I’ve just finished watching through the first season of True Blood, the HBO show about vampires that stars our own wee Anna Paquin. And hasn’t she done well? Vinnie from Home and Away is in there too, so Australia gets a slice also.
The idea of the show is a small Louisiana town in which Sookie Stackhouse lives, a nice normal psychic waitress. The story starts two years after vampires “came out of the coffin” about their existence and have begun seeking legal equality with humans, now that Japanese scientists have created Tru Blood – a synthetic blood substitute that can sustain vampires without them having to feed off humans. Naturally, some vampires liked the way things were in the past, while other decent stereotypical story vampires try to “mainstream” and brood intensely about how guilty they feel.
At the same time, the new drug on the market is vampire blood, or “V”, which is a hallucinogen, amphetamine, steroid, aphrodisiac, panacea and/or empathogen, depending on what the plot requires at any given point. It’s also extremely addictive. Or not. Depending on what the plot requires at any given point.
Of course, it’s not really about vampires. It’s about immigration, homophobia, xenophobia, racism, etc., etc.
I put off watching True Blood, because the ads made it look like utter wank cashing in on the inexplicable and soul-destroying success of the Twilight novels. I didn’t realise it was created by Alan Ball, the fellow behind Six Feet Under, which was pretty excellent.
But part of what made Six Feet Under so good was how gradual it was. The characters were built up and displayed (and occasionally demolished) piece by piece. You ended up knowing them through and through, and when they did something – however fucked up – you could at least see where they were coming from.
Where SFU succeeded, True Blood fails. Everything moves too fast – probably exacerbated by watching all of the episodes in a row, granted. But characters fall utterly in love with each other at the drop of a hat, get entirely fed up and end relationships at the drop of another, over and over. The same goes for friendships. The same goes for addiction, with Sookie’s brother Jason going from twitching-in-a-heap desperate to banning his addict girlfriend from using in the space of about three episodes. Then there’s the sheriff of the local vampire district, Eric, who varies randomly between intimidating prince of darkness and old frat buddy in his behaviour with Our Hero Vampire Bill.
And each episode starts almost precisely where the previous one left off, so there’s no sense of any of these massive motivational shifts taking place in the space between episodes.
By the end of it, you’ve just got this sense that you’re watching events, rather than characters – happenings rather than doings. Because to consider them doings, you’d have to ask yourself why on earth the same character would act one way today and utterly differently tomorrow.
On the other hand, you’ve got graphic sex and violence, a whole new vampire mythos to learn (crosses no, stakes yes, holy water no, silver yes, etc.) and the occasional glimpses within this small town of the more epic events taking place in the world at large. The Vampire Rights Amendment is discussed on television, you see snapshots of the parallel vampire government system and there are hints of other things out there that haven’t joined vampires in being so open about their existence.
I find that shit compelling, which is why I watch just any old shit. I enjoy Smallville, for example. Because I want to know what happens next. That’s all. And while True Blood hasn’t got me gagging for the second season, I felt about the same way at the end of the first season of Supernatural – and that persistence paid off in many hours of excellent entertainment.
But well done, Anna Paquin, eh? And fucking well done, whoever made the credit sequence to True Blood. I’m surprised it’s not Danny Yount.