Tuesday, December 23, 2008

True Blood

Sadly, I don't have HBO. This means that I miss out on a lot of great shows the first time around and have to catch them on DVD. Shows like Rome, Deadwood, and Big Love. So I had resigned myself to having to wait months, or maybe years, to catch up on the much buzzed-about True Blood. But, fate intervened! Thanks to my awesome friend Rachel (shout out!) and her on-demand capabilities, last weekend my group of vampire-loving friends got together for a 12 hour balls to the wall full first season marathon of True Blood.

Do you think it's easy watching 12 hours of television in a row? It's not. You have to make sure you move around occasionally to avoid blood clots. The more you know!

First, let me say that True Blood is awesome. Ok, that's the short review. Here's the longer one: what makes the show so great is, like most HBO shows, you can enjoy it on many different levels. Ostensibly, it's a show about a girl and a vampire who fall in lurv, two flawed people (he's a vampire, she reads minds), that find in each other what they've been looking for. So you can love it for that part of it. But you can also love it as a study of how people deal with the unknown and the different.

Vampires in the show clearly stand as metaphors for any marginalized group of people: gays, racial minorities, etc. And while the comparison is obvious, the parallels are drawn in a smart and interesting way. The show is concerned with the characters different reactions to this new marginalized group. And I would say 50% of what makes the show so interesting comes from it's setting in a small Louisiana town and the weird blend of culture that exists in that area of the country. The ingrained hypocrisies of the area influence people's decisions and lives. Just watch the opening credits of True Blood and you'll see what I mean.

In case you aren't aware of the particulars of the plot, here's a brief description from the HBO website:
Thanks to a Japanese scientist's invention of synthetic blood, vampires have progressed from legendary monsters to fellow citizens overnight. And while humans have been safely removed from the menu, many remain apprehensive about these creatures "coming out of the coffin." Religious leaders and government officials around the world have chosen their sides, but in the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps, the jury is still out.

Local waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), however, knows how it feels to be an outcast. "Cursed" with the ability to listen in on people's thoughts, she's also open-minded about the integration of vampires — particularly when it comes to Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), a handsome 173-year-old living up the road. But as Sookie is drawn into a series of mysteries surrounding Bill's arrival in Bon Temps, that tolerance will be put to the test.
Season 1 focuses on Sookie's relationship to Bill (who calls her "Suckie," because of the accent, which I find completely lame), and also the mystery of who is running around town murdering women who have connections to vampires.

True Blood is anchored by the main character Sookie, the mind-reading waitress who falls for vampire Bill. I can't think of a show from recent memory where I was so enamored by the main character. I guess I should have known better, since we're dealing with HBO here, but I was constantly surprised by how much I loved her. She's brave, smart, spunky, funny, and is able to maintain a naivete and joy about her life that is surprising, considering she lives in a swamp and is surrounded by mostly stupid people. Her reactions to events feels real, and she doesn't let Bill get away with shit. Which I like, because sometimes he does things that piss me off.

Perfect example of why I love Sookie. When Bill is sweet-talking her by discussing her juicy femoral artery, she responds with, "hey, you just shut your nasty mouth, mister! You might be a vampire, but when you talk to me, you will talk to me like the lady that I am." Sassy!

My only real quibble with the show centers on its balancing of plots. As a viewer, I was really involved in the serial killer plot, especially since some characters I like were killed. But the other characters didn't actually seem concerned about finding out who was running around town killing people, and it felt like the entire subplot was shoved to the backburner for much of the season to allow for some lameass hijinks from Sookie's brother, Jason.

Sidenote: let me just say, I don't think I have ever encountered a character as dumb or whom I wanted to see get his comeuppance as much as Jason. And when I say he's dumb, I don't mean ditzy, or flaky, but that he is literally the most foolish, borderline non-functioning, easily manipulated person on television. While he sometimes gets in some comic relief and I really like the actor, he is hands-down my least favorite character on the show and spending time with him makes my brain want to leak out of my ears. End sidenote.

Jason: hot, but not the sharpest tool in the shed. Actually, scratch that. He's more like a tool that's been left out in the yard for years and has completely rusted over. Ugh.

I have a feeling that the balancing of subplots will improve with season 2, and it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the show. And it's probably the kind of thing that doesn't get noticed when watching week to week; it's only some crazy person who sits there for 12 hours in a row that would catch it.

So, yeah, True Blood is awesome. And I might have to actually break down and get HBO. Dammit.

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