True Blood, the new vampire series on HBO, is interesting enough to compel one to watch it even if Sunday nights at 9 p.m. are already too crowded. It’s probably going to take a while to catch on as audiences get used to its rawness. Vampires digging their fangs into human flesh certainly aren’t for everyone. There is something about it, though, beyond the sex and the gore. There is mystery and dysfunction, good acting, and even better writing.
There hasn’t been anything like True Blood since The Night Stalker, and that was tame by comparison. Stephen Moyer heads up the cast as Bill the Vampire, who became one during the Civil War and now finds himself in a hot and heavy relationship with Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), who is very much human and has a natural ability to hear other people’s thoughts. When she couldn’t hear Bill’s she knew he was the one for her.
The cast and characters are plainly Southern white trash in part, but some of them are wise, kind, unexpectedly funny, and mostly original to the television landscape. The show is based on a The Vampire Mysteries, written by Charlaine Harris and adapted by a team of writers, but most notably Alan Ball who brought the idea for the series to HBO.
One must be prepared, though: this isn’t your mother’s vampire TV show; this is graphic and brutal. The blood sucking scenes are almost unwatchable, but it leaves you wanting more somehow. Maybe because it is as romantic as it is violent, and that romance, and these odd ducks, are fascinating.
There have been so many hospital shows and cop shows and crime scene investigator shows and missing person shows – how many weird plotlines has poor old Law and Order SVU had to dredge up to keep their show interesting? How many disgusting pedophiles and rapists do we have to get to know? The vampires are far more interesting and have the added benefit of not existing in real life.
True Blood is, in the end, a way to get away from our world for a while and visit one where there are shapeshifters and creatures who travel through time. There is a mystery to solve and the suspense will keep you guessing from one episode to the next.
Finding out how Bill became a vampire was one thrilling bit of television and almost unwatchable in its depiction of seduction and vampire biting. Biting is perhaps too gentle of a word: gnashing or tearing is probably more appropriate. It was so intense that I vowed never to watch another episode. But of course, something pulled me back to it the next week.
But I suspect that, in the end, what is the biggest draw here is the passion for living the dead often have – the need to break through worlds and feel life. That theme breathes through almost every frame of True Blood. And it is going to eventually become a series that is so popular it will live on for years to come as new fans are born.
True Blood airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on HBO.