Monday, July 20, 2009

Thoughts on HBO’s True Blood (Season 1)

One of the things I’ve found I have more time for lately is my Netflix subscription. In recent weeks I’ve been plowing through my queue, though, not a lot of what I’ve watched has stood out in any meaningful way. (The list includes War, Inc., Doubt, There Will Be Blood, 3:10 to Yuma and, yes, a second look at the first Transformers movie, which I still say is awful). There is one that does stand out, though: For the past couple weeks I’ve been devouring the first season of the HBO series Tru Blood.

My use of “devour” there is not so much a reference to the fact that the show involves vampires -oh, but how witty I would be were that the case!- as it is to the fact that I plowed through the series with a vengeance. Despite that fact, I honestly don’t know if I actually enjoyed the series or not.

In the pro column we have the fact that, as I alluded to above, every time a disc showed I was sure to put it in and watch it beginning to end as soon as I got home (or after the kids went to bed, as the case may be). As much as I was ambivalent about the storylines in it, it certainly didn’t stop me from watching it. Maybe it was all the gratuitous T&A? (There is plenty of it and it does, at times, border on disturbing.)

There were also some characters that I really liked: Tara Thornton, Jason Stackhouse, Sam Merlotte, Lafayette Reynolds. Really, I liked virtually the entire supporting cast, with the exception of Tara’s mother who is just as annoying as they come, be she drunk or sober.

On the other hand, I absolutely cannot stand the male and female leads who dominate the screen time: Sookie Stackhouse (worst first name ever) and Bill Compton. This was unexpected because half the reason I wanted to see this show was that it starred Anna Paquin as Sookie (I liked her as Rogue in the first two X-Men movies). God, I even hate typing that name. Sookie? Seriously? (For a good laugh, check out the definitions of the word listed at

Also, it takes place in the backwoods of Louisiana and southern culture is just not my thing. If you are a southerner, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not making value judgments here. I just think there are cultures with which people identify and cultures they don’t. I’m a northern, cold climate, old world kind of guy and that makes this show tougher to get into. (This was a bigger problem in the early episodes. As I have gotten to know the characters, the southern aspect of the show has actually grown more interesting to me.)

The vampires are just as confounding. In taking place in a reality where vampires have recently come out into the open (in part because of the development of a simulated blood product called Tru Blood, something most of them seem to scorn), the show really tries to create its own set of vampire rules, while at the same time playing off traditional stereotypes. I’ll give it this: It accomplishes its goal far more successfully than that god-awful Twilight movie. There’s no diamond day-glo special here, thank god. The vampires in this show are largely savage (but still intelligent) and, like the rest of the cast, they range between trite and annoying (see: any vamp played as the ultimate bad ass) and strangely interesting (the simpering guy used as a source of “V” for three of the human characters).

V, by the way refers to vampire blood, which when ingested in small quantities is quite the aphrodisiac for humans. This is a notion I like as it creates quite the interplay between vampires who feed on humans and addict humans who, more or less, want to feed (if just a little bit at a time) on vampires.

I had hoped in typing this up that I would get a sense of whether or not I could honestly say I liked the show, but I haven’t. Mainly, when I think about it in terms of the supporting cast, I have positive recollections. These characters really are fantastically realized. I’m especially hoping the guy who plays an Iraq veteran gets more air time eventually. But when I think of the parts with the two primary characters, Sookie and Bill, I just want to blow my brains out.

Season 2 is also available on DVD and Blu-ray, but I’m going to hold off on it for now. There’s a lot of movies in my queue that I I’d like to get through first. If any of you have been watching the show, how does the second season compare to the first? Better? More of the same?

EDIT: As has been pointed out in the comments, Season 2 is still airing on HBO and is not yet on DVD or Blu. Netflix, which has season 2 listed so it can be saved, fooled me on that one.