'The Originals' (The CW)
From the second half of its first season through much of its third season, "The Vampire Diaries" was one of the best shows on network TV. Through the half-way point in its first season, the "TVD" spinoff "The Originals" is in all ways superior to where the mothership was at the same point. That doesn't mean that the New Orleans-set vampire/werewolf/witch drama will necessarily follow the same growth curve, but "The Originals" very quickly found its own distinctive voice and, especially pleasantly, it found smart ways to use "TVD" veterans Joseph Morgan, Claire Holt and Daniel Gillies, who have all been missed in their original -- GET IT?!? -- CW home. There are still a lot of things for "The Originals" to work on. I don't care for any of the human characters in the slightest. I like Phoebe Tonkin when she's actually given things to do, but she becomes pretty wallpaper too frequently. And the mythology is already verging on silly. Still, "The Originals" is a pleasant surprise compared to the backdoor pilot last spring.
- Daniel Fienberg