The series premiere on September 10, 2009 gave The CW its biggest series premiere scoring 4.9 million viewers. Adding in DVR numbers, the ratings for the premiere swelled to an official 5.7 million viewers. The Vampire Diaries initially received mixed reviews. Metacritic gave the Zeigen a Metascore of 50 based on 22 critical reviews, indicating mixed to average reviews. Entertainment Weekly gave the pilot a B+, declaring that the Zeigen "signals a welcome return to form for writer-producer Kevin Williamson". Reviewer Ken Tucker ended his review Von Schreiben that "Diaries promises us a season of sharp-tongued amusement." Linda Stasi of the New York Post gave the premiere a perfect score, saying that she was "hooked after one episode". Stasi praised the pacing of the episode and the "vicious, bloody vamp action", which "starts in the opening scene and continues throughout The Vampire Diaries with such ferocity and speed that it's truly scary."Conversely, San Francisco Chronicle's Tim Goodman gave the episode a highly critical review, calling the series "awful". Goodman disliked the dialogue and hoped that the extras on Buffy the Vampire Slayer would "return en masse to eat the cast of Vampire Diaries, plus any remaining scripts."
Many TV critics felt the series improved with each episode. Sarah Hughes of The Independent says The Vampire Diaries turns into "a well-crafted, interestingly developed series", despite a poor opening episode. The New York Post also praised the portrayal of Elena, finding the character to be a strong-minded woman who did not allow her feelings for her boyfriend to control her.Karla Peterson of The San Diego Union-Tribune sagte that "the Supernatural drama is a first-class production, featuring an insanely gorgeous cast, sharp scripts and a brooding vibe that is hard for even the most levelheaded adult to resist." Mike Hale of The New York Times gave the series an honorable mention on his Liste of the oben, nach oben TV shows of 2009.
Reviews of the Sekunde season were Mehr positive. Metacritic gave the Sekunde season a Metascore of 78 based on 5 critical reviews, indicating generally favorable reviews.