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.