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Talk Back: HBO's "True Blood"

I've been going on about HBO's True Blood for nearly two years now. (Yes, seriously, it's been that long since I first read the pilot script.)

You read the advance review of the original pilot that I wrote in May... as well as my advance review of the revised pilot and second episode of True Blood written a little while later.

But, thanks to the magic of pay cable, you've now seen the premiere episode of True Blood for yourself, if you (A) subscribe to HBO and (B) tuned in last night for the first episode of the Southern Gothic vampire dramedy, based on the novels of Charlaine Harris, and written and executive produced by Alan Ball, creator of HBO's Six Feet Under.

You've listened (or read, anyway) to what I had to say about the series, so I'm curious to turn the stand over to you: What did you think of True Blood? What worked for you and what didn't? Do you agree with Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker, who said that Ball "has never seen a comic-dramatic premise he can't flatten with leaden metaphors"? (Ouch.) And, most importantly, will you tune in for a second episode?

If there's one thing you can say about True Blood, it's that everybody has strong opinions about this series. So talk back here.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: The Big Bang Theory/How I Met Your Mother (CBS); Deal or No Deal (NBC); Gossip Girl (CW); High School Musical: Get in the Picture (ABC); Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (FOX)

9 pm: Two and a Half Men/New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS); America's Toughest Jobs (NBC); One Tree Hill (CW); CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock (ABC; 9-11 pm); Prison Break (FOX)

10 pm: CSI: Miami (CBS); Dateline (NBC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Gossip Girl.

If you haven't read my review of the first three episodes of Gossip Girl's sophomore season, shame on you. Season Two continues tonight with "Never Been Marcused," in which Blair is ecstatic to be dating a royal but Chuck isn't quite as pleased with this latest development in Blair's love life; Serena and Dan try to keep their newly rekindled romance a secret; Nate discovers that a secret affair has its downside.

10 pm: Weeds on Showtime.

On tonight's episode ("Till We Meet Again"), Nancy goes to the DEA when she has had enough with the tunnel; Celia attempts to make rehab work and tries to make amends with her famil


Anonymous said…
That was seriously bad. I won't be watching next week and I think that Alan Ball needs to have his head examined. Six Feet Under was a beautifully layered drama. True Blood is garbage.
Anonymous said…
I really wanted to like this but the writing was awful and the vampire transformation was CHEESY. It made Buffy the vampire Slayer look like a $100 million dollar production every week. WTF is HBO thinking???????
Anonymous said…
Great premise and they could have done so much more with it. Terrible writing, even worse acting. Cheesy storylines. It was really hard to watch the whole hour. So, I won't be tuning in next week either. Ugh.
Anonymous said…
It was terrible. I am a huge "Six Feet Under" fan and I watched "Buffy", as well as "Angel", so I am not against vampire stories, I actually even bought the first book prior to the premiere, so that I would know what it's about. I liked the books, this television pilot however was just terrible. Anna Paqin is the wrong choice to play Sookie, she plays way too childish, but even apart from that it is a bloody mess.
ewench said…
I find it hard to be objective, being a huge fan of the books and Alan Ball I have been looking forward to this for soooo long. I have to say I liked it but no, sadly it does not have the seamless well tuned subtle quirky elegance of Six Feet Under. It felt choppy and sort of forced, like he had to fit so many ideas and characters and plot lines into one hour.

He stayed very true to the books and brought that world to life (Sookies house, Merlottes etc) pretty much how I pictured it. I thought the Sookie and Bill characters were quite well done and well acted.

It's supposed to be a comedy but the only things that made me laugh out loud were the scenes with Tara going off and when Sweetie, the cook, was trying to pick up the heavy customer "I like a big man" haha!

It wasn't horrible, it just didn't meet the high expectations one has for an Alan Ball/HBO series. I don't know, it was only the first episode, maybe it will get better once he's gotten thru the arduous task of introducing everything.

As I said I loved the books so much I will be watching no matter what!!
The CineManiac said…
I didn't love it, I didn't hate it. I had seen the original version and I have to say the scene were Sookie saves the Vamp (can't think of his name and don't want to look it up) is weird without the mystery person in the shadows, because now it looks like Sookie has some powers that allow her to make the chain wrap around someone's neck and stay tight.

I did like the added scene between Sookie and her brother though.
Truthfully her brother's storyline is the one that will have me watching next week, I want to see how he gets out of killing someone on video.

So I'll tune in again and see if it gets better (as I believe you said it did)
Anonymous said…
I waited to read your review of the revised pilot until after I had seen it on air, and I'm glad I did. Only because your comments clarified my reaction. Thank you for the excellent analysis, as usual!

When the premiere was over, my wife and I both said, "I'm not sure I care about these folks, enough to keep watching anyway." And I think that's the basic problem for me. The causes are numerous, as your review stated -- uneven tone, shrill and obnoxious personalities, etc. So far I don't really give a hoot about any of the characters. And if I don't, I'm not sure I'll keep watching.

Maybe the problem is that I haven't read any of the books. Maybe this is one of those shows/movies where one needs to already be a fan of the canon so that the overtly annoying stuff gets filtered by the world you had already created in your head. I don't know.

I was hugely disappointed. I loved Six Feet Under and I have enormous respect for Alan Ball. What struck me in the pilot was the odd dialogue, and Ball's dialogue has always been so spot-on realistic. I didn't feel that any of the characters were very real -- they seemed like caricatures -- and their conversations were on the whole even less so. Yeah, yeah, this is an otherworldly setup, but if it's at its core Louisiana in current time, then some of the people have to be having realistic conversations. I'm sitting here wracking my brain trying to think of one part of the premiere where I felt (any) people were conversing realistically.... and I can't come up with one.

And, in my defense ;-), the premise for the show was tailor made for my tastes. I'm not squeamish about watching graphic (het) sex, either, but, yes, in this case it was just oddly tossed in there, and it felt like it was done mostly for the squick factor. Which makes no sense to me - why squick your audience?

Kind of a big mess all of the way around - that's my reaction.
Anonymous said…
The opening credits were cool. It was all downhill after that.
Anonymous said…
I came into this sort of sideways, since my sister reads the books and I haven't watched anything else done by Alan Ball. That said, I think that helped. My sister was able to tell me not to take it too seriously, and I wasn't expecting anything as far as directorial genius. I really don't think True Blood is supposed to be taken as that sort of masterpiece, it's just... cheeky.

The moments wherever it mentioned how vampires in the world are viewed today I liked. For instance, in the beginning, when "Billy Bob" trucker guy turns out to be the vampire instead of the decked out guy working the counter. The fact that there IS True Blood so that places advertise if they have it or not. I like all that!

And I like psychic stuff, so I liked the way they overwhelmed Sookie with the thoughts. You could tell why it would be a burden instead of "cool" to have these abilities.

But there were obvious problems, too. Not liking Tara and LaFayette, some script and pacing things... I had problems. But I didn't scathingly hate it.

I'd like to see how this develops. And should probably stop rambling.
Anonymous said…
I am with Cinemaniac. Didn't love it. Didn't hate it. After it was over I said, "Let's see what happens next week." To me, the pilot was SO overly expositional and over the top. The acting was SO over the top (those accents don't help). But I always like to see a 2nd episode of a show like this to see how it settles in.
Anonymous said…
I liked the storylines, but I thought the characters, except for Sookie, were lacking. Based on the first five episodes I've seen, the show does get better as it goes along - I think it will take some time to find its stride. Some of the effects were definitely cheap looking and I don't think Bill is a very compelling vamp at the moment, although he and Sookie have chemistry. Overall, I still thought it was different and worth watching.
Samantha Hunter said…
Agree with Rebecca on the squick factor. I was shaking my head, not just at the sex scenes but how the chars seemed to utter never-ending lines of profanity -- the conversation between the cook and the waitresses had me shaking my head in wonder.

I like a sexy scene, and I'll turn the air blue on occasion myself, but this was one of those cases where you wonder if they are just doing this to distract you from all the other stuff that isn't working.

However, I did like the scenes with Bill and Sookie, liked the Gran, liked Sam, though he's not the Sam from the books. Sam in the books is more self-contained and not so puppy-eyed. Too much on Jason. We could have gotten the plot points without as much as they felt they needed to show.

I'll give it another few weeks, I guess and see if it gets better. I *want* to like it, but I really felt sort of completely grossed out by this epi and less than compelled -- and the opening images? What the heck? Loved the song, but will stay TiVo through those opening credits next time...

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