True Blood

11 01 2010

I tend to instinctively avoid those cultural phenomena that everyone seems to be talking about at a particular time–the books everyone and their moms have read, the movie that makes a huge splash and wins all the Oscars, the TV shows that everyone constantly recommends.  It’s not cultural snobbery, per se– things are just less interesting to me when the entire world has already experienced them and told me all about them. I like to discover things, sans expectations.

For this reason, I have successfully avoided reading any of the Harry Potter books and the DaVinci Code series, I still haven’t seen Avatar or Gossip Girl, I held off on Twilight for a loooong time before I cracked, and I am only just now discovering The Wire, several years after its final episode.  I’m not particularly proud of having avoided these things, and I’m quite sure that I’m missing out on some quality entertainment in most cases (especially Harry Potter— I know, I know. I’ll get around to it), but I really hate watching or reading something that has already generated so much buzz, because it’s almost always a disappointment.

With that said, I was really bored yesterday afternoon, so I decided to finally check out True Blood On Demand, which people have been recommending to me for years.  Yea yea, it’s set in Louisiana.  Sure, it’s about vampires, like everything else nowadays.  How good could it really be?

Um–It’s good.  Like really, really good.    I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s one of the smartest, sexiest, funniest, most ridiculously addictive pieces of television I have ever come across.  It immediately sucked me into its vortex, and I watched five episodes in a row on the edge of my seat.  I couldn’t make myself get up to eat dinner, to refill my water glass, or to go to the bathroom, even in between shows… I sat on the couch, hungry, thirsty and needing to pee for five straight hours, totally mesmorized by the idiot box. Healthy?  No.  But worth every minute, from the stunning opening credit sequence to the cliff-hanger end of each episode.

Sookie and Bill Compton of "True Blood"

For those of you who haven’t seen it, here is the brilliant premise, which I’m kicking myself for not having come up with:

The show takes place somewhere in rural Louisiana (you’ll have to get past the fake accents), where vampires are living in relative peace among humans thanks to a synthetic blood beverage developed by the Japanese.  Of course, human blood still tastes better to the vampires than synthetic blood, so the occasional killing still occurs, which stirs up a certain kind of fear-based “racism” among the humans.  Clever.

Here’s the big twist: In addition to the vampires wanting to suck human blood, the humans have discovered that they can get really high off of vampire blood, or “V,” which seems to mimic the effects of Ecstasy and Viagra in addition to its strengthening and healing powers.  This has created a kind of fetishized vampire culture– the particularly depraved humans like to either have sex with the vampires and allow themselves to be bitten for kicks, or capture them and drain their blood to sell it on the black market.

Synthetic Blood Beverage

This brings us to our main character– Sookie Stackhouse, a virginal waitress who can literally hear people’s thoughts (which explains why men never make it past the first date).  She develops an interesting romance with Bill Compton, a virtuous, “mainstream” vampire, because he’s the only person she’s ever met whose thoughts she can’t hear, and that’s a huge relief for her.

Bill Compton is a relatively old vampire, having been murdered as a soldier in the Civil War when he sought refuge at a vampire’s house.  He doesn’t feed on humans because he is striving to be accepted by mainstream society, but he hangs out with a bunch of evil vampires who do occasionally nosh on human necks.

Sookie’s best friend Tara, “the only black woman ever named after a plantation,” is an incredibly sharp-witted, attitudinal feminist who likes to mouth off at dumb white people.  She has some of the best one-liners I’ve ever heard.

Lafayette, another fantastically original character, is the lovable, flamboyant line-cook/drug-dealer/gay prostitute at the restaurant where Sookie and Tara work.  He deals vampire blood to pay the bills, although he doesn’t drain vampires for it– he seems to have a “working relationship” with them.  When one of the rednecks at the restaurant makes a joke about his burger (being cooked by Lafayette) having AIDS, Lafayette personally delivers the burger to the redneck, beats the crap out of him and then sashays back into the kitchen.  It’s one of my favorite scenes.

Lafayette of "True Blood"

True Blood tackles serious issues like racism, sexism and homophobia in a smart, progressive way while still managing to entertain your pants off with its amusing, original, often shocking story-lines.  I won’t give away any more about this show, but you need to watch it (if you don’t have a problem with nudity, graphic violence and occasional graphic sex– it’s very R-rated).  Seriously, thought, it’s crack for the imagination.

Bring on season 3!

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9 responses

11 01 2010
womanofNL

If you want to get really trashy read the Charlotte Harris novels. Romance novel meets fantasy meets how I imagine living my life with Eric Northman. Plus Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer are engaged in real life! AW!

11 01 2010
graber

I’ve only seen about literally 30 seconds of True Blood while I was flipping channels once, but I stopped because there was an orgy going on. That – combined with your approval may actually drive me to check it out. And season 2 of Big Love not being available on-demand anymore helps too.

11 01 2010
bros

I had an insufferable roommate my freshman year of college who was all up in the harry potter thing when it first started (1999?) and made a note to myself never to read them because I couldnt stand her so much, and its served me well so far. I dont feel bad for not having read them at all. nor for not shopping at Talbot’s-another one of her bizarre and conflicting predilections.

I think there is something to be said for waiting and then bingeing on several seasons of a series all at once. who has the patience for the drip drip of mad men every sunday (it’s painful for me to wait for the new episodes of a season as they come out). It’s great when you can rent 5 seasons of the wire or six feet under and just stuff yourself silly with the whole opus at one time.

11 01 2010
districtramblings

yes, well-said. considering true blood’s ridiculous cliff-hangers, i can’t imagine having to wait another week to see the 6th episode. i am having a hard time waiting 24 hours.

11 01 2010
Geof

Yes! It’s quite good. I wish the accents were a little better, and that there were more cajun and creole characters. i find sookie a bit annoying (although I do like to imitate her voice and bobble-head wide eyed delivery) and bill kind of like cardboard, but there are a lot of other great characters.
battlestar galactica is another pleasant surprise for anyone who normally isn’t into sci-fi with lots of good parallels to our own modern dilemmas. and deadwood. fewer parallels, but still entertaining. rome good. tudors boo.

11 01 2010
Slab Pie

I have been a fan of True Blood for awhile myself, but can no longer stand Sookie and Bill as a couple on the show. The other characters totally outshine them.
On another note, I do hiss “Sssssookie” in the Bill accent on occasion and it annoys the hell out of everyone, which I enjoy.

13 01 2010
Geof

bill saying Sookie has to be one of the most ridiculous moments on the show. so bad, i love it.

12 01 2010
Princess Adora

Great review! Totally addictive television even though it’s not something I’d usually watch.

16 01 2010
MLW

I am totally obsessed with True Blood. Eric the Sheriff has a much bigger role in the last season and he is so much hotter than Bill. I tried to get my best friend in Lousiana to watch it and she refused. Maybe your blog will change her mind.

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