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.
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.
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.
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!