Sunday, September 13, 2009

True Blood, "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'": No bull?

"True Blood" - which this year became HBO's new flagship series, and its biggest draw since "The Sopranos" - wrapped up its second season tonight. Though I haven't been reviewing it this season, I did take advantage of the DVDs HBO kept sending me to keep up. (It makes kind of ideal viewing whenever I need to open mail, clean out my inbox, etc.)

I still find it a profoundly dumb show, and a donut show at that (Bill and Sookie make it empty at the center), but I have to admit that, on a purely pulp fiction level, there was some fun stuff going on this season. Now, most of it involved either Michelle Forbes or Alexander Skarsgard, but still - it's gone from a show I hated to one I... don't hate.

So, two questions for those of you who care more about the show than I do: 1)What did you think of this season, particularly in comparison to the first? and 2)To repeat a question I asked on Twitter after "The Vampire Diaries" had the biggest debut in CW history, is there something about vampires that you find inherently interesting enough to sample pretty much any movie/book/TV show featuring them, and if so, what is that? Because vampires in a vacuum don't do much for me - I have no problem with the concept, and have loved things like "Buffy," but I'm watching for the execution, not the concept - and a lot of the "True Blood" fans I've encountered clearly feel differently.


ScottyG said...

I enjoyed Season 1 over 2 mostly because I found that Maryann and everything that came with her to be a little TOO weird for me, although seeing Eric more is definitely a bonus

and I found tonights episode to be kind of a letdown but I'll take what I can get

Bitsy said...

Ha ha! Yes!!!! Look who's coming around on True Blood!!! WAAAAHOOOO!!!

That was the sound of me leaping over the moon.

To answer your question, I am a veteran Buffy fan and I watch True Blood religiously, but I can't stand most vampire lore, mostly because it's so silly. I agree with you that Forbes and Skarsgard are part of what makes the show watchable. I don't care so much about Sookie and Bill as I do about the supporting characters, like Sam, Lafayette, and Andy.

Sookie and Bill absolutely make the big gaping hole at the center of this donut show, but luckily their costars fill it.

The reason why there's so much vampire stuff out there right now is because people want to capitalize on the Twilight frenzy (a series that is about a thousands times more offensively melodramatic and ridiculous than True Blood). I was caught by True Blood by accident, just happened to be watching TV when the pilot came on.

This season is definitely better, though I was frustrated with the constant cliffhangers and wondering for so long what the hell Maryann was. The wide range of characters this season, including Godric, the Newlins, and Maryann, definitely improved it significantly, though the Beauty and the Beast crap with Sookie and Bill, in which neither could leave the other even to go to the bathroom without a profession of undying love, really brought it down.

David J. Loehr said...

I'll admit I don't see the appeal of vampire fiction in general. It's all so repetitive--and not in a good way.*

I loved Buffy, but I wasn't watching that for the vampires. You could say I was watching for the execution in more ways than one. But as much as I love Joss Whedon, I didn't watch Angel with any regularity. (But I did enjoy "Smile Time.")

"Donut show" is a brilliant term. I don't watch donut shows. I need leads who are interesting, or at least leads who aren't too stupid to live. (Or to live eternally, I suppose.)

* Note, I am not going to say a word about "Moonlight." I learned my lesson from Thumper years ago about not saying anything at all...

Alex said...

I don't find anything inherently interesting about vampires. I watch "True Blood" because it's pulpy and fun and sexy and silly.

S1 vs S2- I think I liked them about equally, but I thought tonight's finale was kind of a let down. Michelle Forbes and Skarsgard have been excellent all season, with some great supporting work from Ryan Kwanten and Jim Parrack, among others. They've got a really nice ensemble going on.

Unknown said...

It's quite a shame that you are not a fan, Alan. We are missing out on some pointed criticism.

To answer your questions, I think people are watching TB firstly because HBO has a strong track record for churning out very watchable television and they can be trusted. People have enjoyed their previous HBO series' like 'Oz,' 'The Sopranos,' 'The Wire' and 'Sex in the City' (just to name the biggies) and have proven themselves trustworthy. People are watching TB because they like it's themes of immortality, sex, violence, monsters, and there are some great characters played by some phenomenal actors.

I really enjoyed the last few episodes -including the finale -but did feel that they have been a little over the top. The whole Maryann storyline is a little ridiculous and over-the-top. I am equally dis-interested in the Bill and Sookie relationship, and their love story. I am waaay more interested background characters like Lafayette, Eric, Jason, Tara, etc.

Loretta said...

a) I found Season 2 way more interesting than Season 1, and the reason for that, I think, is that the show runners seem to have figure out that the best part of the series is clearly the supporting case. I agree that Michelle Forbes and Alexander Skarsgard were the best parts of the season (and I'm sad to see Michelle to go, though she obviously had to for plot reasons), but I also really enjoy Nelsan Ellis as Lafayette. Tara and Sam are okay too. Jason is supposed to be comic relief, but unfortunately isn't very funny. I think the talents of Chris Bauer and William Sanderson are being wasted, given their performances on The Wire and Deadwood, but at least they're still on my tv screen.

b) I don't watch the show for the vampire stuff. (I've never done any of the Twilight stuff, and I doubt I'll ever see a single episode of the Vampire Diaries. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of my favorite television series ever because it was absolutely sublime, due to its innate Joss-ness.)

But I enjoy True Blood for its campiness and the general high production value that HBO always brings to the table. Plus, there's nothing else on at 9:00 on Sundays during the summer.

Andrew K. said...

Hmmm. Twilight [aurgh] aside, yes Vampires are hot...just ask Anne Rice. That being said...when it's done wrong it can go horribly awry.

cgeye said...

I think that we as a society see ourselves as predators, indirectly, and we no longer have the ability to pretend we are heroes all the time. To break this story down, it's a about a hot-but-foolish common girl in love with a soldier whose blood never washes off.

Americans are entering the post-adolescence of our culture, and that means having a past, and wrestling with the legacy of our sins. Vampires, and their rehabilitation/demobilization, are perfect vessels for that.

LA said...

I'm not into vampires, I have zero interest in Twilight, Vampire Diaries, Buffy, etc. I'm definitely not watching this show because of the genre.

For me, the original draw was that this was Alan Ball's post-6FU show. I love his story-telling and his humor. It's great how he makes this show so kitch. For example, when Eric tore that guy apart limb for limb wearing foils and then asked Lafayette if he got blood in his hair, I screamed laughing.

I absolutely adore Alex Skarsgard and Nelsan Ellis on this show, and a couple of the minor players are a thrill, too (Pam, Andy, Hoyt's mother, Godric). While I think highly of Michelle Forbes as an actress and thought she was well-cast, I found the Maryann arc was an overall miss until the last couple of episodes.

Glad you blogged about it. Tonight's finale was very satisfying. My only complaint was that there was way too little Eric.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

I don't think one should discount the simple fact that this season aired during the summer, when there was not a lot else competing for attention. Anything new is good.

That said, S2 was a real improvement over S1, but also seems to have put the show into the small category of shows that improve by basically ignoring their original concept. We saw very little of vampires trying to take part in everyday life in a small Louisiana town, and lots of vampire politics and general weirdness and the ostensible centers of the show leaving town for most of the middle of the season.

aj said...

imagine how amazing True Blood would be if it was done by David Milch instead of Alan Ball. Man!

LA said...

p.s. It was fun that Alan Ball put the author of the novels into a scene tonight.

Unknown said...

I don't read/watch all vampire stuff but I probably do peruse 80% of it :P I don't know why really, other than liking fantasy-ish paranormal stories. Non-reality rocks my socks. That said, I do not give a shit about some vampire shows (never watched Moonlight, saw the last 20 minutes of Vampire Diaries and was bored), and they have to have an interesting plot/characters to go along with the bloodsucking and shapechanging.

SR said...

I watched the whole season and was mostly left disappointed by it.

My biggest problem with the show is that most of its characters don't really want anything but are instead driven by larger than life (and entirely unbelievable) external forces that keep putting them in harm's way.

Even Godric - a character we should have been fascinated by, a character whose rescue was a big driving force this season - was mostly defined by his boredom and ennui, topped off by suicide. Really gripping stuff there, Mr. Ball.

My favorites were Jessica, Hoyt and Hoyt's mother; all had real goals, and the drama came from the juxtaposition of those goals. By contrast, Bill and Sookie sucked the life out of the show every time they were on screen.

Megan Carlson said...

Generally, I found True Blood pretty boring in its first season, but I feel like it's found its characters in the second season. I've enjoyed it much more in this season. I definitely agree that Bill and Sookie are the weakest part of the show, but I can forgive some pretty weak main characters if the supporting characters are really enjoyable. I've found Eric delightful, and Jessica and Jason have regularly made me laugh as well. Lafayette's character is less funny this year, but I've found his recovery from his captivity compelling.

I think Eric is indicative of the potential for something I like in a vampire show-- a character that delights in being bad, in a way that draws you in. That delight reminds me of what was so enjoyable about Spike on Buffy, and the bits I've seen of Ian Somerhalder on Vampire Diaries suggest that his take on the same theme is the main reason to watch that show. (It's very similar to the devil character in Reaper, but I think vampire shows are an easy genre to execute that character type.)

Joanna said...

I tried to watch "True Blood" three or four times. I kept reading so many people raving about it, so I kept giving it a chance. And, I've not been able to last more than 5 minutes or so with any of the episodes. Too much blood and gore. I tried it again last weekend when they had the 3-episode mini-marathon and I just couldn't watch it. I couldn't look past the gore long enough to find any story. I don't read vampire fiction, either.

Hatfield said...

I've always had a fondness for vampires and the supernatural, so this is right in my wheelhouse. That said, the show is remarkably cheesy at times, including some lame action sequences that I find to be below HBO's usual level.

In the end, though, I'm drawn to characters like Sam and Lafayette, Andy and Jason, all of whom are more interesting than Sookie and Bill, and especially the shrill Tara. The Jessica/Hoyt stuff was fascinating, and Skarsgard is great as the mostly villainous Eric. Also, like you say, it's compelling on a purely pulp level, and so much is happening that it never gets too boring. Very interested in where next season goes.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I have to say this episode was kinda a let down for me, if only because the rest of the season was so unbelievably awesome. Am I the only one thinking it was Eric who accosted Bill at the end?

Alexander Skarsgard was great this season, and luckily, if my hunch is right, we'll be seeing a lot of him in the next one.

For me, vampires are largely an all-round "eh". Buffy has always seemed like complete tripe (I've never understood the fascination with Whedon), and I've got no desire to watch Twilight, but I'm one of these days my partner will no doubt force me into watching it. Vampire Diaries seems okay, I guess (based off reviews), but with the fall season gearing up to be a good one, I'm not going to shed any tears having to skip it.

Actually, I've also never understood the fascination with ninjas and zombies that most people seem to have. Eh.

Anonymous said...

@Loretta: In terms of Chris Bauer, I don't think so. I think he's doing a swell job on TB, taking command of the scenes he's in. I'd much rather he be doing this versus the generic like The Black Donneleys.

" Dallas " said...

True Blood is fantastic as are the sookie Stackhouse novels!

Just love the final episode !


Paul Outlaw said...

I watched the entire first season and most of the second in a marathon viewing and for me the second season has been a complete letdown (although I'm still addicted). I've been a fan of the vampire genre for years and what grabbed me about Season 1 was the "coming out of the coffin" element, how vampires were being placed in a contemporary sociopolitical context. There was a certain logic (and wit) to this particular universe that has completely gone out the window in the second season. The town suddenly became isolated from the rest of the planet--I mean, how could all those maenad shenanigans be going on without anyone outside Bon Temps being aware of it? And where's the suspense or humor when stupid people behave even more stupidly than usual?

That said, there are still some great things about True Blood. Like just about anything involving Eric (Alexander Skarsgard)--especially his scene-stealing minion Pam (Kristin Baue), who should really be in every episode. And Nelsan Ellis' Lafayette is nothing short of revolutionary: I can't recall ever seeing such a three-dimensional, contradictory characterization of a black gay male as a series regular. He is smart, funny, sexual, feminine, macho, amoral and vulnerable...and the mess of the second season didn't ruin him.

(His cousin Tara, however, is a disaster, both in terms of acting and writing. She needs to GO, but unfortunately I don't see that happening.)

By the way, vampires are eternally (no pun intended) compelling; it's just that they have been suddenly discovered by television and "the demographic" in the past couple of years: Why Vampires Never Die

Unknown said...

In general I thought season two was a step up from season one mainly because the stakes (no pun intended) were raised much higher. Last season one of the main conflicts was Tara's mom was a drunk (snoozefest!) while this season was maenads hypnotizing the whole town and making them all do crazy stuff. I also started to genuinely love some central characters, especially Jason Stackhouse, who would make a great sitcom pair with Andy Bellefleur.

But the finale was, like all the other ways conflicts were resolved in the second season, underwhelming. As strong as Michelle Forbes was, it was majorly disappointing to see her just get killed so easily/quickly (not unlike the resolution to the Fellowship of the Sun and the quick killing off of Godric the 2000 year old vampire). I understand that the ending left a few cliffhangers but the scenes which I believe were meant to hammer out the themes of the season ("Terrors of intimacy") were flat because I didn't actually care about the characters all that much. (Compare that with my viewing of the end of season one of "Sons of Anarchy" where I was left nearly in tears over what happened to Donna.)

I don't think, though, that it's the vampires that are the main draw of the show to me, though -- it's the crazy situations, attractive people, and the campy humor that has finally shined through that's grudgingly won me over, somewhat.

KC said...

I sorta don't hate it anymore either.

I really enjoyed Michelle Forbes, and although I am not a vampire genre fan, it has that macabre humor I enjoy and enough interesting secondary characters to keep me watching now.

So many interesting places they could go in this genre, I'll stop wishing for more intelligent story development and just kind of take it for what it is.

Unknown said...

It’s essential to just try and enjoy True Blood on a pulp fiction/exploitative horror level. If you try and take it as seriously as HBO’s past efforts, you’re going to be disappointed. Ball does seem to be aspiring to the depths he reached with Six Feet Under, and it doesn’t quite work. The characters ramble with these transparent metaphors that are only vaguely socially relevant, don’t have nearly the resonance that Ball intends, and seem cheesy as hell following a scene where a woman is run down by a bull-creature. There are just too many elements (Vampire Bill’s old-timey accent, cartoonish side-characters existing only for a gag, et cetera) that make the show seem sort of tacky, especially when you try to expect it’s quality to be on par with HBO’s past efforts. So, if you just tune in every week for the violence and T+A, you’ll enjoy yourself.

It’s a shame though, because I think True Blood could have been amazing if a little more care at been placed into writing the thing. I’m not really into vampires, but I love the idea of high-art genre television. HBO tried it once before with Carnivale, but failed thanks to a creator who didn’t really know how to sell what was a genuinely fascinating and exciting story to a mainstream audience.

Watching last night’s True Blood finale, I get the vibe that Alan Ball doesn’t really understands horror or what’s expected from genre television. It doesn’t have to silly, and it doesn’t have to be cheesy+heavy handed. There’s an appropriate balance the writers need to find that teases both the sex+horror elements and the parts that really mean something. It needs subtly, and objectivity (something with which Alan Ball is terrible—just watch TOWELHEAD or everything in the SIX FEET finale up until the last 15 minutes). A good example of how last night’s finale failed is that Maryann never fully turned into this bull Maenid form thing, even though it’s been teased relentlessly all season. We only really saw it once, and I’m sure there were many viewers out there that were expecting an all-out minotaur attacked. Apart from Eggs, no one actually died last night, and the climactic battle between Bull Maryann and the town would have been the perfect time to kill off a few annoying townsfolk. But instead, he pulled back, and gave us only a half-way satisfying anticlimax. That might work for Six Feet Under, but I think most people were expecting more blood. Alan Ball probably held back for fear of seeming hackish, but what he doesn’t understand is that True Blood is already kind of a hack show. It’s not serious enough for critics, and most of his viewers probably miss his poorly executed social message. Genre television needs to end on some sort of explosion. Something big needs to happen. You can hide behind smokes and mirrors for a while, but eventually the viewer wants to stop being teased. I think a tighter, more exciting finale might distract critics and viewers from some of the show’s flaws.

Ultimately, I think True Blood is just a means to an end. It’s a good time, and there are plenty of reasons to keep watching, but it’s essentially popcorn with high production values. What’s exciting is that it’s bound to soften HBO’s hesitation towards genre television. I can’t wait til someone like Ronald Moore or JJ Abrahms decides to take a project to HBO. Can you imagine what a weird+wonderful thing Alias would have evolved into if it had been free from ABC trying to steer it into Felicity land, or how even more epic Battlestar Galactica might have been they’d been able to use grown up swear words? They might have even won an emmy.

Anonymous said...

Long ago, I stopped comparing Buffy and TB, just so I could jump on board and enjoy how wacky and occasionally gripping the show can be. The second season was thoroughly improved over the first, especially characters like Jessica, Jason, Andy, Eric, and of course Maryann. I'm probably one of the few that really likes Sookie now that she's grown a backbone and was actually moving during her bathroom break debate with herself after Bill's proposal. I agree having the show on during the summer helped it's audience grow and I think it mostly came from just going along for the ride and not getting wrapped up in the context of what's really going on. It sort of feels like Melrose Place in the early 90s where it just goes balls out and hoping you're along for the ride with them.

Casey Brazeal(North and Clark) said...

I like the very dirty sensual feeling of this show, and the idea of Vampire as gays.

The best fantasy and sci-fi serves as commentary on our world. While True Blood isn't the best of fantasy it shares that trait with the genre's best.

Anonymous said...

I'd say season two was a marked improvement over season one, largely because the show realized that it simply isn't as good as its original ambitions, so it stopped trying for overreaching drama (which was laughably bad in the first season), and instead went for trashy fun. It's easily the worst show I watch, but at its best, it moves with such forward momentum that I'm not bothered by stuff like the dullness of Sookie/Bill, or the clunky allegories. Plus, it gives people like Skaarsgard, Forbes, and Ellas a chance to go big and still perform well.

I can't imagine I'd ever find time for a show like True Blood in the fall or winter, but for summer, it does alright.

shara says said...

Well, I watch lots of vampire stuff but not necessarily because I'm all about vampires. I like speculative fiction in general - anything fantasy, sci-fi, horror, I'm usually good with, as long as its well-done. I LOVED Buffy, BTW, anything Whedon is golden in my book.

As for True Blood, I love the show. I thought that the first few episodes of the first season were a bit rocky, but that by episode 4 it was on fire and I loved season 1. I liked season 2 even more - the supporting characters were richer and more well-utilized (especially Andy, Eric, Lafayette, Jessica, and Hoyt), there was enough going on to distract from the glaring hole that is Bill-Sookie, and the two big story arcs (Dallas and Maryanne) were both really interesting to me. I thought that Sookie seriously improved as a character this season, although the character of Bill became even harder to stomach. I literally didn't care that Bill got "got" at the end. I care nothing about that character, or their relationship. I am just not a fan of Moyer (Moyers?) in that role, he seems too stiff and affected and goofy (without meaning to be), and the accent is pretty bad. Plus, I don't see why the character of Bill is at all likable. I'm definitely on Team Eric...

The finale was pretty wild, I just wish that Eric had been around more. The whole thing with Sam and the 'wedding' and all was CRAZY!!! I wish that Jason and Andy had made a better stand, but at least they think they did...

I don't think this is a dumb show at all. I think that a lot of the characters make decisions from a limited worldview and limited perception of options, but that the show is clever and well-put-together, with interesting parallels not just to racism and homophobia, but (especially with the vampire politics stuff) with broader questions of war, peace, and the role of sacrifice in a movement. So count me in the camp that is looking very much forward to season 3!

Anonymous said...

True Blood is not quality television, but it is fun television. For some reason, I like it a lot better than other paranormal shows like "Supernatural" and the awful "Ghost Whisperer".

I personally liked Season 1 more than I liked Season 2, maybe because I felt like there was less of a mystery with Marianne.

The only thing that bothers me is the sex scenes between Sookie and Bill. Now that I know that Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer are a couple in real life, it feels oddly voyeuristic to watch the two pretend to have sex.

lady t said...

I'm a veteran Buffy fan and generally enjoy most vampire stories,but they need more of a hook than folks with fangs(for example,I never got into "Forever Knight" or "Kindred:The Embraced").

The hook for this show is that Alan Ball expanded the characters and story lines way beyond the borders of the Charlaine Harris series of books(Lafayette was meant to die at the beginning of the second book but fortunately was spared on the show).

For those of us who have or still reading the books,this gives us more of a "what's going to happen now" vibe than we would get from a straightforward adaptation. It's also good for the previously uninitated,since they will be able to enjoy the books without feeling as if they've already read them.

Standouts in the cast for me are Rutina Wesley(she's amazing as Tara),Nelsan Ellis and naturally,Alexander Skargard:)

As for Season 1 vs. 2;I think the second season was able to find more surer footing in terms of character development(the Hoyt and Jessica subplot has a real bitter sweetness to it that I look forward to seeing next season)and general"how far can we go" with the supernatural hijinks.

Season three should be a blast and a half,the way things are going. Thank you,Alan Ball,for helping to make vampires crazycool again.

Anonymous said...

I was drawn into Season One because the story arc and characters really fleshed out, Season Two continued that but it was a lot chunkier and less solid due to the split plots.
I also enjoy TB as pure pulp and completely agree that Bil and Sookie are the emptiest and lamest ones while the others have good stuff going on.
For me vampire plots are great because they allow so much literal translation/reflection of human behavior without being over the top because they are vampires. I think TB does a great job of playing on the quirks of vampires as ex-humans. The Jessica over protected abused religious girl turned out of control slut is a typical Lifetime plot, but with her vampire edge and hunger, it becomes something we can play with again.


Anonymous said...

I love your taste in TV shows. Your lack of enthusiasm for True Blood has been one of the few discrepancies between our tastes. It's a really fun show. I am at a loss that you would blog for a seasons worth of the worthless Nurse Jackie, a donut show if there ever was one, and categorize True Blood as a show that you at most "don't hate".

Regarding vampires, the concept is tired. True Blood works because it goes beyond standard vampire fare in interesting ways.

I dislike Sookie and Bill as well. Everyone else is excellent.

Last night's finale was a little disappointing. Overall S2 > S1.

Hatfield said...

Oh yeah, I forgot to answer: Season 1 was better because it was more focused, but this season was arguably funnier, and made Jason into less of a heel. I won't miss Eggs, but I'm not looking forward to the extra whining his death will bring from Tara, either.

Also, I completely agree with your decision to not blog this show, because even if you liked it, what would you talk about? "Thoughts on episode two of True Blood coming up just as soon as I pull a metal joint from a severed leg..." It doesn't exactly lend itself to a lot of analysis, with Ball's broad points coming through loud and clear.

Cecile R. said...

My family and I can't wait for Sunday nights to get our dose of Southern fried freak-on ala True Blood. We find Ryan Kwanten pitch perfect as dopely earnest Jason. Alex Skarsgard gives us ladies chills and shivers of delight when he evils it up and lusts after Sookie. (Please, Bacchus, let him steal her from boring Bill in S3!)

Nelsan Ellis gives the whole production authenticity as he drawls his words to multiple sylables and tarts up Merlottes. And our favorite little scenes are those between cousins Terry and Andy Bellfleur. We are Southerners. Southern relatives in small towns behave just like these men.

Finally, the additon of the character Jessica to the show and to the series (she is not in the books) has added so much depth and heart. We loved her romance with Hoyt. Hoyt's misguided loyalty to his horrible Mama (we know mamas like her as well) and the tenderness the two lovers displayed to one another gave poignancy to the show this year. Jessica's arrival even allowed us to see another side of cardboard Bill. Too bad the actress outshown him in most of their scenes together.

This is not a slam on Stephen Moyer. Sadly, he is playing Bill just as he is written by Charlaine Harris and Alan Ball. If you've read the books you know the goal is to get Sookie from Bill to Eric.

That also reminds me of the great work by the actress playing Eric's aide, Pam. She has so little screen time, but she makes the most of it. She's bored, condescending and sizzling. Just like snooty Southerners.

Can't wait till Season 3 to get our freak on again!

Hyde said...

Alan, whereas you've gone from True Blood being "a show I hated to one I... don't hate," I've gone from regarding it as a show "I...don't hate" to one I kind of like. Outside of Mad Men, it was really the one show of the summer that I consistently looked forward to. I would go so far as to say it's my favorite Alan Ball project ever, though I was not a particular fan of Six Feet Under and even less so regarding American Beauty.

While I agree that Sookie and Bill are the weak links, they're surrounded by much more interesting (if not exactly appealing) characters. I guess I would concur with what andythesaint said: it's a lot of fun, and there's plenty of plot movement every single week.

As far as the whole vampire trend, I've never cared about it one way or the other. I am amused, though, at the number of people who find vampires inherently sexy (as Ball himself has said). Are they really sexy, or is it more than pop culture vampires are uniformly young and gorgeous? If Bill and Eric were played by Chris Bauer and William Sanderson, that might affect our perception of their hotness.

One plot question: I thought Sam could only shift into something he had imprinted on before. How was it that he was able to become this magical bull? Or was it just a generic bull he had seen sometime in the past, that Maryann confused with her god?

Paul Outlaw said...

Casting news: One reason to watch next season

matty said...

I enjoy the show, like most, primarily for its more cartoonish elements. Like "24", the weirder the better. I vote for the introduction of aliens and/or robots next season. Also we'd better get some werewolves.

When the show debuted, a lot of people made mention of its equating vampires with gays or African Americans or any other similarly massively disenfranchised "minority" group. This never made sense to me given the fact that the humans have every right to be afraid of the mythological blood drinking monsters that have suddenly tried to integrate into their society. Homosexuals and non-white ethnic groups certainly don't eat people, and so the comparison doesn't make sense.

But it appears now that ALL of our protagonists, not just the supernatural ones, are meant to be linked with what Ball sees as society's normal, easygoing people. There are insane, violent people on both sides of any issue (be they bull-gods, bigots or vampires), and the rest of us open-minded peaceful intelligent people must constantly fight against extremes on both ends just so we can lead our own lives quietly.

That's why there are heavy-handed gags like Bill and Sookie having to go to Vermont to get married.

Anonymous said...

I mentioned that you would not like this show as soon as the og pilot leaked and I understand your dislike of the show based on the first half of season 1. The 2nd half of the first season and the 2nd season has been excellent. And while the show does not have the depth of my favorite shows of this decade, The Wire/Sopranos/Mad Men/FNL/The Shield, it is so entertaining that I look forward to it as much as I looked forward to those other shows.

The episode where Godric died was up there with any episode of tv this year. And I love all the smart shows so you cant sat Im an idiot.

The only vampire films I ever liked was Interview with a Vamp and From Dusk Till Dawn, so for a youngster like myself its cool to have a quality vampire story.

The greatest move HBO made was airing the show in the summer. Last fall it went up against the NFL and showtime's strong lineup. Also True Blood has a good balance for couples. Plenty of violence and sex for the guys and my girl likes the love story.

Cant wait for the werewolves and I love Evan Rachel Wood.

Chip said...

It's a fun show that sometimes, well most of the time goes insanely over the top and/or gets silly and cheesy very easily. Worth making a regular addition to the blog though, I mean it is the summer after all. This season stretched the over the top-ness though, while Michelle Forbes was great as usual I'm looking forward to new, less repetitive plotlines

Karen said...

Love True Blood and even got HBO to keep up with it, but found the Maryann plot got dragged out way too long - had way more of the people-with-black-eyes-acting-weird than we needed. But still found the show in general very enjoyable. And not just because of Alexander Skarsgard. But an awful lot because of him.

As for vampire stuff - I'm a huge Whedon fan, but agree that the fact that Buffy and Angel involve vampires isn't _why_ I'm such a fan. Got to like Moonlight in spite of disliking it at the beginning (watched it mostly for Jason Dohring, but got to like the lead, whose name is escaping me). Wouldn't consider watching The Vampire Diaries or Twilight, or anything, vampire-related or not, that's aimed solely at people half my age. So no, I don't jump at anything that has any connection at all to vamps... but it if looks like vamps + something else of interest, sure.

Alex said...

Whatever. Everyone's watching this show and no one really likes it. And I don't mean we watch it in a guilty pleasure way; I mean literally, most of us don't enjoy watching it but can't stop. Maybe it's the ever-present promise of boobs? It's not vampires. I got over vampires when I was 16.

Tim Leong said...

I thought season one was decent enough, but not exactly riveting. I LOVED season two, however.

The two big differences for me were:
1) ALIAS-style cliffhangers. They just edited the end of each show in a much more entertaining fashion — even if the cliffhanger was resolved in the first 5 seconds of the next episode, the episodes just felt much more exciting.

2) I cared a lot more about the secondary character plots this season. There were several fun arcs from the non-Sookie/Bill camp.

Not a deep show for me, but one that's fun and entertaining enough that makes me think about getting HBO.

me said...

As I was thinking about the two seasons, I realized that I thought Season Two was WAY more than 12 episodes. And not in a good way.

I thought it took FOREVER to get to the point, and as much as I like Michelle Forbes (can't look at her without seeing Dr Cox driving into Charm City with the top down), I'm glad Maryann is dead, and I hope she doesn't come back.

And Sookie and Vampire Bill can go, too. I'll keep Lafayette, Hoyt and Jessica. They can hold down the fort, while Sam searches for his birth parents. Maybe they can hold a town meeting and agree on an accent.

And Eric can do whatever he pleases. I could not take my eyes off of Alexander Skarsgard in Generation Kill, and he's even better as a vampire.

Others have touched on the vampire-love, but I find it quite simple. They're hot. With the possible exception of the vampires in Supernatural and Vampire Bill, the guys cast to play vampires tend to be totally sexy.

Hatfield said...

Maybe they can hold a town meeting and agree on an accent.


JanieJones said...

Season 1 vs. Season 2, both had their quality episodes. The season finale was underwhelming with the exception of Maryann's demise, Sam's beginning search for his birth parents, Jason killing Eggs and Andy covering for him. Ball seems very invested in bringing certain themes into play such as acceptance, death (AB stamp), racism, legal rights (things that are going on right now - legalization of gay marriage, Prop Hate, death panels, birther's movement).
The casting has been a little piece of brilliance, imho. I became more invested in certain characters this year such Andy, Jason, Hoyt, Jessica. Alex Skarsgard, vastly underused. Kristin Bauer, vastly underused.

The Maryann storyline to me, ultimately, was a little less short of a failure. I know my Greek mythology fairly well, the writer's did not do their homework so that bothered me. The storyline was too drawn out. I get it-it's supposed to be over the top and almost nonsensical to a point. Michelle Forbes did a wonderful job though. The Dallas/FOTS storylines were excellent and linear.

It's a show, Alan, that many people are in love with and take very seriously.
He has some very talented writer's - Nancy Oliver (Lars and the Real Girl), Raelle Tucker, Alexander Woo, etc.
I love Alan Ball, especially American Beauty and 6FU.
Comparing 6FU and True Blood is something I will not do.
True Blood-fun, sexy, underlying themes, southern mythos, gory, and crazy. It's like eating a decadent brownie and sometimes eating one too many.
I've read the books. I think the series is better done.
Vampires-loved Buffy, liked Angel, Moonlight (tepid), Vampire Diaries (not watching), Twilight (not a bloody chance). I was drawn into the vampire world when my mother sat me and my brother down to watch Creature Feature (I think it was on Saturdays) in the 70's. My mother is the one who introduced me to Rice and her wonderful Lestat. However, I am no longer enamored by vamps. I enjoy a good/fun story.

However, I'm just as or more excited by Mad Men, SOA, Breaking Bad and other shows too.

However with that said, I do look forward to S3 to see what Ball and co. cook up!

Also, I can see why you would not and do not blog about this show.

kimshum said...

Everyone's watching this show and no one really likes it.

*Such* a good point. Alex gets a gold star for that one.

1. Season 2 > Season 1. In Season 2 it finally embraced its over-the-top, pulpy nature. More importantly, it gave expanded screentime to the interesting characters (Eric, Pam, Terry, Jessica, and Hoyt). I love the donut analogy. Bill and Sookie are black holes.

2. Simply put, vampires represent sex and death. This fascination isn't anything new; Stoker's Dracula was written in 1897 and started the whole craze. Vampires are an allegory for repressed sexuality, especially *female* sexuality. So the fact that people are fascinated doesn't surprise me at all.

The finale was dire. The show hit its emotional high note in the Eric-Godric final episode. After watching that, well, who cares about the rest? And to end the season on Bill being taken? Someone needs to tell Alan Ball that if you don't care about Bill, you're kind of rooting for his death. Which won't actually happen, but a girl can hope.

Frankly, I'm relieved to finally encounter a critic who calls out Bill and Sookie for the voids they are.

Sandy T. said...

"Donut show" indeed. However, Ball seems to be myopic about this - he just loooovvvees Bill and Sookie, even though everyone else is bored to tears by them. Whatever. True Blood is definitely a minor HBO show, and it's getting more minor by the season. I fully expect that next year Bill and Sookie will get married in a gigantic Dynasty-like ceremony, and Eric will jump over a shark on skis. Mark my words. It's the way of most vampire TV shows, even Buffy. They all devolve into former shadows of themselves.

Mike F said...

funny show with a sick sense of humor, great production values, great supporting cast, supernatural intrigue, sex appeal, violence and above all, pure uncompromising camp

that's it...nothing less, nothing more

season 2 much much better than season 1 because it went ultra-campy


the dude from gilmore girls was hilarious all season

bill's vampire spawn is one of the hottest women on television

the kid who plays jessica's bf reminds me of a young d'nofrio (looks, not chops)

the never-ending game of yahtzee is just genius concept humor...and the scorecard screenshot is a testament to how much thought went into that running joke

the actor who played godrick did a beautiful job

visually, this is a stunning show..and not just talking about the vampires...though most of them are stunning as well

the vampire genre is best used as this series uses a tool to do something entirely different in a way that's non-obvious, fun and the hands of Alan Ball, the genre is being well-utilized

khai said...

I like True Blood and watch it regularly but there is a major cheap factor to it. I think its success lies mostly or completely in its bloodiness, sexiness, and raw violence. It's primitive and it appeals to basic human instincts. This is fine and ok but one thing I HATE about the show is the writing and all the loose ends. The producer's other show, Six Feet under was wonderfully written and innovative. True Blood, while bold and having the surprise factor, still has some lazy plot lines. Like Sookie--we should know what she is by now. Also, in other vampire stories, being able to hear someone else's thoughts is usually a vampire power--but shes definitely not one--this annoys me.

Anonymous said...

I've never been drawn to the Bill and Sookie relationship for some reason. I never felt like they could go the long haul. They got together TOO soon in the show and they just don't have the chemistry for them to survive. I much prefer the angst/tension of Eric and Sookie and i think that relationship can give what the audience want.

Unknown said...

i got hooked on it last summer during Season 2 and watched the series backwards. Thus I like Season 1 but only I think because I liked Season 2 so much. There is one scene however that sold me on the show's actors (other than Paquin and Moyer -- who I have loved in other things but not in this) -- and I think that scene was in S1. That's the scene were Sam is in bed with Tara sleeping and he yips like a mutt in his sleep. I was breathless with laughter!

Asap said...

I've just finished watching the first two seasons of True Blood, and am kinda disappointed with what they've done with it. Not a vamp fan, I was willing to live with how the charachters' super-natural abilities took away any chance of real consequence, Entourage-style, for the sake of how it promised to deconstruct small town life and dynamics. This deconstruction, however, seemed to have been abandoned completely halfway through season 2. It's very unfortunate, as that was the real 'glue' of the show, and stepping away from it made each storyline non-dependant of the others, as evidenced by the forced attempt to unite them in the season finale. So basically, what made the second season better- having the stories grow - was also it's downfall - having the stories grow apart - with no real thrusted discourse but the one that the creators have mistakenly found as the show's major and only appeal - soft shock value and cool fangs.