True Blood (season one)


Rating 3¾

Created by Alan Ball

Based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries novels by Charlaine Harris

EP1 ‘Strange Love’ (Written and Directed by Alan Ball); EP2 ‘The First Taste’ (Written by Alan Ball, Directed by Scott Winant); EP3 ‘Mine’ (Written by Alan Ball, Directed by John Dahl); EP4 ‘Escape from Dragon House’ (Written by Brian Buckner, Directed by Michael Lehmann); Ep5 ‘Sparks Fly Out’ (Written by Alexander Woo, Directed by Daniel Minahan); EP6 ‘Cold Ground’ (Written by Raelle Tucker, Directed by Nick Gomez); EP7 ‘Burning House of Love’ (Written by Chris Offutt, Directed by Marcos Siega); EP8 ‘The Fourth Man in the Fire’ (Written by Alexander Woo, Directed by Michael Lehmann); EP9 ‘Plaisir d’Amour’ (Written by Brian Buckner, Directed by Anthony M Hemingway); EP10 ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’ (Written by Chris Offutt, Directed by Scott Winant); EP11 ‘To Love is to Bury’ (Written and Directed by Nancy Oliver); EP12 ‘You’ll be the Death of Me’ (Written by Raelle Tucker, Directed by Alan Ball)

Starring Anna Paquin (Sookie Stackhouse), Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton), Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte), Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse), Rutina Wesley (Tara Thornton), Nelson Ellis (Lafayette Reynolds), Michael Raymond-James (Rene Lenier), Jim Parrack (Hoyt Fortenberry), Carrie Preston (Arlene Fowler), William Sanderson (Sheriff Bud Dearborne), Chris Bauer (Detective Andy Bellefleur), Todd Lowe (Terry Bellefleur), Adina Porter (Lettie Mae Thornton), Alexander Skarsgård (Eric Northman), Lizzy Caplan (Amy Burley), Aisha Hinds (Miss Jeanette), Deborah Ann Woll (Jessica Hamby), Kristin Bauer (Pam), Michelle Forbes (Maryann Forrester) and Lois Smith (Adele Stackhouse)

Sookie Stackhouse is a telepath who works as a waitress in a diner in the small community of Bon Temps in Louisiana. Her best friend Tara Thornton works the bar and Tara’s cousin Lafayette Reynolds is a short order cook. He also deals drugs and has a gay porn website. Tara’s mother Lettie Mae is a violent long-term alcoholic who believes she is possessed by a demon. The diner is owned by Sam Merlotte, who is in love with Sookie but does not openly express his feelings towards her. Bill Compton, a vampire who was turned during the American Civil War, comes back to Bon Temps to take up residence in the old house owned by his family and despite the antagonism of some locals to his presence he begins a relationship with Sookie. When a number of brutal murders occur, Sookie’s feckless brother Jason is implicated and it becomes clear that she is being targeted.


In a nutshell, ‘True Blood’ is Tennessee Williams with vampires. The show premiered on the HBO premium subscription cable television channel on 7 September 2008. It was created for television by Alan Ball, who was previously responsible for the acclaimed ‘Six Feet Under’, another HBO show. The first season comprises twelve episodes and is based primarily on ‘Dead Until Dark’, the first ‘Southern Vampire Mysteries’ novel by Charlaine Harris, which was published in 2001. The opening episode was watched by 1.4 million viewers and the twelfth episode was watched by 2.45 million viewers. The second season of the show premiered on 14 June 2009 and marked a considerable increase in viewer numbers, reaching a high of 5.3 million for the tenth episode (the twenty-second in total). Reviews were initially mixed, but have become increasingly enthusiastic.

I had high hopes for the show, but when I finally had an opportunity to watch it I stalled at the first episode. It stayed that way for a few months, before I eventually decided to give it another go. I went straight to episode two and this time I quickly became hooked, watching the whole of the first season in a week (the days of ‘The X Files’ or ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ when I could sometimes watch five or six episodes in a row are very much a thing of the past).

How much does ‘True Blood’ owe to ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’? There is an obvious similarity between the relationships of Sookie and Bill in ‘True Blood’ and Buffy and Angel in the early seasons of BtVS. Sookie’s telepathic abilities might be compared to Buffy’s in the season three BtVS episode ‘Earshot’ and the cripplingly addictive and hallucinogenic properties of “V” (vampire blood) bears more than a passing resemblance to the affect that magic has on Willow in season five of that earlier show. However, apart from the general fantasy elements, that’s more or less where it ends, although clearly the novels would seem to have been influenced to some degree by the BtVS template and that has carried through into the television series.

Although Sookie and Bill’s relationship is the central focus, I didn’t find this particular enthralling, but equally it was not too distracting and there were plenty of other story threads that kept me watching. I did feel that various storylines were being raced through too quickly without being allowed time to breathe and develop, almost as though they were trying to throw everything into the first season just in case the show was not renewed. It didn’t adversely affect my enjoyment and there were a few genuine “I was not expecting that!” moments. The over-abundance of frequently rather silly sex in the episodes did sometimes become wearisome, largely because it often seemed to be there for no other reason than the fact that it could be, but I found myself becoming desensitised to it and there was the occasional incorporation of humour, some that worked and some that didn’t. One thing the show does not do is subtlety.

There is a degree of analogy between the campaigns on both sides regarding the acceptance of vampires into society and the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, something referenced in one episode by the character Tara Thornton, but the subtext is undoubtedly influenced by much more recent ideological conflicts. It is very noticeable that the vampires have a clearly aggressive hidden agenda that is evident to all just beneath the surface of the conciliatory public face presented in the constant television debates that we see in the show. There is also the right-wing Christian Fellowship of the Sun. What will be done with this sub-text beyond simple dramatic effect remains to be seen.

Three actors in the main cast are not American. Anna Paquin, who was the initial reason I paid some attention to the show when I first heard about it, was born in Canada and brought up in New Zealand. Stephen Moyer is English and Ryan Kwanten, who I can still remember from his days as Vinnie Patterson in the television soap opera ‘Home and Away’, is Australian. I cannot judge how accurate or otherwise their Louisiana accents are. Both Paquin and Kwanten seem fine, although Moyer’s does occasionally sound a little odd, but I have no real point of reference, so any inadequacies in this area don’t affect me and it could well be that, in fact, Moyer’s is the more authentic of the three.

Anna Paquin is quite a distinctive actress, with just a hint of quirkiness in her performances. That applies here. From a few comments I have read, not all fans of the show are fond of her presence. In fact, some seem positively hostile and consider her to be the weak link, although I am guessing that this is simply a vocal minority. I have always liked her in what I’ve seen and that doesn’t change here, although Sookie is not necessarily the most interesting character.

I don’t know if ‘True Blood’ is as good as some critics have suggested, but although I have a few minor niggles, I am semi-hooked on it. In fact, it is fast becoming addictive.

Review posted 14 November 2009


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