There’s a lot of TV out there, and some of it looks like it’s for geeks, but no, not really. Looks can be deceiving. Just because you have a lot of monsters and things and some kind of mythology involved doesn’t mean it’s actually geek TV. It might be more just an excuse to show a lot of boobs and butts and romance-y type thing that if it weren’t for the boob and butts, you’d probably be watching Twilight.
Yeah, this week I’m covering True Blood.
What’s the premise?
Based off author Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels, the series follows mind reading waitress Sookie Stackhouse (yes, that is her name) as she and her small Louisiana town of Bon Temps deal with vampires that, after centuries, have made themselves known to the public following the invention of a form of artificial blood called, you guessed it, True Blood.
What’s the appeal?
Well, people like boobs and butts. There’s a lot of blood too. It’s actually rather ridiculous in many ways, a camp fest. Despite being based off a series of supernatural mystery novels, after the first season, mysteries play very little part in the story. Creator Alan Ball was often using it as a metaphor for gay rights, and I have some thoughts on that below.
Anything stand out?
OK, here’s the thing: I probably have far more complaints about this series, but there are parts of it that aren’t bad. You probably want to quit after season three or so before it goes completely off-the-rails ridiculous. That said, I often felt that as silly as this show got, most of the people involved in making it were completely aware how stupid a lot of the material was, and treated it as such. That actually puts it a bit ahead of Dexter.
In fact, that level of understanding led some of the cast to really work well with the incredibly silly stuff going on. Cast members like Alexander Skarsgaard, Kristin Bauer van Straten, and Denis O’Hare all seemed to have a handle on the material better than most. Skarsgard made for a much better love interest for Anna Paquin’s Sookie than the actress’ eventual husband Stephen Moyer did. Straten seemed to have an almost meta ability to comment sarcastically on the dumber aspects of the show’s narrative. O’Hare, particularly, as reoccurring villain and really-old vampire Russell Edgington, is quite the scene stealer, someone who commands attention even as he blatantly chews scenery. A few other actors, like Daredevil‘s Deborah Ann Woll, manage to do well without hamming it up.
The series also had a strong mythology. There’s a good grasp on old legends and stories that made up the various supernatural creatures that made up much of the show. Yeah, they tended to just put vampires at the top of any supernatural food chain, but the rules were made and kept and were consistent.
Setting aside how awful many of the Southern accents on the show were, the series had problems.
First, it somehow got dumber as it went along. The final season is almost painful to watch outside a few good performances among the crap.
Second, the show seemed to be reluctant to kill off any non-villainous main character, and as the cast grew (and grew and grew and grew), the writers struggled to keep everyone relevant and interesting. Sometimes that worked out fine if the actor handling it was strong enough, but other times that was not the case by a long shot. Rutina Wesley’s Tara, a very minor character in the source books, seems to be hanging around long after her usefulness for many plot lines. Various side characters and their romantic adventures will probably try the patience of many Geek viewers.
Most problematic may be Sookie herself. How much her love…well…not sure how many sides it has actually…whatever it is interests people will depend on the viewer, but just about every supernatural monster she meets that isn’t outright gay seems to want to have sex with her. Straten’s Pam may have one of her best one-liners on that subject that has some wording in it that I dare not type here. Sookie really may be one of the dumber characters on the show, and this show has some really dumb characters.
Feminists might not like the last couple episodes either since they seem to imply all Sookie really wants or needs is children.
On a final note, the gay rights allegory does not work for this series, since likening vampires to gays as the show does, often explicitly, leaves out that pretty much every vampire on the show kills someone at one point in time or another.