In the US: HBO, some time in the Fall.
Vampire series, hey? Apparently, we can’t get enough of them. Well, we can, otherwise Moonlight wouldn’t have been cancelled.
But as soon as one dies, others swoop in on bats’ wings to take their place: BBC3’s got the partly vampiric Being Human on the way (YouTube trailer) – as soon as they can sort out cast scheduling issues – and HBO has True Blood due in the Fall.
What’s up there? It’s like they’re proxies that enable repressive societies that won’t allow proper sex on tele to explore desire and the id in a semi-fantastical, metaphorical and therefore safe way.
But it can’t be that. Don’t be silly.
Vampire shows largely fall into two categories: group one, by far the more popular, is when vampires are secret. They skulk in the shadows, occasionally popping up to say things like "I want to suck your blood." Then they suck your blood.
Group two, in which True Blood falls quite neatly, is when vampires aren’t secret. They creep around in the exact same way rock stars don’t, take on the language of oppressed minorities and promise to be good.
"Don’t mind us," they say. "We’re just vampires".
"Really?" the humans respond. "You don’t want to suck our blood?"
"Oh, no," reply the vampires. "That’s a terrible, terrible stereotype."
"Ah," the humans nod sagely. Then they pause. "Excuse us, but aren’t you sucking our blood?"
"Oh yes. Sorry about that. We’re vampires. We lie. Don’t mind us…"
Based on the "Southern Vampire" book series by Charlaine Harris, "True Blood" takes place in a world in which vampires can buy Japanese-made synthetic blood. Their integration into a small Louisiana town causes quite a stir, and a love story ensues between a vampire (Stephen Moyer) and Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), an innocent waitress who can read people’s minds.
Is it any good?
It’s not bad. Not brilliant, mind, but the opening episode is certainly better than Moonlight‘s was, for example.
I mentioned the two kinds of vampire fiction before, but generally* vampire fiction can also be broken down by sexual orientation and what the author’s particular sexual fantasies are. Vampire fiction by straight men is usually tediously predictable in that it tends to involve lots of lesbian vampires, women surrendering themselves to the ecstasy of the bite, etc.
Vampire fiction by straight women, by contrast, is slightly more complex but is usually tediously predictable in that it either involves powerful female vampires that dominate everyone and get whatever they want; or it involves perky little Mary Sue heroines that are just super and smart and beautiful and kind and if only everyone understood just how super and smart, etc, they were – just like that dark, brooding vampire who’s quiet and strong but possessed of deep passions for Mary Sue that are near uncontrollable, yet he’ll always treat her like a gentleman would. They’re like the undead versions of Lisa Simpson’s Non-Threatening Boys magazine.
Unsurprisingly enough, given its beginnings in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series, that’s what True Blood starts out as, although it’s by no means as one-dimensional as this might suggest. There are hints at darker concepts – rough sex of an extremely nasty variety, being the most obvious – and there are some occasionally spooky moments, as well as a few comedic blips. There are also far better characters and characterisations than might be expected.
But this is essentially by-the-book girly vampire fiction that doesn’t add much to the mythos apart from the usual HBO freedoms with nudity, language, etc.
The cast are good with the cookie cutters role they find themselves packed into. Paquin’s mind-reading makes me hope for a Scanners cross-over, although my dreams of exploding heads are likely to be frustrated.
Nevertheless, unless you’re severely interested in female-oriented, slightly fluffy vampire fiction or quite like the sound of Southern US accents, it’s not really worth tuning in for – despite having Six Feet Under‘s Alan Ball as its showrunner.
There’s a couple of clips on YouTube for you to peruse, should they manage to stay up for more than a minute before HBO jumps on them.
* Although the fact there are an estimated 7,600,000 different vampire novels at the average branch of Barnes and Noble or Waterstones suggest there are a few more niches than that.