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True Blood: The Complete First Season

Posted by admin | Posted in Movies | Posted on 24-03-2010

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  • True Blood: The Complete First Season (HBO Series)

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TRUE BLOOD chronicles the backwoods Louisiana town of Bon Temps… where vampires have emerged from the coffin, and no longer need humans for their fix. Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin, Golden Globe(R)-winner for “True Blood”, Academy Award®-winner for “The Piano”) works as a waitress at the rural bar Merlotte’s. Though outwardly a typical young woman, she keeps a dangerous secret: she has the ability to hear the thoughts of others. Her situation is further complicated … More >>

True Blood: The Complete First Season

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Comments (5)

Rabbit ears on pawn shop televisions are about my speed; needless to say, I don’t watch television. However, kind friends mainline this series two or three shows at a time, and they got me hooked: were I to be completely honest, I might have to admit to giving serious thought to obtaining this by less-than-legal-means. It actually might be worth jail time.

Speaking as someone who was born in America’s deep South, this series captures everything about Louisiana that is appealing. (Spanish Moss, vampires, latent racism and homophobia, the dichotomy between Christian Southern values and patriarchal, brutality-enforced poverty, sassy Southern women who know how to fight with chains, etc.)

What it makes it really stand out, though, is the casting: there isn’t a bad actor in the bunch–and they are all believable as Southern archetypes. Nelsan Ellis as the short order cook/drug dealer Lafayette and Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin as the romantic leads give mesmerizing performances.

True Blood, or possibly the original series of books from which it arose, is an arresting set of stories: Faulkner says that the only thing really worth writing about (or thinking about, by extension) is the human heart in conflict with itself. The Southern United States depicted in True Blood is conflict embodied–you are a supposed to be a good Christian, and follow the rules of an established society, but you live in the middle of a swamp so dense and wild that it believably could be home to minions of Satan, like vampires.

It’s a lot to think about. If you are one of those artistic/professional types with too much to do, don’t start watching this; it becomes an obsession.

And Now: A Short Review of the Actual DVD–this is the regular, not Blu-Ray version, as my $100.00, cigarette-burned, pawn shop t.v. doesn’t do Blu-Ray.

Price: $10.00 less than my local electronics store.

Extras: There is some very funny stuff here that was not on the original websites for the series: ads for lawyers for vampires; vampire hotels; vampire dating, all done with the appropriate levels of fake bad acting and camp.

Don’t be afraid to look at the French language ad as well. It uses all of six French words which you probably already know.

There is also a short video parody of someone like Hugh Downs doing an in-depth report on vampires. Complete with bad video backgrounds for foreign locales and hokey vampire internet conspiracies, this is a well-done, satirical background take on some of the ‘vampire movement’s more glossed-over history.

One negative: the commentary tracks play over the original episodes; it’s neat to watch for about five minutes, and then it’s a little bit like dissecting a romantic relationship–the mystery dies once the magic involved gets out into the bright light of day.

However, overall, True Blood Season One is well worth watching again–particularly in the pilot episode, the acting, and the effort the cast and crew put into characterization and detail, is even more obvious the second time around.

Rating: 5 / 5

“Thou Shall Not Crave Thy Neighbour.”

True Blood ponders the question: Why do good girls fall for bad boys? Alan Ball is perhaps best known for his originality and aesthetics in writing the Academy-Award-winning screenplay for American Beauty, and for creating the HBO television show Six Feet Under. Based on Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series, Ball’s new HBO series, True Blood (which recently premiered on HBO on September 7, 2008), is another good reason to own a television these days. Set in Bon Temps, Louisiana, the Southern Vampire television series tells the gothic love story of Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a telepathic waitress, who falls in love with the town vampire, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). Sookie is a virgin, “cursed” with the ability to hear people’s thoughts. Bill is a 173-year-old vampire who, despite his Southern charms, has only one thing on his mind when it comes to Sookie. Meanwhile, as religious leaders and government officials debate the safety issues surrounding the co-existence of vampires and humans, “Bad Things” (as the show’s theme song suggests) are happening to the residents of Bon Temps. The show’s soundtrack (by Gary Calamar) is equal parts “swampy, bluesy and spooky.” Ryan Kwanten plays Sookie’s brother, Jason Stackhouse, a sex addict who is also addicted to “V” (vampire blood) for its viagra-ecstasy-like effects. William Sanderson and Chris Bauer play the small town’s rather inept investigating law enforcement officers. Much like Six Feet Under, True Blood reveals Alan Ball’s genius for original storytelling. True Blood is not only television with fangs, it is television at its bloody best.

12/12/08 Update: True Blood received a Golden Globe nomination this week.

G. Merritt
Rating: 5 / 5

I’m not sure that any good series on the supernatural has ever tried as hard to be simply good fun. It isn’t the masterpiece that BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER was, but I don’t think Alan Ball set his sights that high. While Joss Whedon strove in BUFFY to create an icon and redefine television narrative, Ball just seems to want to tell a compelling story filled with memorable moments.

TRUE BLOOD is, of course, based on the series of novels written by Arkansas writer Charlaine Harris. The series was originally known as the Southern Vampire Mysteries, but has since come to be better known as The Sookie Stackhouse novels. The premise is that a Japanese corporation has successfully created artificial blood, a product so like the real thing that vampires, previously relegated to feeding off humans in the dark, come “out of the coffin” and into society, intent on living off the new fake blood. The series’ title comes from the name of the artificial blood marketed and sold in stores. The television series wisely does not try to hew too closely to the novels, though for the most part Sookie’s story does. And the way things turn at the end of the season, it is clear that Season Two (the show was renewed very early in the season) is going to pick up with the second novel in the series, though the action most likely will be in Bon Temps and not in Dallas (the second novel is entitled LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS).

The major difference between the novels and the TV series is that while the novels focus almost entirely on Sookie, the series has elevated a number of secondary characters and padded out their story. The focus on Sookie in the books is inevitable given that she is the narrator. But since few shows attempt to tell a story primarily from one character’s point of view (an exception is Season One of VERONICA MARS, in which the title character features in very nearly every scene), elevating several characters was a necessity. Tara is a very minor character in the books (and white to boot), but on the show she is black and one of the most important characters. Sookie’s brother Jason is a moderately important character in the books, but definitely not as central as Bill, Eric, or Sam. Tara was promoted on the show partly to balance out the show in terms of race and gender. I’m not quite sure why Jason was made more important. The story arcs that are given to these characters are not always successful, but they do give the show some diversity. Lafayette, Tara’s flamboyantly gay cousin and short order cook at Merlotte’s, the tavern where Sookie is a barmaid, likewise is a major character on the TV series, but barely makes an appearance in the novels.

I’m not always comfortable with the additions the show makes to the story and they usually are the weakest part of the show. For instance, the long story of Tara’s mother and her demon possession is an addition that I feel clutters the show, even as it raises the question of why Tara herself struggles with relationships. The character of Amy, who is weirdly involved with Jason in the latter half of the season, sits on the rest of the story like a weird, disconnected appendage. In fact, the entire obsession with V (or vampire blood, which is taken like a drug) is unique to the show and not the books, I think to the show’s detriment. Terry Bellefleur is a slightly more important character in the series, and about 20-30 years younger (and played by Todd Lowe, who played Zack, Lane’s band mate/boyfriend/husband in THE GILMORE GIRLS), and a veteran of the Gulf War instead of the Vietnam War. I don’t expect for a show to be especially true to its source material. I don’t look for a scene-by-scene recreation. But I do think that the additions show actually add something of value to the story. All in all, I do not think the completely original aspects improved the overall story.

There is a lot of controversy on boards where fans of the books linger about Anna Paquin. Physically she isn’t quite like how Sookie is described in the books, where she is far curvier and extremely busty. I personally love Anna Paquin’s performance. She has a haunted, hunted look that someone who has had to struggle for years of hearing the thoughts of others might have. She does very much seem to embody “Crazy Sookie,” as she is known to everyone in Bon Temps. I also like all the actors who played the three other major characters from the books, Stephen Moyer as Bill, Alexander Skarsgaard as Eric (who will, given his stature as an actor and the precedent of the books, become a more important character in Season Two — and let me just add, could anyone have been found more perfect to play Eric?), and Sam Trammell as Sam Merlotte. My favorite performer to play a major role on the show but a minor one in the books is Nelsan Ellis, who also had a recurring role on the sadly short-lived THE INSIDE and was on an excellent episode of VERONICA MARS, and who on TRUE BLOOD plays Lafayette. Though I have to add that he is s completely unbelievable character. I’ve lived three years in a town not terribly distinct from Bon Temps and I can assert that you simply will not find many if any openly gay people and definitely not one a flamboyant one.

All in all I really enjoyed the series TRUE BLOOD, though on the one hand I prefer the books (and I strongly recommend anyone who loves TRUE BLOOD to give the books a try, though I also warn them that the show does seem to be following to a greater or lesser degree the books — Season Two is already set up to follow many of the second novel’s storylines) and on the other I prefer Alan Ball’s earlier show SIX FEET UNDER. Still, it is a good, fun show.

And can I just add that this show has my all time favorite opening credits. It is filled with one astonishing image after another, from a coiled water moccasin to a Holy Ghost inspired preacher doing a 180 jump in church to lasciviously dancing strippers, all to a wonderfully appropriate song by country performer Jace Everett entitled “Bad Things.”
Rating: 4 / 5

I usually watch everything HBO, but I have fallen behind of late. I had customers asking about this since last year so I was interested in what Ball’s latest foray was about. I had to spend a fair amount of money to risk having Blu depth on these TV on Blu sets – but this one did not disappoint me in any way. The story has been reviewed plenty here, so I dissected the features and quality.

The picture looks very professional, and there was plenty to go wrong with the majority of it being filmed at night. The colors of the outdoors in each night landscape look vivid, and the special effects still appear adequate considering the difficulties of getting it right (darkly lit interiors). There is some sparse grain depending on the location, but it was a pleasure to see everything – plenty of flesh tones (yes there is lots of sex) that all look clear and porous.

The sound is what sells this though. The DTS gets used extensively in each episode. Sookie’s thought reading can be overwhelming at times, you almost want to isolate one of the channels and listen to that one thought as all five channels are sometimes filled with conflicting voices. Even the low-key scenes had some nice outer channel usage – loved every minute of it.

The special features are catered to both the lay True Blood person like myself and the avid followers. Your player has to be enabled appropriately to handle all of the PIP and text boxes that appear in the enhanced viewing. The hints were somewhat corny at times, but I still learned some interesting things about the characters. The PIP is a solid 1080 and appears just little enough to not be that distracting on a first watch. The commentaries from Ball are the best, and provide some decent insight on his creative process while still getting a few slams in there on the critics and story changes.

I think it is a great investment for the followers, and might be a worthy rental for those that are sitting on the fence about trying this. Odds are though, after watching everything there is to offer on just disc 1 – you will be buying it.
Rating: 5 / 5

It was fascinating—at first—to watch the Sookie Stackhouse books brought to life. Her developing relationship with the vampire Bill was wonderfully compelling, and Eric’s strength of character is flawless.

Unfortunately, an excessive amount of time is spent on unappealing secondary characters, and the main characters consistently get lost in a lot of tedious filler.

As well, the show’s writers need to collaborate. The inconsistencies that keep showing up have turned Sookie into a wishy-washy, unlikeable person who changes the facts to suit her mood.

*SPOILERS* She’s in love and makes love with Bill, then flirts and makes out with Sam in the next episode. Wasn’t she supposed to be uncomfortable kissing one man and then moving on to another? As well, to work that scene into the show, Sookie states that Bill is more concerned with politics than with her—yet she knows his absence has nothing to do with politics. Geez! He’s on trial for staking another vampire to save her life, and she’s supposedly aware of that fact.

The writers need to read the blogs. The show’s audience has been objecting—even those who haven’t read the books.

Charlaine Harris created a world sufficiently rich, well-paced, and filled with drama. There’s no need for lame side stories and inconsistencies that demean the main characters. When you try to fix something that isn’t broken, inevitably, it deteriorates until it does, in fact, get broken.
Rating: 3 / 5

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