Customer Review

168 of 195 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun and adventurous take on vampires and the supernatural, November 27, 2008
This review is from: True Blood: Season 1 (DVD)
I'm not sure that any good series on the supernatural has ever tried as hard to be simply good fun. It isn't the masterpiece that BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER was, but I don't think Alan Ball set his sights that high. While Joss Whedon strove in BUFFY to create an icon and redefine television narrative, Ball just seems to want to tell a compelling story filled with memorable moments.

TRUE BLOOD is, of course, based on the series of novels written by Arkansas writer Charlaine Harris. The series was originally known as the Southern Vampire Mysteries, but has since come to be better known as The Sookie Stackhouse novels. The premise is that a Japanese corporation has successfully created artificial blood, a product so like the real thing that vampires, previously relegated to feeding off humans in the dark, come "out of the coffin" and into society, intent on living off the new fake blood. The series' title comes from the name of the artificial blood marketed and sold in stores. The television series wisely does not try to hew too closely to the novels, though for the most part Sookie's story does. And the way things turn at the end of the season, it is clear that Season Two (the show was renewed very early in the season) is going to pick up with the second novel in the series, though the action most likely will be in Bon Temps and not in Dallas (the second novel is entitled LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS).

The major difference between the novels and the TV series is that while the novels focus almost entirely on Sookie, the series has elevated a number of secondary characters and padded out their story. The focus on Sookie in the books is inevitable given that she is the narrator. But since few shows attempt to tell a story primarily from one character's point of view (an exception is Season One of VERONICA MARS, in which the title character features in very nearly every scene), elevating several characters was a necessity. Tara is a very minor character in the books (and white to boot), but on the show she is black and one of the most important characters. Sookie's brother Jason is a moderately important character in the books, but definitely not as central as Bill, Eric, or Sam. Tara was promoted on the show partly to balance out the show in terms of race and gender. I'm not quite sure why Jason was made more important. The story arcs that are given to these characters are not always successful, but they do give the show some diversity. Lafayette, Tara's flamboyantly gay cousin and short order cook at Merlotte's, the tavern where Sookie is a barmaid, likewise is a major character on the TV series, but barely makes an appearance in the novels.

I'm not always comfortable with the additions the show makes to the story and they usually are the weakest part of the show. For instance, the long story of Tara's mother and her demon possession is an addition that I feel clutters the show, even as it raises the question of why Tara herself struggles with relationships. The character of Amy, who is weirdly involved with Jason in the latter half of the season, sits on the rest of the story like a weird, disconnected appendage. In fact, the entire obsession with V (or vampire blood, which is taken like a drug) is unique to the show and not the books, I think to the show's detriment. Terry Bellefleur is a slightly more important character in the series, and about 20-30 years younger (and played by Todd Lowe, who played Zack, Lane's band mate/boyfriend/husband in THE GILMORE GIRLS), and a veteran of the Gulf War instead of the Vietnam War. I don't expect for a show to be especially true to its source material. I don't look for a scene-by-scene recreation. But I do think that the additions show actually add something of value to the story. All in all, I do not think the completely original aspects improved the overall story.

There is a lot of controversy on boards where fans of the books linger about Anna Paquin. Physically she isn't quite like how Sookie is described in the books, where she is far curvier and extremely busty. I personally love Anna Paquin's performance. She has a haunted, hunted look that someone who has had to struggle for years of hearing the thoughts of others might have. She does very much seem to embody "Crazy Sookie," as she is known to everyone in Bon Temps. I also like all the actors who played the three other major characters from the books, Stephen Moyer as Bill, Alexander Skarsgaard as Eric (who will, given his stature as an actor and the precedent of the books, become a more important character in Season Two -- and let me just add, could anyone have been found more perfect to play Eric?), and Sam Trammell as Sam Merlotte. My favorite performer to play a major role on the show but a minor one in the books is Nelsan Ellis, who also had a recurring role on the sadly short-lived THE INSIDE and was on an excellent episode of VERONICA MARS, and who on TRUE BLOOD plays Lafayette. Though I have to add that he is s completely unbelievable character. I've lived three years in a town not terribly distinct from Bon Temps and I can assert that you simply will not find many if any openly gay people and definitely not one a flamboyant one.

All in all I really enjoyed the series TRUE BLOOD, though on the one hand I prefer the books (and I strongly recommend anyone who loves TRUE BLOOD to give the books a try, though I also warn them that the show does seem to be following to a greater or lesser degree the books -- Season Two is already set up to follow many of the second novel's storylines) and on the other I prefer Alan Ball's earlier show SIX FEET UNDER. Still, it is a good, fun show.

And can I just add that this show has my all time favorite opening credits. It is filled with one astonishing image after another, from a coiled water moccasin to a Holy Ghost inspired preacher doing a 180 jump in church to lasciviously dancing strippers, all to a wonderfully appropriate song by country performer Jace Everett entitled "Bad Things."
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 13, 2009 4:53:18 PM PST
You should, perhaps, re-read the books. Tara is black in them, as well. This is mentioned several times.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 18, 2009 6:34:48 PM PST
Robert Moore says:
I think maybe you need to re-read the books. She is said to be olive skinned. If you can give me a book title and page number I'll retract, but it is very obvious she is an olive-skinned white person. I could well be wrong, but usually when you say someone is "olive-skinned" you are referring to a white person.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 28, 2009 11:26:52 PM PST
RealGrrl says:
Robert, you're right. Tara is always mentioned as having olive skin.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 28, 2009 11:27:42 PM PST
RealGrrl says:
Robert, you're right. Tara is always mentioned as having olive skin.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 18, 2009 10:18:22 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Mar 7, 2010 10:57:50 AM PST]

Posted on May 12, 2009 4:55:32 AM PDT
"When you say someone is "olive-skinned" you are referring to a white person."

Olive skinned people are not white people with tans. White people with tans are "White skinned with a tan". An olive skinned person is generally someone of mediterranian origins. Italians and people who are of island origin, such as Greeks. Although sometimes pigeon holed into being one or the other, either 'dark skinned' or 'white' these types of people are often refered to as just white but it's not always the case.

As for Tara, i don't remember her being refered to as white but i got the general impression, she was a woman of colour.

Posted on May 20, 2009 3:16:19 PM PDT
Lynne Crunk says:
I for one don't understand why they turned Jason into a junkie. This just doesn't seem to fit with the story at all and just seems to take a left turn when they should have made a right.

Posted on Jun 22, 2009 1:07:01 PM PDT
K. L. Nobles says:
The character of LaFayette, in the books, is described as a very slender man, very effeminate. I love the actor who portrays him, but he certainly is not a small, delicate man!

Also, Tara was not black, and was not related to Lafayette

Posted on Jul 5, 2009 8:34:56 PM PDT
Have to disagree with your opinion that it isn't the masterpiece that BtVS was. I was a hardcore Buffy fan, but it's in no way superior to TB, save for the fact that it had a bit more pathos behind it which gave it great depth. I think TB is every bit as well-written, well-acted and well-produced.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 8, 2009 6:35:48 PM PDT
Robert Moore says:
Not sure what to say there. Except for some rather superficial themes about tolerance (the vampires and monsters on TB are obvious stand ins for gays or whatever other groups you can name) TB is all surface. There is no second layer. There is no nuance. There is really nothing to discuss about the show. Contrast this with BUFFY, which has been far and away the most heavily discussed show in the history of TV by academics and TV Studies scholars. On BUFFY, there were layers upon layers. On TB you get a one layer cake.

Frankly, I think TB is fun, but very, very far from one of the best shows on TV. Just off the top of my head I would rank it behind Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, Lost, Dollhouse, 30 Rock, Breaking Bad, Chuck, and Fringe. And the pilot of Caprica was extraordinary and clearly better than TB has the potential to become. And this past season THE SHIELD, PUSHING DAISIES, and especially BATTLESTAR GALACTICA were far superior. So, I like TB, but at most I can characterize it merely as a good show, definitely not a great one. I will be very disappointed if it gets an Emmy nomination.
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