Rai Uno’s obscure two-part mini-series Dracula gets nearly four times as much analysis.
All in all, however, Un-Dead TV fills a previously empty research niche, and provides lots of browsing entertainment. Vampire lovers and scholars should find much to like in these pages.