‘True Blood’ is draining experience to some

Sept. 05, 2008 | 12:14 a.m.

Stephen Moyer is vampire BillNot long ago I wrote about how much I like the new HBO series “True Blood,” which premieres Sunday night. It turns out that not everyone was equally intrigued.

Mary McNamara, one of my favorite writers and the television critic for the Los Angeles Times, has a “True Blood” review that says the show, well, pretty much sucks, and not in that good vampire way.

Borrowing heavily from many genres, “True Blood” aspires to transcend them all but instead quickly deposits the viewer waist-deep in a literal and figurative swamp.

Vampire fantasy, murder mystery, star-crossed love story, political satire, “True Blood” is all and none of the above. Not quite funny, not quite scary, not quite thought-provoking, the show’s attempt to question the roots of prejudice is continually undermined by its own stereotyping.

Seriously, isn’t it time to stop portraying every small town below the Mason-Dixon line as populated by drunken, racist, testosterone-charged lunkheads? Apparently not. In Bon Temps, the tiny Louisiana town where “True Blood” opens, all the men seem obsessed with booze and sexual assault while their wives quietly devour fried foods and despise them.

Early in the review, McNamara expresses disappointment that executive producer Alan Ball (“Six Feet Under”) has “decided to take Charlaine Harris’ light, fun series of Southern Vampire Mysteries and turn it into a heavy-handed political fable with vampires.” I haven’t read the books at all, maybe that is one of the reasons we had such different takes on the show.

Anna Paquin and Sam TrammellSpeaking of “True Blood,” Greg Braxton also has a feature on star Anna Paquin that is well worth reading. There’s also a nifty photo gallery on the sex appeal of vampires, which appraises the lusty appeal of the undead on the screen in “Blade,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “30 Days of Night,” “Blacula,” “Twilight” and … “Sesame Street“?

If you still want more, sink your teeth into this interview with Ball on HBO’s own website or this interesting New York Times article from July about the marketing of the show.

If you watch the show Sunday, let me know what you think: Does “True Blood” have the juice to survive?

– Geoff Boucher

RELATED: All “True Blood” coverage at Hero Complex

Photo of “True Blood” star Stephen Moyer by Jamie Trueblood/HBO, courtesy of HBO

Photo of “True Blood” stars Sam Trammell and Anna Paquin by John P. Johnson/HBO, courtesy of HBO

More in: Uncategorized, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, Twilight

Comments


8 Responses to ‘True Blood’ is draining experience to some

  1. Unamused says:

    Oh boy. ANOTHER vampire show/movie/book series/graphic novel adaptation. Seriously, is there ANY aspect of the vampire myth that hadn't been done to death by the mid 1990's, and is there really that much demand for yet another "sexy" and "gothic" version of the story? Anne Rice has a lot to answer for, it appears…
    HBO has been pretty much worthless since they cancelled 'Deadwood'. 'John From Cincinnati' had some intriguing aspects, but it promptly wasted all it's good will with a nearly unwatchable pace and refusal to give any solid story lines. While I don't begrudge anyone their tastes, I will happily ignore 'True Blood' without feeling I'm missing anything.
    And kudos to Mrs. McNamara for calling out the writers on their lazy and offensive portrayal of Southerners in general and small town folks in specific. Hollywood just loves it's cartoonish stereotypes, and lower-income rural people are about the last subculture that are still acceptable to mock, in typical elitist fashion. I don't live in the south, but the last time I visited Louisiana I met intelligent and creative people who did not in any way resemble the common image projected by this show.

    • C.Michael says:

      You say the writers portrayal of Southerners "in general" and small town folks "in specific" is "lazy and offensive". And later on, the populist tripe about "typical elitists" mocking lower-income rural people.

      First : You obviously don't live in the South, especially in the rural South. If you did, you would see that the stereotype that you see as lazy and offensive is actually a fairly accurate representation, regardless of your politically correct beliefs. I know this as a former resident of a small town in the South. And, frankly, this is even more true when it comes to Louisiana. And the writers aren't portraying Southerners "in general" and small town folks "in specific" – they are portraying small town Southerners in RURAL LOUISIANA. You can't try and break this down into convenient sub-sets to support a flawed argument. And for the record – the HBO writers are following the example set by the author of the books – Charlaine Harris – a "small town Southerner". I suspect that she has a better understanding of the nature of the people there than you do.

      Second : As someone who has actually watched the show, instead of effecting a pretentious disdain like it's a badge of honor, I would challenge your assertion that "mocking" is actually occurring. There are several examples of intelligent, creative people in the show, and as of yet I haven't seen a "Hee Haw" character show up on-screen.

      If you're not interested in the subject matter of the show, that's fine, continue not watching it. But that being the case, it might be more appropriate for you to refrain from making populist judgments on something you don't actually know anything about.

  2. J.B. Caine says:

    I was privileged enough to watch the preair several weeks back. As a fan of the Charlaine Harris tale, I was incredibly – I repeat, INCREDIBLY – disappointed with the quality of the acting and writing. It was like watching a middle school play full of kids who forget their lines and don't know where to put emphasis in their sentences. In part, I can't fully blame the actors for the pacing and the script; that's supposed to be someone else's job to fix.
    If Sunday night's airing of the pilot hasn't fixed some significant problems in last month's preair, the pacing and dialogue is going to have people fleeing in droves from this clunker. It's a shame, really, because the fun and flirtatiousness of the original was such a breath of fresh air in a genre filled with overly sexualized borderline vampire porn.

  3. lesia says:

    I was shocked to think this is supposedly the ace in the hole for HBO.Wow!What an implosion is coming at that channel!Sue Naegle better start pulling in some real material soon!What's next after the trite Vampire theme?A lawyer/cop show?Crime Scene Investigators carrying guns??If this is the lifeblood of the cable king then lookout,because even with all the hype,this show truly SUCKED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Showtime and FX have slayed the giant!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. asdfgreensloth says:

    I loved the show. Great acting, great atmosphere, great characters, great plot. I've now seen episodes one and two and can't wait to see more. I thought Anna Paquin was great in it – a main character that really draws me into the show. And there's a really great chemistry between Sookie and (the very attractive) Bill. I can't wait to see more of this show.

  5. mm.... says:

    Sex scenes are way too gratuitous in this show. Can we not have a vampire show that does not glamorize the undead as sexy fine creatures? Or continually beat us over the head with that concept? Twilight was bad enough. I like Lafayette and Bill was actually okay because I though I was going to hate his brooding.

  6. FanGirlNZ says:

    Well I haven't read the books either, maybe thats why I love the show?
    After swooning over Eric I gave the books a go but found myself fast forwarding. I really like the tv interpretation, though give credit to the source material.
    I don't think its like other vampire shows at all. And I mean they can't excatly change to much up, its vampires! True Blood came along before the big vampire bang, and I for one prefer this adult version.
    You can only take so much PG13 stories. I thank AB and hope as long as it continues to be as great as season 2, many more seasons follow.

  7. Ariel says:

    I have lived in Louisiana, and yes if you go to New Orleans, i mean solely the French Quarter it is fairly upscale with a wealth of history and culture, but past that it is still as backwards as if slavery were still legal…This show is on point with the backwards mentality of the small towned, small minded folks of Louisiana, for better or worse.

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