Impressions: “TRUE BLOOD”

Posted by Peter Hall - September 8th 2008 @ 6:09 pm

Created by Alan Ball, 2008
Pilot episode STRANGE LOVE Written and Directed by Alan Ball

HBO doesn’t make bad shows.  Mind you the bar may not always lock up a notch, but a bad show they’ve never put to series.  After the pilot episode, my personal jury is still out on whether they’ve raised the bar or merely grazed it with Alan Ball’s southern gothic adaptation of modern literary series SOUTHERN VAMPIRE MYSTERIES.  It is a fascinating show hinting at inspired promises hidden in the wings, no doubt, but waffles between flights of fancy that either pay off beautifully or not at all.

Set in small town deep in Louisiana, Anna Paquin plays a perpetually optimistic, occasionally psychic waitress in an alternate reality in which vampires have recently “come out of the coffin” thanks to a Japanese synthetic plasma beverage called TruBlood that gives the undead all the nutrition they need.  The small town is all shook up by the arrival of a vampire, the town’s first, that takes a mutual interest in our chipper gal Paquin.  That and a local woman dubbed a FangBanger found dead in her apartment soon after our dashing immortal’s arrival.

I can’t praise “TRUE BLOOD” enough for its production design and the immaculate alter-world it weaves.  This particular take on the creature of the night is hypnotic as hell, granting a medium grown stale in the blood sucking department a fresh and exciting lethality.  Unfortunately the triumphant genre twists are marred by marginal characters and inflated performances.  Paquin is almost too adorable, her best friend Tara is so forceful she becomes an evolution of the stereotype she derides so obviously throughout the premiere.

A few rogue scenes reek of, “Look at what we can get away with!  Don’t you just love HBO?”, which will make the series a hard sell for the mass audience the cable network has been trying to rekindle since the departure of “THE SOPRANOS”.  I can’t imagine families gathering around the tube to watch vampires and humans fucking, which isn’t exactly a fault on part of the show, but I can already sense a “CARNIVALE”-esque fate for “TRUE BLOOD”.  All the same, I’ll be glued every Sunday night until they give me a reason not to be.  Even this early on I imagine it’ll be a while before that happens.

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  1. September 11th, 2008 | 9:55 pm | #1

    I really enjoyed the first episode. I’m glad to finally read a rational review for it. I almost missed it because I heard so much bad stuff about it but I thought it was great. Finally there is a show on T.V that’s not about spoiled rich people. I will be watching this Sunday too!

  2. jayoh
    September 13th, 2008 | 2:30 pm | #2

    i really wanted to like this more then i did.

    the “out of the coffin” concept reminds me of a Hamilton novel, but putting it in a small town nowhere of the deep south, really allows for a new spin of the old xenophobic “oh golly, its a vampire”

    however, at the end of the day i think my wife summed it up perfectly, “i cant watch anymore, this whole thing feels too much like soft core porn.” over the top, over dramatic, lackluster pacing, but oh golly, its a naked woman!

    not to say i wont watch this sunday. its got potential, but im going to need something more signifigant then “the outsider comes to town” im kinda bored with that.

  3. September 15th, 2008 | 9:16 am | #3

    I’ll admit that I think the nudity and vamp sex was a little brash for a pilot episode. Usually shows work up towards those levels. I don’t think it was frequent enough to qualify as soft core porn, but then again I still think its too much to qualify as the sort of event, everyone-gather-to-watch television that HBO once crested at.

    After this second episode I’m really starting to like the show more. I love the evanescent sense of mystery, the powers of Bill, that dog (which I’m betting is the bar owner Sam as some kind of animagus), the new vampires, the effect of V-juice on humans, and the aunt from TWISTER.

    I think this week grounded the characters a bit more. Tara is still over the top, but Sookie (hate the name) is a little more rational than just the leader of the vamp fan pep squad she was in the first ep.

  4. October 1st, 2008 | 10:22 am | #4

    I’m enjoying this show, although I agree that it does have some marginal characters who seem to have nothing to do with the main premise (ie. Tara). It has already been greenlit for a second season.

  5. deepfield
    October 2nd, 2008 | 12:07 pm | #5

    episode 4 was pure gold..

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