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HBO's popular television series based on Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books.

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Compelling & Oh-So-Smart: Fangs as Civil Rights Issue

  • Dec 27, 2008
  • by
HBO continues their run of amazingly high quality series (however slowly and painfully far apart they seem to debut).  The buzz about True Blood hit me before it even aired, however I was a cynic from the start.  I'm a pretty rabid cult follower of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and figured there was little chance anyone could capture that camp and wit again.  Turns out, this series has ENTIRELY different aspirations than the Buffy franchise.  This show is about a much higher art of capturing incredibly weighty issues of the human condition.  Once I heard that it was done by Alan Ball, of Six Feet Under and American Beauty, I began to better understand what to expect.

Upshot - after one episode I was entirely hooked.  It was the entertainment highlight of my weekends and I looked forward to it all day on Sunday ... until the ridiculously short season ended recently.  I'm sure there are all sorts of TV business model reasons for HBO's short and spaced apart seasons, but as a fan it's brutal and irritating. 

My favorite things about the show:

First -- very rich character development for a very large cast, with nuanced and really compelling journeys for each of the supporting characters, as well as the main players.  Not only is there one character that nearly anyone can find to identitfy with -- better still, there are aspects of EACH character that nearly anyone can queue into.  That takes a lot to acheive and is really impressive.

Second -- unique and remarkable cinematography.  The use of light is always meaningful and thoughtful, and acts almost as a supporting role in the sereies.

Third -- and the real hook for me personally, is the exceptionaly smart use of vampire lore and culture as a device to explore civil rights issues.  It's remarkably universal and can translate for discrimination based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or nearly any other demographic or psychographic segmentation.  It tackles both subtle and overt ignorance in a really intelligent and original way.  THAT takes some genious.  Knowing this series is based on a book, I'm sure the credit for that is due to both the author and the show creators and writers, but either way it's impressive and addicting.  It's just smart.  Really, really smart and well done -- which are major exceptions in most of today's TV shows, and far far from the rule.

Fourth & Final -- it's such a FUN ride!  There's drama, humor (both light and dark), adventure, addiction of every variety, forbidden romance (of the sappy sweet variety, at times), sex appeal (both light and dark), mystery, and twist and turns of every variety.  Its raw and shocking at times, but that's just what makes it so addicting and watchable. 

One last note.  This review comes from the perspective of someone who is a) a big fat chicken who's afraid of most scary movies and not at all a dark horror fan, b) doesn't have a big affinity for vampire or other fantastical characters / genres - Buffy being the one exception.  Just putting that out there, as it seems there are a lot of people who may enjoy this series a LOT, but who imagine it to be in a genre that's "not for them."  That's the beauty of it though, it's a convergence of genres into one very unique and original show.  Enjoy!

Update 9/9/2010:  After season one, this show went severely down-hill and became unbearable to even sit through.  Season two was so awful that I stopped watching, and cannot attest for season three.  Bummer that it tanked so badly!
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August 28, 2011
Good review !
October 19, 2010
Great review! I don't think I can add anything to this; you've hit on all the points that make the show so appealing to me.
October 21, 2010
Thanks - glad you enjoyed it : )
October 18, 2010
Have to disagree about seasons 2 and 3, but I also enjoy the books, which are wildly divergent from the tv series. Great write up!
October 18, 2010
Thanks! I must admit... I'm still curious about Season 3 and will pick it up when the DVD's released for sure ; )
September 09, 2010
Alright... I'll give it a try. One episode. Thats's it. There's so much hype around this show, and vampires in general I tend to steer clear of them. Watch in a week I'll be a Twilight fan boy...
September 09, 2010
It's only worth it for the first season... after that it got REALLY bad.
January 25, 2010
I absolutely LOVE this show! Can't wait till third season. At first (like many others) the accent pretty bothered me, but after a while you get used to it. Season one was indeed better, but I also enjoyed every single minute of season 2. Great review :)
December 02, 2009
Wow! And I didn't even give the show a chance. They lost me with the country vampire thing. I'm all about vampires, but I need them to have English accents or at least wear all black all the time. lol Reading your post makes me want to give True Blood another try.
December 02, 2009
I'm with you on the country thing ; ) If you do decide to check it out, stop after Season 1 -- which was fantastic. After that it went SO downhill and lost almost every element I complimented in this review... such a bummer! I'm longing for another really high quality HBO show... sooo missing The Wire right now : )
December 04, 2009
Thanks for the heads up. Oh, The Wire! That was my jam. lol Tell me You Love Me was a favorite too. I can't believe it only lasted one season.
November 10, 2009
I love this show from the theme song to the cliff hanger...every episode. You've captured much of what I love in your excellent review. 

I got my True Blood fix on Halloween as a group of people showed up to a party I was at as all of the main characters.  It was very cool!
November 13, 2009
that is such a fun costume idea! i'd have loved to see that. thanks for the compliment... I need to update this though, as I thought season 2 was a total disaster and could barely even make it through some of the episodes. why do all the greats fade so fast these days? : )
May 20, 2009
Great review! Really, Really Good! I am a huge fan of the show and cannot wait for June 14th. As a big fan of both Buffy and Angel and vampire lore, this show has everything I could possibly want. Your review is really convincing and If I hadn't seen the show, I would go watch it right now. I actually just got the first season on Blu-ray so I am going to have people over who haven't seen it yet over to watch and I will hopefully have a review up before season 2 starts! Again, great Review!
May 20, 2009
thx! I'm counting the days till the next season... though, the cynic in me knows that it's hard to beat season 1 for most series. we'll see!
April 30, 2009
that's so funny that you're afraid of scary movies too! I only started watching this because my roommate/husband was into vampires. And it was totally less gory than I expected--much more stylized and less violent. In fact, it did not even look painful for the victim :P I have to admit it did get pretty gory toward the end of the season.

It's funny too because when I watched the season finale I actually thought I was watching the penultimate episode (haha! that's the first time I've used that SAT word--ever!!!) and I was sitting there like "gosh, they're really ramping up the action and plot in this episode." Then I was bummed that there was no more to watch :P

By the way, I saw the book series in the bookstore and in one book she goes to another city.  So I wonder what will happen next season. Also, I want to find out if  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ really got sucked up by a vampire!!!
April 12, 2009
Set your DVRs, it's back June 14!!!
April 14, 2009
agony! need... it ... now!!! : )
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More True Blood reviews
review by . August 21, 2009
I've had an odd experience with this show. I was intrigued by the pilot, and recall watching the first few episodes; but then, somewhere along the line, I stopped watching and had no incentive to catch up. The show wasn't bad, the storylines simply didn't interest me.      Then, suddenly, I start seeing promotions for the second season and think, what the hell? It's summer, there isn't anything else on, I'll give it a try. Then, magically, I fell in love with the show. This season …
review by . March 17, 2010
Probably inspired by Anne Rice's novels, this new version of vampire lore is far more interesting than Blade, Underworld, Twilight, Buffy, etc.  It takes place in a small town in Louisianna and has a real Cajun feel to it.  The premise is that vampires have admitted their existance so a blood substitute (True Blood) has been developed and sold wherever beverages are sold.      The first season centered on a vampire named Bill moving into a Louisianna town and he fascinates …
Quick Tip by . November 22, 2010
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The first season was awesome. The second season, not so much. This show is unravelling fast in my opinion.
review by . September 08, 2010
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True Blood Blu-ray box art
 Ever since I was a kid, I always had a fascination with everything vampires.  In High School, I couldn't get enough of them.  I bought all the popular (and unpopular) vampire films like Blade, John Carpenters Vampires, Dracula, Underworld and many others.  I always enjoyed reading vampire lore and doing research on the subject and even if vampires don't exist, their "history" and mythology always fascinated me.  Of course there have been some not so great vampire renditions …
Quick Tip by . May 24, 2010
Seriously the Best Thing to Happen to Television since the X-Files.
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2010
Watch the episodes in order! Its very important to not just watch some of them then start again. Its wayy better to watch it from the start.
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
Without a doubt, my favorite show ever!
Quick Tip by . June 02, 2010
I wanted to like this show, but there was too much stuff in it that just wasn't necessary or appropriate for me.
About the reviewer
Melissa ()
Really loyal, a little more lippy than I'd wish, love love love the beach and all things tropical, sneeze freakishly loud, love the F word, came of age in the Midwest during the 80's, get a lot … more
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About this tv show


Thanks to a Japanese scientist's invention of synthetic blood, vampires have progressed from legendary monsters to fellow citizens overnight. And while humans have been safely removed from the menu, many remain apprehensive about these creatures "coming out of the coffin." Religious leaders and government officials around the world have chosen their sides, but in the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps, the jury is still out. Local waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), however, knows how it feels to be an outcast. "Cursed" with the ability to listen in on people's thoughts, she's also open-minded about the integration of vampires — particularly when it comes to Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), a handsome 173-year-old living up the road. But as Sookie is drawn into a series of mysteries surrounding Bill's arrival in Bon Temps, that tolerance will be put to the test. 

A new drama from 'Six Feet Under' creator Alan Ball, True Blood delves into the meticulously-crafted world of novelist Charlaine Harris. Described by the Emmy®-winning Ball as "popcorn for smart people" and featuring a colorful cast of local misfits, 'True Blood' promises an intense ride.
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Premiere Date: September 7th 2008
Description: HBO series about Vampires who have gone public and want human rights
Genre: Drama
Studio: HBO
Original Air Date: September 7th 2008
DVD Release Date: May 19th 2009
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