Monday, September 08, 2008

True Blood Didn't Suck

Ok, sorry for the bad pun, but I swear it's unintentional; and accurate. That was my first though on watching it last night "Well, it didn't suck".

For those of you not getting the reference, "True Blood" is HBOs new vampire show, based on Charlaine Harrises "Southern Vampire Mysteries"; a wildly popular bestselling series of books in the modern fantasy romance/paranormal fantasy genre that has been so popular for the last five years or so.

The setup, is that vampires are real (and by extension other paranormal beasties, though in the early stages of the story that goes unsaid or is deprecated), and that they revealed themselves to the population at large ("came out of the coffin" as it were) when a synthetic substitute for human blood was developed.

Now, there's a vampire rights movement, vampire cultists, anti-vampire racists, vampire fetishists... basically all the cultural baggage you would expect. There are lots of vampires who've come fully out into the light so to speak, and are trying to live openly in society. There are also large groups of vampires who are unhappy with this turn of events, preferring that normals didn't know they really existed etc... and of course there's the good guys and bad guys. It IS storytelling after all.

All of these are common conceits of the modern vampire genre by the way (excepting synthetic blood. Usually they use pigs blood, and willing donors, to justify the act of vampirism) so if you're familiar with the genre you won't have too much catching up to do.

Well, disregarding the source material, the show has potential. It wasn't great, but it was interesting, well made, and just over the edge of "good", with the promise of better to come as the storyline unfolds and characters develop.

Charlaine Harris is a best selling author for a reason; and the characters and setting offer a lot of opportunity for growth and development.

...Guess I better actually read the books now... I've read "Dead Until Dark", the first in the series, and I liked it; but I'd never bothered with the rest (she's up to 8 in the direct story line now).

Anna Paquin is an odd one for me. She has these flashes of brilliance, mixed with longer periods of irritation. I'm curious to see how she'll do with Sookie. So far she's got the character down, but she's a bit "shiny penny" for me.

...Oh and her teeth bug me. Yes I know it's shallow, but she has very odd teeth, and it makes her mouth shape weird.

Actually, I was most impressed with newcomers Nelsan Ellis (only major credits are 2005 and newer), and Rutina Wesley (this is her second major credit); who could have been little more than ugly stereotypes with less capable acting. Their characters are over the top, but the actors characterizations makes them interesting rather than irritating.

An important note: this IS HBO, and apparently they have decided to push far beyond their normal levels of sexuality. There is a bit of soft-core porn-ish sex; and a not inconsiderable amount of naked sweaty skin (being set in Louisiana of course), and the teasers for future episodes promise much more of the same.

Don't worry, it's not Laurell K. Hamilton level smut's not even skinemax level smut; but it's more explicit and graphic.

Given the general run of "vampire sex" in popular culture these days, and what I saw in the first episode; I'd guess it's going to be a lot "rougher" (in the sense of "rough sex") than most major studio features, or any other HBO/Showtime/Cinemax/FX show I've seen so far, like "the Sopranos", or "Dirt" (I heard Carnival had some rough stuff in it but never watched it).

Also, given the vampire genre, some of the characters in the story, and the producer Alan Ball; I would expect a VERY LARGE amount of explicit homoeroticism. If that makes you uncomfortable, or you just don't want to see it, I'm guessing that later episodes of this show won't be fore you.

All that said, the actual sex bits were maybe five minutes out of an hour show.

Given it IS a modern vampire story of course, sexual tension and innuendo were most of the remaining 50 someodd minutes... (one thing I like about HBO and Showtime shows, is that they actually run more than 42 minutes of content plus titles, running between 52 and 56 minutes plus titles).

We'll see how much they stick to the books, which are balanced between the "modern fantasy romance" and "supernatural detective" genres.