Written by Caballero Oscuro
True Blood creator Alan Ball is no stranger to HBO, having previously crafted the moderately successful series Six Feet Under. While that series handled some fairly weighty material at times, par for the course in its funeral-parlor setting, his latest offering is a pop confection that is firmly focused on entertainment, not intellectual stimulation. It’s also riding the wave of the current vampire boom ignited by the Twilight book series and movie, as well as its own source book series by author Charlaine Harris, but don’t hold that against him.
The series follows the denizens of a Louisiana backwater as they come to terms with the public emergence of vampires as ordinary citizens. These vampires want rights, seeking to be treated no differently than their human counterparts with the ability to date and marry humans, vote, move freely in public, etc. This generates conflict in the community as the humans pick their side, with the majority coming down firmly against the vamps. The story is nothing new, bearing blatantly obvious overtones of the civil rights and gay rights movements as well as parallels to other fictional works such as Marvel’s X-Men comic-book saga. The vampire theme is also overused and long in the tooth, so to speak, but the creators stir in enough fresh blood to give viewers sufficient reason to keep coming back for another serving.
The main plot revolves around Civil War-era vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) and his budding relationship with human empath Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin). He’s a Southern gentleman, she’s a sweet girl who loves the fact that she can’t hear his thoughts, and together they attempt to define their relationship while navigating the court of public opinion. To add a romantic triangle, Sookie’s boss Sam also has deep feelings for her and deep feelings against Bill, but he’s not exactly what he seems. There’s also a season-long arc regarding a mystery serial killer in their midst, and while its resolution is nothing special, it does give the characters added friction as they explore their feelings.
As Sookie bounces back and forth between her paramours throughout the season, their supporting characters also get significant exposure, primarily Sookie’s prickly best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley), their flamboyantly gay co-worker Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), and Sookie’s gonzo brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten). Kwanten in particular gives the show a welcome jolt as a lovable dumb jock who gets in one comedic mess after another, usually at the expense of his character’s dignity, similar to Stifler in the American Pie movies. Aside from these three characters, the rest of the supporting cast is entirely unremarkable during season one.
The True Blood DVD box set includes all 12 season-one episodes spread across five discs. Special features include six audio commentaries with cast and crew, a faux documentary examining the integration of vampires into the human world, “Tru Blood” beverage ads extolling the wonders of the synthetic blood imbibed by discerning vamps in the show, Public Service Ads by the human coalitions on both side of the Vampire Rights Amendment debate, as well as vampire-centric product ads for a variety of essential goods and services.
True Blood: The Complete First Season is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download on May 19th, 2009.