True Blood: I will not use the words “suck” or “bite” in this headline because that would be cliche

Posted by Dan July 7th, 2008 at 11:51am In True Blood

Oh, Alan Ball. You gave me Six Feet Under. Even if you never did anything else with your career, I’d still revere you as a genius. Even after I heard your recent play was so bad that, despite the plentiful full frontal male nudity, everyone I knew unanimously panned it.

So now, here we have True Blood — Ball’s return to HBO original programming. The pilot leaked onto the internet and, I must admit, I have previewed it. Sadly, it’s not all everyone (or, if you prefer, “I”) wants it to be. Admittedly, the bar has been set pretty high, but I think the pilot would be a bit lukewarm by any standard.

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True Blood, which is based on a series of books, tells the story of a parallel universe where vampires have “come out of the coffin” (…yeah…) and live openly among us. The crafty Japanese have developed a synthetic blood that allows them to survive without actually feasting on the blood of the living.

Set in Sticksville, Louisiana, Anna Paquin stars as a gap-toothed psychic waitress named Sookie Stackhouse (she just is — okay?) who strikes up an interest in a sexy, sexy vampire. His name is Bill (it just is — okay?). It’s a dangerous attraction as many people are not vampiro-tolerant. There are a lot of muddled comparisons to other civil rights struggles (one character says “I support the Vampire Rights Amendment” in the same way that people might say “Some of my best friends are black.” Also, one of the first scenes in the show features a cameo by Bill Maher hosting his show with a vampire panelist.)

The cast is rounded out by Sookie’s (I can’t believe that’s her name — it sounds dirty) none-too-likable loudmouthed best friend, her totally-crushed-out boss, her ne’er-do-well brother and her lovable and kooky grandmother.

What goes wrong with True Blood? Well, for the record, it’s not awful. In fact, I haven’t even given up on it. But, for the pilot, they should probably have spent some more time setting up the alternate universe. We know that it’s strongly based in reality (they even talk about Hurricane Katrina), but they don’t give much exposition to what the vampires are like, what they history is, etc. Half the fun of these kinds of shows is playing “what if” on the first episode and setting up the mythology. Hopefully, this will continue to unravel throughout the season.

Also, the characters kind of need to get punched up. Sookie and Bill are adequately fleshed out (or left mysterious, as the case may be), but many other characters run together (one exception — the glammed-out gay cook).

It’s actually hard to describe what left me wanting about the pilot — perhaps I just wanted more action and more blood-sucking, coffin-sleeping vampire activity. I’d really like to see what it’s like to figure out the psychology of characters accepting vampires as fellow citizens.

I’m sure it’ll happen, but hopefully there will be an upward trajectory from the pilot onward. It’s important to note, though, that this probably isn’t the final cut and they could very well trim some of the fat (possibly entire characters?).

1 Comment

  • 1. Steven  |  July 8th, 2008 at 6:29 am

    I enjoyed it- I like the way the show takes it for granted that we know what the vamps are all about- just dives right in.

    Also, the opening credit song was damn cool; I liked it so much I actually purchased it from Amazon’s mp3 downloads.


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