Bon Temps is not Sunnydale.

Posted by Peter Hall - June 15th 2009 @ 12:39 am

It was true last season when I said it.  After the Season 2 premiere, the declaration still rings true: TRUE BLOOD is the best show on television.  I’m not here to gush over the recent return to television, as engaging as it was, rather to address a comment Herc at AICN made, a comment that echoes sentiments I’ve seen in comment sections across the tubes.

Specifically, in his admittedly favorable preview of the S2 premiere, Herc expressed, “Bon Temps keeps reminding me of Sunnydale, and how much more fun Sunnydale was; “Buffy’s” plotting and dialogue were sharper and more graceful.”

Firstly, each a proxy for their respective show, Bon Temps is not Sunnydale and any contrast of the two is little more than rigor mortise clutching for a TV show that will never return.  Aside from a female protagonist and vampire pro/antagonists, the two shows have nothing in common.  The comparison cannot extend beyond foundation.  It’s like saying New York City is much more fun than London, yet the only real tendon connecting the two are asphalt and sky scrappers.  Each have distinct, mutually exclusive idiosyncrasies, to pretend they’re of the same ancestry and agenda is fruitless.

Pollination aside, I still don’t get how Herc can say Sunnydale is “much more fun” or that Buffy’s cobblestones are “sharper and more graceful”.  Combined those comments imply that Alan Ball’s agenda is to be both boring and dull.  Where Whedon’s was a world of teen aged apocryphal (mis)adventures and dealing with hormones, Ball’s is a world of dark acclimation to a new norm, levity being a natural byproduct of dealing with the unknown.  BUFFY sought fun, TRUE BLOOD safety nets into fun for balance.

(Spoilers for both shows abound)

Sure the death of Jenny Calendar was Buffy’s darkest episode to date when it aired, but it wasn’t until late in the second season that Whedon built a character so sympathetic that their removal would set the tone for the remainder of the season and beyond.

It only took Ball four episodes to build and shatter an antique and latent empathy for the life and death of Sookie’s Grandmother, a death that would also set the tone for the remainder of the season and, as the S2 premiere revisited, beyond.

I’m not out to point-counterpoint the two fictional worlds and the men who weave them, I’m simply trying to show the speed with which each show reached a particular landmark, which further shows there’s a reason TRUE BLOOD isn’t as much fun as BUFFY.  Plainly put, the issues TB deals with at times (pedophilia, incest, alcoholism, racism) just aren’t as naturally conducive to the same kind of fun that BUFFY dealt with (dating, puberty, high school).

I’ve never gotten why BUFFY took on this role as template for all past, present, and future shows.  Personally, BUFFY is my favorite show of all time.  I even think that Joss Whedon is the greatest story teller of our generation; yes, even surpassing personal hero Stephen King.  That doesn’t give him papal bull over what defines any and all shows that feature vampires.

Bon Temps is not as much fun as Sunnydale because, well, Bon Temps isn’t as much fun as Sunnydale.  Cute, conservative 16 year olds don’t sit around quoting movies waiting for vamps to comically spring from the grave.  Instead hot 20 somethings are strangled naked for committing the sin of having sex with vampires.  The two don’t exactly operate on the same moral scale.

And to lambaste TRUE BLOOD’s plotting and dialogue?  I can’t even remember a time when BUFFY so strongly established a character so quickly as TB’s Lafayette.  His dialogue is as sharp as it gets and the fate of his character was more tenuous than anyone in Buffy’s ever was after so little screen time.  There’s such an economy to the utilization of all the characters in TRUE BLOOD that a statement implying its contrasting bluntness to BUFFY is, frankly, silly.

I don’t think that TRUE BLOOD is a better show than BUFFY – I’ve yet to put on random episodes of TRUE BLOOD to cheer myself up, after all – but to pretend that the latter is the only game in town (particularly years after its broadcast store front was shuttered) reeks of nothing more than pledged fanboyism.  TV is not a one-or-the-other enterprise.  Bon Temps is not Sunnydale.

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rss 3 comments
  1. Matt Wells
    June 15th, 2009 | 1:35 pm | #1

    The only reason True Blood is the best show on TV is because The Shield had their season finale :-) (Yes, I made a similar comment the last time you said this)

  2. Nigel Tufnel
    June 16th, 2009 | 1:32 am | #2

    Another great episode last night. Comparing these two shows makes no sense at all. The only similarity is vampires and that's about it. I find more in common between Veronica Mars and Buffy than TB and Buffy…

  3. July 8th, 2009 | 10:36 pm | #3

    I wanted to wait until I saw the S2 premiere before saying (and reading) anything else on this. But I agree with almost everything you pointed out except I do see a lot of similarities between Buffy and True Blood (and in all honesty, there’s not much of True Blood that I don’t see as taken from somewhere else, yet I am hooked to watch it whenever I can).

    But those similarities are more along the lines of two people wearing the same shirt. The outside kind of looks the same, but the people are vastly different.

    That being said, I also think the shows are so different in terms of…well….everything else that they can’t even be compared. True Blood has honestly made me scratch my head a few times and ponder if such things existed, would they be portrayed as such? That’s something Buffy could never accomplish with me. I knew I was watching (and enjoying) fiction the entire time. One universe is set out to entertain you in a much different way than the other.

    As much of a fan of Buffy/Whedon I am…I really can’t agree with Buffy having better dialogue than TB. Your example of Lafayette is the perfect trump card. You win, QED.

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