Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Boxset Binges #2 - True Blood (Season 1)

Okay lets start by clearing up a couple of things, the first and most important being I really don’t like vampires, which lets face it are the most humdrum of the horror monster back catalogue and basically an excuse for certain guys to grow their hair long, hang around in trench coats pretending to be all moody and dark....usually failing badly. This opinion is especially driven home, with there being only a few notables exceptions in the genre popping up occasionally, more often than not these films involving said vampire being portrayed by an acting master like Christopher Lee or Bella Lugosi.
The second notable point is the recent explosion in the “Paranormal Romance” genre, since publishers cottoned onto the fact that “Twilight” made a pile of money for Stephanie Meyer, creating a boom in the market as publishers began pumping out ropey romance novels, which no one would usually care about, except perhaps the more hardcore of the mills and boon crowd, but because these story were usually reworked to cram some vampire love interest into the story. From this wreckage of a genre, which we used to commonly refer to as “books for women not getting enough” (thanks to a certain member of our "Stitch and Bitch" knitting circle for pointing that one out) when I was working at Borders, however out of the masses of imitators emerged Charlaine Harris to pick up the fans left wanting more after the end of the Twilight saga with her “True Blood” series, so it was really only a matter of time before someone found a way to cash in on the series, luckily for Harris it was HBO who got in first turning the first book of the series into this first season, with the added advantage of having Alan Ball adapting, who is probably best known for writing both “American Beauty” (1999) aswell as one of my favourite TV shows “Six Feet Under” which if anyone was going to write a show about vampires, that I was actually going to like, it was probably going to be him and maybe explain what the hell it is about vampires, that seems to get women so darn frenzied.
So as I sat down to watch the first season, after hearing all the usual fans talking about how good it was, I have to admit I was sceptical not only about watching the whole boxset, but making it through one episode.

Okay I'll admit it, I really liked this first season, not only for it’s great writing, but for how frequently it managed to surprise me over the twelve episodes, which make up it’s first season which seemed actually quite short, especially when most shows tend to have a twenty four episode season, but seeing how the focus it would seem is on turn each book in the series into a season of the show, it was probably for the best as it saves the material from being stretched too thin, which is always the worry with a straight adaptation.

Set in the small Louisinna town of Bon Temps, the series follows the telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and her relationship with the vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and their attempt at having a normal relationship, in a society were Vampires have not only been acknowledged as existing, but are now recognised as legal citizens, after the creation of a synthetic blood called "Tru Blood" which has provided an exceptable subsitute for vampires to feed from, along with a supply of willing volunteers, who it seems are in endless supply especially with Vampire sex proving a growing popular craze. Meanwhile a crazed killer is stalking the town, killing women seemingly all connected with Sookie’s oversexed brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten).
For myself one of the strong points of Ball’s work, has always been with the supporting characters, who here are really a colourful bunch, from Sookie’s outspoken best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley) and her cousin Lafayette, who has a hand in most of the illegal dealings in town from working as a Gay Prostitute to selling vampire blood (or V as it’s known) which when taken by humans provides an addictive high, which over the course of the season Jason becomes increasingly addicted to, while getting involved with fellow V junkie Amy (Lizzy Caplan)

One of the most refreshing aspects of the series, is how the vampires arn't just another carbon copy of every other freaking vampire we have seen before and most reconisably aren’t still under the impression that they are in the 1800’s, but just wearing modern clothes, as although the Vampires here might make references to the era’s in which they were turned, with Bill in perticualr having a flashback episode to his former life as a civil war soldier, they are still highly modernised and concerned with current issues, in perticular the discrimination they face, from society in perticular the Zealot Christian group “The Fellowship of the Sun”, with the whole fight for equal rights for Vampires, in places though out the series bearing numerous references to the Gay rights movement, with a sign declaring “God Hates Fangs” appearing in the opening credits, along with the phrase “Coming out of the Coffin” also being mentioned.

Bell already established his love of death and gore with “Six Feet Under” and once again it is present here, with bloody staking and violent deaths, it’s nice to see a mainstream series such as this, not caring whether it is isolating key parts of the Vampire fanbase, especially those with a penchant for sparkly vamps, as thankfully these vampires still have a severe dislike for sunlight, highlighted by the worst rescue attempt ever by Bill and bites are bloody oozing affairs, with the level of violence and gore actually taking me by surprise throughout, having expected to see nothing more violent than what had already been seen in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” or it’s darker spinoff “Angel”, so kudos on once again bringing gore back to the genre.

I guess my main gripe with the series has to really be with casting hatchet, which is swung far too broadly throughout the first season, as several likable characters fail to make it through this first season, with some of the targets being truly disagreeable and certainly characters I wanted to see more off, while more irritating characters remained. True it might make it all the more interesting not knowing whose gonna make it through each episode, but when you look at the sheer amount of main characters, facing the wrath of the hatchet, it verges on comical and raising more than a few grumbles from myself, as I saw another of my favourite characters removed.
The other grumble with the series has to be with Anna Paquin, whose accent changes in pitch to a nice southern drawl to a pitch which is like a cheese grater in your brain, which is bad for a supporting character, but when it’s your lead actress is kind of more of a problem, still I guess there is the benefit of copious gratuitous nudity, with something for everyone, which will no doubt keep some of you with the series, but then gratuitous nudity does tend to patch over a lot.

So it seems there might be life left in the Vampire genre, which hasn’t been overly romanticised or turned into more sterilised garbage for the masses and despite it’s faults I’m already looking forward to watching the second season, even if I’m now the wiser as to why women are still getting far to excited about vampires, aswell as to see if Ball can continue to build on these foundations he has laid with the first season, or whether it will all fall apart as he gets caught up in the human drama, which essentially was were “Six Feet Under” failed in the later seasons, were it pretty much forgot that it was supposed to be about dead people, though I guess it will be interesting to see whether this show can still keep the interest once the Vampire novelty has worn off, especially with the Paranormal Romance market, only becoming all the more saturated with imitators.


  1. I am totally addicted to True Blood the series now and so is my partner.

    Very interesting to read your comments on this show!

  2. Yeah I was really sceptical to begin with seeing how it's another Vampire show, but it really rises above the others, the dizzy heights that I tend to place "The lost boys" and "Near Dark". Looking at the books, there is just so much scope in the world and I just hope that Alan ball, keeps the dark humoured edge that made this first season so great.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...