I wasn’t watching True Blood from the time debuted HBO in the US in 2008 - and I hadn’t even discovered the books yet. But my sister was already obsessed with the books and was begging me to buy Season One on DVD, as soon as it was released. I never got around to it (I kick myself now – I could have been drooling over Eric the vampire so much sooner!). So she bought it for me for my birthday; she knew I would love it. At the time, I had a lot of stress in my life and I was commuting to work for more than an hour morning and night every day. So I watched True Blood on the train, at home, anywhere I could. True Blood was my escape; the gothic southern imagery, the haunting original score, the juxtaposition of religion and lawlessness, the witty, sharp and sometimes hilarious one liners.
Created by Alan Ball, the genius who brought us Six Feet Under and wrote American Beauty, True Blood is an addictive, engrossing vampire saga, based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by American author Charlaine Harris. The series centres on Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress living in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, struggling with her unusual ‘gift’ for hearing people’s thoughts. Life is relatively quiet until she meets and falls in love with local vampire Bill Compton. True Blood’s setting is modern day with a difference. A world where vampires have ‘come out of the coffin’, that is, revealed themselves to the world in a simultaneous and systematic revelation. As a result, vampires are largely treated as the ‘new’ second class citizens of the Deep South, and are fighting for the right to legally own assets and marry.
|THAT Rolling Stone cover|
But on the other, True Blood has smatterings of normalcy amongst the fantasy, times when we can identify with the characters. Sookie Stackhouse, the telepathic waitress, who apart from her special talent, led a simple yet isolated life before she met her lover, Bill. It’s easy to identify with the isolation Sookie feels as a ‘local freak’ with her telepathic skills. She represents anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider, like they didn’t fit in. And I’d challenge the most reluctant vampire fan not to feel just a bit of empathy for the internal struggle Bill experiences in Season One, to maintain his human qualities of love, empathy and compassion, whilst fighting his urge to hunt and drink human blood (including Sookie’s). Or Bill’s progeny child-vamp Jessica, who will remain 16 forever, experiencing the typical angst of a teenager, losing her virginity, dating – and some not so typical, like accidently killing her dinner in Season Three and struggling to control her young, new-vampire urges.
So what makes True Blood so additive? Millions of people round the world are die-hard fans (or Truebies). The appeal this TV show makes to the vampire sub-culture and pop culture phenomenon that is the vampire genre was cleverly recognised by Allan Ball back in 2007, when the show’s pilot was shot. For me it’s the fantasy combined with super cool scripting and killer one liners from Sookie like “Bill, you were just licking blood out of my head, it don't think it gets much more personal than that” or from Lafayette Reynolds “That boy is sex on a stick. I don't give a good damn how stuck up he is” or “Conscience off. D*ck on”.
Not to mention the super-sexy cast (hello, Rolling Stone Magazine cover??). They have some responsibility for the addictive nature of this show. Generally, the show has been cast really well, keeping some homage to the book series characters. Two of the most central, Sookie and Bill, (Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer) are actually now married in real life, after meeting on set. A dream for the HBO marketing department I’m sure. But the chemistry in their very first scenes together practically oozes out from the TV screen. Sookie’s later chemistry with thousand year old vampire (and sex on legs) Eric, keeps things just as steamy.
|The cast of True Blood - Season 3|
Yes, I will admit the acting in True Blood is not always the best acting you’ve ever seen (although Paquin is pretty damn good), but to the thousands of Truebies around the world, that doesn’t matter. This show was never intended to be taken too seriously or pretended to be anything other than pop culture goodness. Creator Allan Ball has never purported it to be anything else. The same can pretty much be said for Charlaine Harris’ books. This doesn’t take away from their appeal and brilliance.
There’s an ever increasing debate between fans on the book series’ storylines and the tendency for the TV show to totally abandon them or twist them out of order. And as the recent Season Three finale has shown us, the show continues to jump around, basing entire seasons only loosely on storylines from the imagination of Charlaine Harris. For me, I love the books and I love the show. The show is like a new tangent of Sookie’s story and I find both the book storylines and the TV storylines as equally addictive. I think Allan Ball has made a clever decision to put his own ingenious stamp on True Blood, making it into an animal all of its own.
For me, my ultimate favourite episode is the very first one. It’s the beginning of an incredible journey. The electric chemistry between dangerous and brooding vampire (Bill), when he first lays his eyes on an outcast, oddball, lonely girl (Sookie) still gives me chills. I’ve watched it several times – and could watch it a thousand more. I can’t thank my sister enough. May True Blood never die ‘The True Death’.