TV Detail: True Blood review
Anytime I come across a TV show based in the South, I do so with a little fear and trepidation, always half-expecting the locals to be made into yokels. But what better place to set a vampire series than rural Louisiana? Alan Ball's new HBO series True Blood has an interesting concept—after a Japanese company manufactures a synthetic blood, vampires are finally able to “come out of the coffin” and into public view. Ball introduces this concept right off the bat with a vampire lobbyist on Real Time with Bill Maher.
How the existence of vampires will mesh with Southern religion and a history of racial tension is a theme that Ball also teases immediately with talk about "vampire rights" and telepathic lead Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) reading the thoughts of the locals in the dive bar where she works—“Dear Jesus, help me just enjoy one beer and not desire a second.” But whether Ball is going to explore the mix of mythology and religious belief with a deft touch or a clunky fist hopefully wasn’t answered by the church billboard proclaiming “God hates fangs.” I also hope HBO will one day grow out of interpreting their freedom to be grittier than network TV into a directive that every new show must include a gratuitous sex scene—in this case, once with a sadistic vampire and once with a human trying to emulate one.
Some of the people of Bon Temps, Louisiana, come across almost as thick as
their accents. Sookie's best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley) is somewhere
between sassy and just plain mean. Sookie's brother Jason (Ryan
Kwanten) is a womanizer who may have just killed his latest conquest. Her grandmother just wants to have a vampire come talk to her Daughters of the Confederacy group about the Civil War.
And her boss Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) is the nice simpleton who’s
secretly in love with her—well, not so secretly since she's psychic.
Sookie is lifted from the dreariness and the decay around her when Merlotte's gets its first vampire customer, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), whom she quickly falls for. The source material is Charlaine Harris' romantic Southern Vampire Mysteries series, and the first episode felt a little like the TV equivalent of a beach read, but as the characters are developed and the mythologies deepened, Ball might be able to follow the quirky success of his Six Feet Under. The scene where a goth-looking gas station attendant pretends to be a vampire to mess with a fraternity boy and his girlfriend, only to be put in his place by a redneck in a trucker hat who really is a vampire was a fun twist. And the attempt to portray what it might really be like if vampires tried to integrate into society has great potential.
True Blood review: Episode 5 "Sparks Fly Out"
True Blood review: Episode 3 "Mine"
True Blood review: Episode 2 "The First Taste"