Preview: True Blood

Vampires, vampires everywhere

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…"

Plot
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.




  • You haven’t got a sub genre for weird vampire novels about frankly suspect dark emotional thoughts concerning your dead daughter. However, I’m going to ignore that and say WOOHOO!!! I really hoped they’d go for a series of Being Human, the pilot of which was fab. I hope they’re not going to change the cast though, I thought they were all great, and definitely want to see more of Adrian Lester’s sinister head of vampires character.

  • You haven’t got a sub genre for weird vampire novels about frankly suspect dark emotional thoughts concerning your dead daughter. However, I’m going to ignore that and say WOOHOO!!! I really hoped they’d go for a series of Being Human, the pilot of which was fab. I hope they’re not going to change the cast though, I thought they were all great, and definitely want to see more of Adrian Lester’s sinister head of vampires character.

  • You haven’t got a sub genre for weird vampire novels about frankly suspect dark emotional thoughts concerning your dead daughter. However, I’m going to ignore that and say WOOHOO!!! I really hoped they’d go for a series of Being Human, the pilot of which was fab. I hope they’re not going to change the cast though, I thought they were all great, and definitely want to see more of Adrian Lester’s sinister head of vampires character.

  • Technically, Anne Rice stuff is of the “woo hoo! Wouldn’t it be great to see two guys get it on?” female sub-genre, which I overlooked. Naughty me.
    As for Being Human, I agree – I was surprised when Phoo Action got the immediate thumbs up for a series and Being Human took weeks for a confirmation. It’s just a question of getting all the cast together in the same darkened rooms, now, from what I hear from the Media Guardian.
    And if they can’t, don’t be surprised if the £10m being cut from BBC3’s budget happens to take a bite out of Being Human.

  • I’d much rather it took a bite out of Phoo Action, due to its being (a) more expensive than Being Human, and (b) rubbish.

  • MediumRob

    Me, too, although Phoo Action had its moments if you were familiar with Bruce Lee movies.

  • Rob you are quite right vis a vis Anne Rice, but I did think that five year old child in the book was a tad distasteful – she was marginally better as a slightly older Kirsten Dunst in the film, but a bloke writing that would have had all sorts of things levelled at him.
    I missed Phoo Action, but was rather hoping Mrs InBetweeny would get a series, as that too was rather brilliant.

  • Rob you are quite right vis a vis Anne Rice, but I did think that five year old child in the book was a tad distasteful – she was marginally better as a slightly older Kirsten Dunst in the film, but a bloke writing that would have had all sorts of things levelled at him.
    I missed Phoo Action, but was rather hoping Mrs InBetweeny would get a series, as that too was rather brilliant.

  • Rob you are quite right vis a vis Anne Rice, but I did think that five year old child in the book was a tad distasteful – she was marginally better as a slightly older Kirsten Dunst in the film, but a bloke writing that would have had all sorts of things levelled at him.
    I missed Phoo Action, but was rather hoping Mrs InBetweeny would get a series, as that too was rather brilliant.

  • MediumRob

    Yes, it was all a bit icky, wasn’t it, even with young Dunst.
    I missed Mrs InBetweeny. I taped it, but never got round to watching it so I wiped it.

  • Mrs Inbetweeny – extremely close to the knuckle, ***(insert your expletive it was that kind of programme) hilarious, and also incredibly touching. There was a scene involving a get your own back on the bully (now head teacher) at school and a quick shag in aforementioned headteacher’s office which turned out all wrong for him that brought tears to the eyes. You were laughing and you thought you shouldn’t. Not really. Amelia Bullmore was brilliant, even more so as I was watching her in Ashes to Ashes at the same time. I loved it. Can’t imagine why they haven’t recommissioned.

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