True Blood: Season 1
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True Blood: The Complete First Season (DVD)
TRUE BLOOD chronicles the backwoods Louisiana town of Bon Temps... where vampires have emerged from the coffin, and no longer need humans for their fix. Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin, Golden Globe(R)-winner for "True Blood", Academy Award®-winner for “The Piano”) works as a waitress at the rural bar Merlotte's. Though outwardly a typical young woman, she keeps a dangerous secret: she has the ability to hear the thoughts of others. Her situation is further complicated when the bar gets its first vampire patron - 173-year old Bill Compton (Steven Moyer, "Quills") - and the two outsiders are immediately drawn to each other. Delivering the best of what audiences have come to expect from Creator and Executive Producer Alan Ball (writer of Oscar®-winning Best Picture “American Beauty”, creator of the Emmy® Award-winning HBO® series “Six Feet Under”), TRUE BLOOD is a dark and sexy tale that boldly delves into the heart - and the neck - of the Deep South.]]>
Alan Ball’s True Blood series works well for television, as it has enough sensationalism to tantalize and enough story girth to make the viewer care about the characters. That one can finally invest emotion into monsters, including an undead Civil War victim, a transformer who can shapeshift into various animals, and a female mind reader, speaks volumes about America’s willingness to accept fantasy. Of course, television has always produced good fantasy shows (I Dream of Jeannie), but True Blood’s Southern Goth brand of fun horror is more macabre and more perverse, not to mention gorier, than most shows of its kind to date. Adapted from Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, True Blood thrills because of its equal blend in each episode of erotica, humor, tragedy, mystery, and fantasy.
Set in a rural, swampy Louisiana parrish, the show centers around Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and her clan, sweet grandmother Adele (Lois Smith) and air-headed brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten). Illicit love is spawned early on, when Sookie saves vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) from having his blood stolen in the parking lot of Merlotte’s diner, owned by Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) who completes what will form a complex love triangle. As tensions between Sookie’s suitors loosen or tighten, many side plots, such as her African American best friend Tara’s (Rutina Wesley) struggle with an alcoholic, Bible-thumping mother and her brother’s dangerous crush on drug addicted hippie, Amy Burley (Lizzy Caplan), keep one wondering who will succeed in this podunk place. The main tension throughout, however, is a race war waged between vampires and humans. As murders of “fang bangers” occur (human girls who let vampires bite them) and dumb policeman Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) fails to find clues, one sees the metaphorical implications of vampirism and feels deeper resonance with what can be a downright trashy show. Gossip galore, especially about what kinds of babies interbreeding will produce, is rampant. One of the funniest characters is Tara’s flamboyant cousin, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), who deals drugs, works as a fry cook, and services the local white politicians, while making sure he’s always up in everyone’s business.
What makes True Blood smarter than pure soap opera is the parallels it draws between its monster mash and actual, familiar societal problems. Sookie and her friends watch the news, where Evangelicals bash vampires and prohibit mixed marriage, and everyone is addicted to V, a.k.a vampire blood, that effects like psychedelic heroin. Even its gore reflects a mix of serious and silly, as vampires explode into red, sticky goop. Though it may not be attempting to qualify for the best vampire footage ever shot, True Blood is as addictive as that substance the town’s youth obsesses over, which is a metaphor in itself. --Trinie Dalton
Stills from True Blood (Click for larger image)
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- In Focus: Vampires in America: A mockumentary about vampires in America
- Tru Blood Beverage Ads: French and American "Tru Blood" beverage ads
- Vampire Service Ads: Ads for vampire dating, vampire hotels, and lawyers that service vampires
- Public Service Announcements: Both pro- and anti-vampire rights
- Six audio commentaries with the cast and crew, including executive producer and creator Alan Ball, Anna Paquin (Sookie), and Stephen Moyer (Bill)
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Speaking as someone who was born in America's deep South, this series captures everything about Louisiana that is appealing. (Spanish Moss, vampires, latent racism and homophobia, the dichotomy between Christian Southern values and patriarchal, brutality-enforced poverty, sassy Southern women who know how to fight with chains, etc.)
What it makes it really stand out, though, is the casting: there isn't a bad actor in the bunch--and they are all believable as Southern archetypes. Nelsan Ellis as the short order cook/drug dealer Lafayette and Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin as the romantic leads give mesmerizing performances.
True Blood, or possibly the original series of books from which it arose, is an arresting set of stories: Faulkner says that the only thing really worth writing about (or thinking about, by extension) is the human heart in conflict with itself. The Southern United States depicted in True Blood is conflict embodied--you are a supposed to be a good Christian, and follow the rules of an established society, but you live in the middle of a swamp so dense and wild that it believably could be home to minions of Satan, like vampires.
It's a lot to think about. If you are one of those artistic/professional types with too much to do, don't start watching this; it becomes an obsession.
And Now: A Short Review of the Actual DVD--this is the regular, not Blu-Ray version, as my $100.00, cigarette-burned, pawn shop t.v. doesn't do Blu-Ray.
Price: $10.00 less than my local electronics store.
Extras: There is some very funny stuff here that was not on the original websites for the series: ads for lawyers for vampires; vampire hotels; vampire dating, all done with the appropriate levels of fake bad acting and camp.
Don't be afraid to look at the French language ad as well. It uses all of six French words which you probably already know.
There is also a short video parody of someone like Hugh Downs doing an in-depth report on vampires. Complete with bad video backgrounds for foreign locales and hokey vampire internet conspiracies, this is a well-done, satirical background take on some of the 'vampire movement's more glossed-over history.
One negative: the commentary tracks play over the original episodes; it's neat to watch for about five minutes, and then it's a little bit like dissecting a romantic relationship--the mystery dies once the magic involved gets out into the bright light of day.
However, overall, True Blood Season One is well worth watching again--particularly in the pilot episode, the acting, and the effort the cast and crew put into characterization and detail, is even more obvious the second time around.
Unfortunately, an excessive amount of time is spent on unappealing secondary characters, and the main characters consistently get lost in a lot of tedious filler.
As well, the show's writers need to collaborate. The inconsistencies that keep showing up have turned Sookie into a wishy-washy, unlikeable person who changes the facts to suit her mood.
*SPOILERS* She's in love and makes love with Bill, then flirts and makes out with Sam in the next episode. Wasn't she supposed to be uncomfortable kissing one man and then moving on to another? As well, to work that scene into the show, Sookie states that Bill is more concerned with politics than with her---yet she knows his absence has nothing to do with politics. Geez! He's on trial for staking another vampire to save her life, and she's supposedly aware of that fact.
The writers need to read the blogs. The show's audience has been objecting---even those who haven't read the books.
Charlaine Harris created a world sufficiently rich, well-paced, and filled with drama. There's no need for lame side stories and inconsistencies that demean the main characters. When you try to fix something that isn't broken, inevitably, it deteriorates until it does, in fact, get broken.
Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, or lack an edgy sense of humor. But personally I think it means that there's a limit as to how much gratuitous brutality I'm able to tolerate in the name of being entertained. And that includes the ugly, cheap sex that permeates this series, and which appears to be the underlying reason for all the vampire brouhaha surrounding the sex scenes.
The basic premise of the show is clever: a world where an oppressed vampire minority has "come out of the closet," because the invention of artificial blood has eliminated the need for them to hunt humans. Still, vampires have to deal with their fundamental difference from humans, as well as eons of societal prejudice against them. Then there's a young human woman whose ability to read minds and other traits make her sympathetic to the vampire cause. Add a large dose of the sexual attraction that is always part of vampire lore. This could make for interesting drama in the hands of an imaginative writer. It's not vampires I find objectionable. It's "True Blood" I find objectionable.
Some reviewers have noted that the series is based on books that are better than the show, which is usually the case when books are adapted for the screen. Be that as it may, I saw only offensive stereotypes of Southerners; relentless gore; sex that was more pornographic than erotic; viciousness; and an ongoing series of visual images that left me feeling like I wished I'd been wearing a Haz Mat suit.
Consider this review a public service for any other old-fashioned, out-of-touch people who, like me, hadn't paid attention to the show and were curious about it. It's a warning that some things are bad for your mind and your spirit and best left untouched, even with a 10-foot pole.