The fake southern accents, the acting and just about everything else having to do with HBO’s new vampire series “True Blood” is cheesy and soapy. It has the cheap feel of a trashy romance novel. It’s “90210” with fangs. It’s “The O.C.” if Ryan was a vampire and Marissa was a voluptuous and equally chaste backwoods hillbilly waitress. Yeah, there are a few differences there, but it’s all the same. Only thing is, I am not saying these things to be mean. I enjoyed “The O.C.”, all four shitty seasons of it. I just received my review copies of “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” so I am down with soapy immaterial television. Toss in vampires, a ton of sex, violence, nudity and the promise of werewolves and I am sold… at least for now.
“True Blood” is based on a world created by novelist Charlaine Harris centered on Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) a girl with one hell of an awful name and an awful accent, but a body worth staring at for 60 minutes so it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Sookie is a waitress at a bar in Bon Temps, Louisiana, and instead of focusing the story on a bunch of hillbilly love trials and tribulations, vampires enter the picture.
The Japanese have invented a form of synthetic blood and due to its creation vampires have decided to step out of the shadows of legend and make a place for themselves among the living. All the old myths hold true, but as synthetic blood is now sold in your local mini-mart in the form of the bottled drink Tru:Blood, vampires no longer have to rely on human blood to survive.
The show finds its footing as vampires move into Bon Temps and create something of a stir, while also fighting for equality in the world. Comparisons can easily be drawn to any race, religion, gender or group fighting for equal rights over the course of history. Subject to prejudice and stereotypes vampires are feared, of course, but also shunned by much of society and it makes for the show’s tension when Sookie takes an innocent interest in the town’s new arrival, a 173-year-old vampire by the name of Bill (Stephen Moyer).
After watching the first two episodes of the show, which is set to premiere on HBO on September 7 at 9 PM, I can honestly say I wanted to quickly pop in the third episode as each episode ended on a drastic cliffhanger. A tactic I don’t exactly find fair in today’s TV viewing and is a large reason for disgruntled fans forced to wait week after week to find out what the true goal of each prior episode really was before digging themselves into another hole. The problem in this case is that “True Blood” offers very little to enjoy outside of an interest in the cliffhangers. The investment you have put into each episode will only be paid off if you return the following week and it’s the only reason I wanted to keep on watching.
Sookie is hardly an interesting character on her own and Bill the Vampire (a name surprisingly more laughable than Sookie) is just about as uninteresting as he could possibly be. As a fan of vampire stories myself I never thought a character intended to be mysterious could be so boring. I never really wanted to get to know him at all.
If I were to complain about something outside of the acting, stupid character names and cheesy plotlines, I would have to mention the vampire fang effects. I’m sorry if this seems like a nitpick, but to me the fangs are an important aspect of any vampire film or TV show and when they appear as if they were dental switchblades it really gave me more of a chuckle than a scare. I like the slow growing vampire fangs that add an increasing sense of dread as they finally take their full shape. The fangs in “True Blood” appear as nothing more than sharp little annoyances that only get in the way.
What appears to be a shape-shifting bartender that appears as a Labrador retriever and the annoying grandmother played by Lois Smith are just a couple of other things that bothered me. However, as with any soap opera everything is going to bother you, but if the story works you remain interested. And the story works enough to the point I can see folks getting into this show, at least long enough to figure out if they are willing to stick with it for the duration or give up before they get too invested.
I have never read Harris’ novels, but having read “Twilight”, the first book in the Stephenie Meyer’s vampire/human love novels, I saw instant parallels between the two and it makes perfect sense as to why this show would be made considering the fandom around Meyer’s trashy novels. The only difference is that “True Blood” is made for a completely different audience. While both serve something of a soap opera crowd, “Twilight” is more of an after-school special while “True Blood” is more of a “Melrose Place”. I can see the “Twilight” fans actually being offended by the gratuitous use of sex and violence in “True Blood” considering “Twilight” is rather innocent in its more prurient aspects, the only real comparison is in its theme, but the comparison is there nonetheless.
HBO would be much smarter to play the first two episodes of “True Blood” back-to-back on premiere night as the second episode titled “The First Taste” has a far more interesting cliffhanger than the first episode and basically guarantees the majority of the audience would return for a third episode, but I guess when you are only running 12 episodes a season you can’t exactly blow 16% of your load on opening night.
If any of this sounds intriguing, tune in this Sunday, September 7 at 9 PM on HBO and check the show out. Below is a look at the trailer for “True Blood” and you can click here to check out a gallery of pictures from the show.