Mania Grade: A-
17 Comments | Add
Rate & Share:
- DVD: True Blood (Complete First Season)
- Rating: Unrated
- Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten
- Written By: Charlaine Harris, Alan Ball, Chris Offutt, Alexander Woo, Brian Buckner, Nancy Oliver, Raelle Tucker,
- Directed By: Alan Ball, Scott Winant, John Dahl, Michael Lehmann, Daniel Minahan, Nick Gomez, Marcos Siega, Anthony Hemingway, Nancy Oliver,
- Distributor: HBO Home Entertainment
- Original Year of Release: 2008 (HBO), 2009 (DVD)
- Extras: See Below
- Series: True Blood
True Blood (Complete First Season)
HBO's adaptation of the best-selling Southern Vampire series True Blood.
By Tim Janson
June 09, 2009
Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer star in HBO's TRUE BLOOD(2008).
I’ve never read any of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series that this HBO show is based on so I have no predispositions and fortunately don’t have to go through the labor of comparing the books to the TV show. Set within Louisiana amidst eroded Southern gothic homes, True Blood is a vampire drama that is emphasizes drama much more than its supernatural elements. In this world vampires have “come out of the coffin” and made their existence known to the world. They want to live among humans with the same rights, in fact there’s even a running subplot about the Vampires fighting for the Vampire Rights Amendment, and its debate among various factions in the media.
Sookie Stackhouse (Paquin) lives with her grandmother and works in a local bar and grill. Ever since she was a child, Sookie has had the ability to read minds and hear the thoughts of those around her. With effort, she can shut off the ability when she is around her close friends and relatives but most of the people in the town of Bon Temps know there’s something odd about Sookie.
In fact, Sookie may very well be the most normal character in the show and she’s definitely the show’s foundation. Sookie is surrounded by an oddball assortment of dysfunctional characters. Her brother Jason is the town’s “man whore” whose sexual habits lead him to be accused of murdering a couple of local women. Her best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley) has anger and relationship issues and lives with her alcoholic mother; Lafayette is Tara’s cousin, a cook at the bar who is homosexual and deals drugs and is a prostitute on the side; Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell )owns the bar where Sookie works and he’s carried a torch for Sookie for many years but he has his own dark secret.
Into this small town walks Bill Compton, a 173-year-old vampire who has returned to Bon Temps, his ancestral home. Sparks fly between Sookie and Bill immediately and Bill is in her debt when she rescues him from a couple who try to drain him of his blood. Vampire blood is a powerful and expensive drug for humans. Sookie feels safe with Bill as she cannot read his thoughts and thus feels more comfortable in opening up to him. Their romance entangles most of the town as people take up sides in the issue of humans dating vampires. She begins to learn the culture of vampires. Bill is a mainstreamer, living alone among humans and drinking synthetic blood. Other vamps live in nests, making them more aggressive and more likely to attack humans.
Their relationship will be put to the test over and over again through a series on increasingly disturbing events as Bill tries to protect Sookie from his brethren and from a serial killer who targets women who date vamps referred to as “fang bangers”.
Vampires aside, True Blood could work almost as well as any ensemble drama. I found it quite amazing that so many stories and plots were able to be explored in a short, 12-episode season. There’s a lot of story crunched into each show but you never feel as if anything is left out.
Paquin as Sookie does a fantastic job. She’s attractive and yet not OVERLY beautiful. She’s perceptive even without the ability to read minds. She knows right from wrong and even her attraction to Bill won’t allow her to jeopardize her morals. The Vampires all seem to know that there is something special about Sookie but they don’t know what it is. Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) is also not your typical TV show vampire. One gets the feeling that Bill returned to the town for reasons other than it was his home when he was still alive. Jason (Ryan Kwanten) is the perfect male bimbo, stupidly walking into one treacherous situation after another and yet deep down he has a wonderful soul. Only Tara begins to wear on the viewer after awhile…her constant complaining and feeling sorry for herself just makes you want to scream.
What makes True Blood work so well is that it does offer something for everyone…there’s enough vampire and horror elements to attract fans of that genre but also enough great drama to turn off people who are not horror fans. The writers have barely scratched the surface of these characters and it’s bloody obvious (pardon the pun) that there are many more secrets to be revealed. If you don’t get HBO then I highly recommend this set.
The extras are modest but fun. There are a number of Faux commercials geared towards vampires such as the ad for True Blood which spoofs male-bonding beer commercials. There are ads for a vampire dating service, hotel, and lawyer who promises to protect the rights of his fanged clientele. There are public service announcements both pro and con on the Vampire Rights Amendment.
“In Focus: Vampires in America” is a mock-u-mentary which covers the vampire issue from the day they went public to the present and includes segments on the creation of synthetic blood as well as debunking popular vampire myths.
Finally, there are audio commentaries on six of the twelve episodes featuring various members of cast and crew including Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer.