True Blood: I want to like this show, but right now I don't

I have been watching True Blood. It’s the HBO series about vampires. The nicest thing I can say about the show is that I don’t hate it. As of right now, it exists on my DVR for me to watch when I have finished all of my other shows.

I watched the first three episodes and this is what I have to report.

What works:

  • Anna Paquin is great as the protagonist Sookie Stackhouse. She is adorably gap-toothed, morally grounded and adventurous. Her character is the perfect lens through which to view a world in which vampires walk among “breathers” – that would be us. Vampires don’t breathe or eat or do human things, with the following exceptions. They kill other humans. They dress like Tyler Durden from Fight Club. They hit on hot southern girls. Anyway, Paquin and her character are a good match.
  • The side characters in the fictional town of Bon Temps, La., seem authentic and interesting enough to hold your attention. Among the more colorful characters are Sookie’s horn-dog brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten), best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley – who is destined for big things), town drug dealer/gay prostitute/short order cook – where does he find time for it all and still manage to look fabulous? – Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) and Sookie’s open-minded grandma Adele (Lois Smith).
  • It was a bold and challenging choice to make this series. I like stories that alter our world and show what would happen if we added an X factor. This can be traced back to my childhood love affair with V.

What doesn’t work:

  • There is no chemistry between Sookie and her love interest, vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). I don’t care whether they get together or not. Their love story is boring. Sookie is young and has never been in love. (This is mainly because she can read other people’s thoughts. I think this would crimp any woman’s love life, while it would, oddly, help any man’s.) Compton has no excuse. He has been alive since the Civil War. One would thing he would have developed some game by now. Once you have had Gilded Age tail, liberated 21st century women should come much easier.
  • Creator Alan Ball has twice used the tired, old HBO convention of showing a scene, then having a character wake up, only to reveal that the scene you just saw did not really happen. Six Feet Under did this a lot. The Sopranos did this when the show went sideways. You know what show never did this? The Wire never did this. It’s a gimmick. Nineteen times out of 20 the comedic or dramatic payoff doesn’t erase the feeling of, “You just made me watch something that has no bearing on the story and you wasted everyone’s time.” Show reality. It’s more interesting.
  • I want a wider view of this world. In True Blood, vampires have been walking among us – openly – for such a period of time that no one kicks Compton out of a Louisiana bar where he is not welcome. I think a more interesting choice would have been to see the buildup to the legalization of all things vampire, and the struggle inherent in such a cause. It would have revealed more drama, higher stakes and a higher body count. It would have been more fun to watch.

I am week-to-week on True Blood. One horrendous episode and I am gone. One great episode and I will give the show until the send of the first season.

If I find out this whole show was just one long dream sequence, I will stab someone with my teeth.

Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles
  • Pat

    I agree. This is one of those shows that can go either way. Anna Paquin and the girl playing Tara are great. Still worth watching but only after I get through, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and reruns of The Wire.

  • Joe Donatelli

    I hear you. I get to it after Mad Men, Saturday Night Live and the greatest show on television — The Soup.


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