HBO – True Blood Review

HBO True Blood

Charlaine Harris – Southern Vampire Series Review

© Buzzy Multimedia

by June K. Williams

True Blood Review, True Blood Series Review

Music may not be the most important element in a film or television program but it should prepare you for what is going to be taking place onscreen. “Bad Things”, the theme music on True Blood, HBO’s “reimagining” of the wondrous world of Charlaine Harris‘s Southern Vampire Series, does an outstanding job of setting both mood and place. The musician responsible is Jace Everett and I’m beginning to think he is the best thing to come out of Texas in a long while.

So many good and even great books are gutted body and soul once they hit the screen but Alan Ball is treating the source material with respect. Could it be because the producers are fans of the books? Even if they aren’t well they sure do have a feel for Bon Temps, southern country society, and the characters that make the stories work. As a fan of the book series myself I am awaiting with baited breath the infusion of humor that Charlaine Harris has always managed to weave into her work. That is something that people like Joss Whedon ( Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) understood is necessary when blending fantastic fiction with realistic settings. It is how you can handle serious subjects without sounding like your High School health class teacher. If I were a betting person I would wager that if and when they bring Bubba to the show some of that uncomfortable “There’s Something About Mary”, “Meet The Parents” humor will start to take hold. For those of you who have not read the Southern Vampire series and therefore have no idea who Bubba is well I won’t ruin your fun by telling you here and now. I guess there was a stab at humor in the episode where downing a vial of “V” gives Jason a powerful lesson in overdosing on potency. Not that he learns his lesson of course but that is the whole point of it. People don’t automatically change behavior even when they have just been on the receiving end of a painful and humiliating self-inflicted experience.

The cast of True Blood is superb. Anna Paquin plays Sookie as sweet and sassy. There is the challenge of communicating Sookie Stackhouse’s blessing and curse of telepathy I can’t think of anyone who could bring this off better than Anna Paquin. Of course I can’t think of anyone who managed to get an Oscar for acting at the tender age of 8 either. Anna is able to make you feel Sookie’s isolation and the need for intimacy as well as the hurt of being different in a small southern town. Sookie also has a stubborn streak and a firm grasp on what is fundamentally right and wrong. So far all the nuances of the character seem to be nailed by Ms.Paquin. Oh, and I suppose I should mention that she is really, really pretty.

Stephen Moyer does a convincing job as Bill Compton. It would be so easy to go over the top when after all the character is very serious and very intense. He plays it with restraint but there is no doubt in the mind of the audience that Bill is a very old, very powerful vampire who also has a painful past and notions of chivalrous and courteous behavior that goes back a couple of centuries. Sex appeal simply flows out of him like jazz Bourbon Street during Mardis Gras. He might come close to doing for a Confederate American vampire as an Englishman what James Marsters did for Spike, a British vampire, as an American.

Sam Trammell makes for a very appealing Sam Merlotte although for some reason I pictured the character as physically larger than the actor who now plays him. Physical size really doesn’t matter in this case and Sam’s conflicted character as well as his protective streak is telegraphed to the audience without the need to give a lot of exposition simply because of his acting ability.

There are some things in the show that as a fan of the books series I find uncomfortable. Not to the point of distraction. As an audio book publisher I can appreciate the changes that occur when a story is told in different mediums. This can be a very bad thing or a very good thing. It all depends how the material lends itself to the different medium and the quality that goes into telling the tales. In any case there will always be variations.

The speeding up of sexual matters and adding sexual relationships that never existed in the books I’ll assign to the series being on HBO. Pretty much most series that are on HBO have more than their share of sex. OK so maybe not John Adams but almost everything else. When we meet Sookie in the books she may look like a hottie but her upbringing and her telepathic ability have made her shy away from intimacy with men. Bill Compton and Sookie may have sparks flying but not at first and he is extremely protective as well as territorial. The idea that Bill could sit in a dark corner while 3 vampires fondle and intimidate Sookie while in his house is well…unbelievable. Still I will forgive and forget as long as the series seems to keep improving.

Even if you aren’t the type that seeks out supernatural fiction I suggest you give this series a try. Like The Dresden Files, the stories may use things like telepathy, vampires, werewolves, wizards, ghosts, demons and all manner of spooky stuff but at heart it is about people and finding our way in this dangerous world while coming to an understanding of life and death.

© Buzzy Multimedia

by June Williams



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June Williams
June, also known affectionately as Buzzy Lady #2, has been with the company since it began. She was born in Manhattan, raised in the Bronx (the first 12 years in the heart of the south Bronx) and spent most of her adult life living in Westchester County N.Y.

Always a Science Fiction fan and dabbler in writing she had thought herself too practical to pursue a career in the field. Before coming to Buzzy she spent over 30 years in the travel industry, then one day decided it was time to spread her wings and plunge into publishing. Everyone she knew thought she had gone slightly daft but as this was not the first time they had expressed that opinion she took the red pill anyway and now spends all of her time putting together projects that make each day a pleasure.
  • christopher h

    this is a great show.
    and thanks for mentioning the music at the start of your post, i think it adds quite a lot.
    i havn’t read the books this is based on, but will have to hunt them down.

  • Rick Libott

    I am a huge fan of the books: I am not a fan of the TV show. I agree with you that the music is one of the best things about it, however.

    The setting of Bon Temps is masterfully done as well,.but the unrelieved grimness and lack of humor is a deal breaker for me.

  • Magess

    I only ever read the first book, and it was awhile ago, so I don’t actually remember much of it. I didn’t actually remember that it was supposed to be funny, either, so that may be why I don’t feel like something is missing. Or maybe it’s that I do find things to laugh at? Usually after the fact, though, when I’m talking about it with my friends.

    (Like how Jason Stackhouse is the dumbest man on the planet. Or how Bill is Totally Not Going On a Date To the Vampire Bar. At All. Not Him.)

    Although I AM curious what things make you cringe.

    Mostly, the show is an Alan Ball show for me. If you’ve seen Six Feet Under, that should make some sense. First, there’s lots of sex, but not sensuous love scene type sex. People bouncing all over the place and sounding like idiots sex. That’s not an average portrayal.

    And there’s something to do with general realism, too, that strikes me as characteristic. I mean, Bill’s dead. He LOOKS dead. Spike and Angel looked hot, not dead. Bill looks like an animated corpse, and when he does things like lick blood from Sookie’s head or bite her neck, those things don’t look romanticized, they look -real-. It’s a different take, and one that takes a little getting used to.

  • Vinity

    I agree the music is very good, possibly the best thing about the show. I want to love the show but, as you said, I would very much like to see some of the humor so present in the books show up. One thing I liked about the Sookie books is it ISN’T all dark and moody. I think the show is really missing that aspect. As far as the sexing-up of the show and the addition of the Jason storyline. I dislike it a great deal. I dislike all of the added story elements.

    I think the cast is very good. I think it is a very hard series to get the feel for since in the book you see it thru Sookie’s head. I think the audio books do a slightly better job, but in this case, really nothing tops reading the books themselves. But then again that is true of almost any book. The only reader who is better than the voice in my head is James Marsters. Tho, Ben Browder does a lovely job also.

  • The CMO

    Your review has made me want to read the True Blood books. I originally passed these by at the book store and now I am going to go back and pick them up.

  • June Williams

    Vinity- I agree with much of what you say. Perhaps the humor will pick up but even if it doesn’t the television series is pretty good all one it’s own. There are bound to be differences with the original source materiel. Television, film and theatre are all collaborative arts while a book is the vision of one person.

  • June Williams

    Magess- No one has said it better. The HBO Bill really does look like an animated corpse and the licking of blood isn’t sexy to me at all. OTOH the actor that plays Bill is intense and one of the best that I’ve seen on television recently.

  • June Williams

    Rick-If you get HBO you might as well give it more of a chance. What else is on Sunday night in that timeslot anyway.

  • carlie

    I hope they pull in the other supes from the books. The Jason and Tara stuff is over done. I’ve read all the books, and think, wow, there are much better story themes without making up some of the stuff they do. Tara was funny at first, but now, Yawn. Jason, nice torso, but where are the hot shot panthers?