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TV Preview: True Blood

I don't think it will be a revolutionary statement that how one feels about Alan Ball's new HBO series, True Blood, will have a lot to do with how one generally feels about vampires. Me, they've never really been my thing; they're OK and all, but the mere mention of fangs wouldn't necessarily get me to tune in. This review, then, is for (and by) the vampire-agnostic.

So here's the takeaway: I don't doubt at all that True Blood could develop into a deeply fascinating series for people at all points on the vampire-fan spectrum. But in the two episodes HBO sent me, the vampire parts were something I just needed to get through so I could get back to Alan Ball's witty writing in the more human realm. The second episode is stronger than the first; I've heard from some critics who got a full batch of five episodes that each one gets better. But the fate of many a TV series has been determined in episode one, and in True Blood's case, that's cause for some concern.

True Blood's protagonist is Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a Louisiana waitress with an unfortunate "gift" for reading people's minds that makes her daily life a struggle to tune out the thoughts of those around her. It's somewhat of a relief, then, when a pale stranger named Bill (Stephen Moyer) settles himself into her bar one night and asks for a drink of Tru Blood, the synthetic blood substitute that has made it possible for vampires to live among humans. Sookie can't read his mind but still quickly figures out that Bill's a vampire; "Am I that obvious?" he drawls in return. Why yes; you just asked for fake blood at a bar at night. It's not hard to guess. For more on the highs and lows of True Blood, just


What Ball has done best — in American Beauty, and then in Six Feet Under — is give a voice to people's unspoken fears: that intimacy is scary, that suburbia is soul-sucking, that death is really the end, or not the end. I'm not convinced that talent translates to the unspoken fears of the immortal. Bill's lines are the clunkiest, his characterization spotty. The second episode fixes that somewhat, giving Bill a set of chivalrous, 1800s manners, but in the first episode, I had a hard time understanding why Sookie was so attracted to this bloodsucker.

Part of that might be because of Sookie, who also could use a little more character development. Sometimes she's a Southern tart; sometimes she's a complete innocent. The second episode hints more at her family backstory, which was a relief; every little bit I learned about her helped. But in the first episode, I had such a hard time justifying her actions that finally I gave up trying to make rational sense of it.

The Sookie/Bill story gets some support from wild cast of supporting characters, some successful and some less so. To date, my favorites are Sookie's "My stars!"-saying grandmother and her sassy best friend, Tara, who can't stop running her mouth. Sookie's brother, the lady-crazed Jason, is introduced in a fairly odd way, but there's enough hinting at a dark past that I'm curious about him.

There's been a lot made of True Blood's sex and violence (or, maybe more accurately, violent sex), and it's true — there's a lot of it. There's definitely a spirit of abandon about the whole thing, which is something Ball's other shows have definitely lacked. It's more melodrama than drama, despite the occasional heavy reminders about how vampires are an oppressed class just trying to find their way in a world set on denying them their rights, and at times it's very, very enjoyable. But is it enough to — sorry, sorry — sink your teeth into? Well . . . that might well just depend on how you feel about vampires.


Join The Conversation
Ginger Ginger 8 years
Fortunately for those of us who like the show, it is so popular that after episode two aired it was renewed for another season. It's well done, with some great sound track and music score. Hope it has a long run.
krs10 krs10 8 years
orisugar orisugar 8 years
I LOVE THIS SHOW!!!!! Bill Compton is freaking HOTTTTTTT.
aliohh aliohh 8 years
This show is turning out to be fabulous. Look forward to each new episode. Love Moyer's portrayal of Bill, Lafayette, Tara, Sookie, and the grandmother - one of the best things on TV right now.
art_couture art_couture 8 years
The first episode left me troubled. At times I liked it and other times I didn't but I will watch the second episode to make up my mind. I liked her best friend (Tara, I think) I laughed out loud every time she opened her mouth :D
Renees3 Renees3 8 years
I really like vampires but can't stand anna paquin so I had NO expectations of liking this. But I did. I thought it was fun and I totally want to watch it again. On a side note HBO always has great music in their shows!
HipMom HipMom 8 years
I don't LOVE vampires, but despite the bad critics I read on EW about this show, I'm actually intrigued.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
I never read bill to be "hot" he was pale, had sideburns, broody, but never "hot" we are talking about some dude who still basically has the mentality of a war vet. Now eric, thats a different story. And hotness is in the eye of the beholder, I think bill is yummy.
fleurfairy fleurfairy 8 years
*Starter Wife
fleurfairy fleurfairy 8 years
The guy that plays Bill still gives me the icks from Start Wife when he played that homeless guy. He just has a very flat, one-dimensional acting style, IMHO.
suziryder suziryder 8 years
I don't have HBO, so I'll have to wait for Netflix for this one - which gives me time to hear if it's good or not. I'm interested, never read the books, but I know HBO shows are generally top quality. As a side note, I still don't recognize Anna as a blonde.
ehadams ehadams 8 years
I am a huuuuuuge fan of Charlaine Harris. I have signed hardcovers and everything. I have all the short story collections with Sookie stories in them. Etc etc. With that said, this show scares me. I am pretty sure they are going to ruin it. Bill, for example, looks creepy instead of hot. I am terrified of how they will make Eric look/act cause he is my favorite. I don't get the violent vampire sex thing either- who is having sex so soon??? I don't have HBO but I plan to itunes the first few episodes and see...
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
you know, that's a very good point - if vampires aren't your thing then you might not be drawn into it but i think that for myself - i'm not all that into vampires, but i like the plot so we'll see how it goes. i'll tune in at first and see if it holds my interest.
gingirl gingirl 8 years
I'm really excited about this show! I'm a big fan of vampire fiction (I keep meaning to read the books, I've heard they're excellent - and I work in a library, so book recommendations are plentiful, but this one I've heard about from several people). And I feel like there hasn't been any good vampire drama on TV since Buffy/Angel. So I'm very keen to see how this turns out. Plus, Anna Paquin is a great actress!
Phasekitty Phasekitty 8 years
I'm not a die hard vamp fan, but I am pretty excited for this. I'm willing to give anything Alan Ball creates at least 5 or 10 episodes before I give up.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
Oh And i hope bubba is in it. please let him be in it.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
I will be watching for sure! If its less Sookie-centric I would be okay with that, more character development for the others, like Sam and Eric and Jason and Tara, especially sam....he is my favorite. I am just hoping they keep the major plot points true to the book. as in relationship wise.
LaLaLaurie06 LaLaLaurie06 8 years
Is this why I kept seeing Tru Blood beverage advertisements all around New York?
Entertainment Entertainment 8 years
Just to clarify — I actually thought the vampire sex was pretty sexy/fun :) I was mostly interested to see if a non-vampire fan could enjoy the show, and my answer is just a maybe at this point, but it did do enough to make me want to watch again. CaterpillarGirl (and anyone else who's read the Sookie books) — will you be watching the show? One of the things I'm most curious about is what fans of the books make of the adaptation since Alan Ball has said it will be a little less Sookie-centric. I'd love to know your thoughts once the show airs!
Allyace Allyace 8 years
I'll definitely be tuning in. The show sounds interesting and a lot of HBO shows are really entertaining.
briggs313 briggs313 8 years
Ahhh I'm so excited for this show! I loooove vampires :)
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
Being a vampire connoisseur I have already read every single book in this series, and found out quite pleasantly that its not vampire-centric, its all about sookie and her quirky ways. The sex should be violent, vampires bite. If you dont like that world, if you dont want to see werewolves, weretigers, werepanthers, vampires, fairies, demons, than dont start watching this show!
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