The Wife:

Let’s get this out of the way: I enjoyed the 15-minute promo for Alan Ball’s new HBO show, True Blood, much more than I enjoyed the actual show. The promo was a 60 Minutes-style news segment chronicling The Great Revelation, a social and political movement through which Vampires (I feel they must be capitalized here, like the French or the Yu’pik) revealed themselves to be living (as much as Vampires can be alive) amongst the Human population and that, due to a new synthetic blood engineered by the Japanese called Tru Blood, they no longer pose a threat to Humans and will coexist peacefully without feeding on them. The promo introduced viewers to the sociopolitical milieu of the show, detailing the process of the Great Revelation, the Vampire Rights issues affecting the world, Vampire prejudice, Vampire sex fetishists called Fangbangers and the sale of Vampire blood on the black market as a powerful aphrodisiac.

The Great Revelation draws some pretty evident parallels to the Stonewall Revolution, in which the LBGT community became a more vital part of the American consciousness. Characters even refer to the Great Revelation colloquially “coming out of the coffin.” The Vampire characters are often identified on sight in the deep Southern Louisiana town in which the show takes place, as often LBGT people are judged as such because they conform to a certain physical stereotype. (I don’t know what that stereotype would be, but I’m sure we can all think of some ideas.) The pilot was laced with little news clips from a Vampire rights attorney that parallel certain gay rights issues facing the country today. It’s all pretty obvious what writer Alan Ball is trying to accomplish here.

Seriously, dont ingest your neighbor. You dont know where theyve been.

Seriously, don't ingest your neighbor. You don't know where they've been.

Other than that, I don’t have much to say about the pilot. I will probably keep watching this show for a little bit because I like vampires and I enjoy different writerly usages of this well-known mythical figure. As I’ve mentioned, I’m currently watching Joss Whedon’s Angel, a spin-off of Buffy in which her true love Angel, the Vamp with a Soul, moves to Los Angeles and becomes a P.I. I did watch the entirety of the could-have-been-so-much-better Moonlight, another show about a Vampire detective in Los Angeles. (I wonder, wherever did they get that idea?) I’ve read Dracula more times than I care to mention. I even own a copy of it with illustrations by Edward Gorey. I used to be a Goth in high school. In short, if it involves Vamps, chances are, I’ll watch it.

But despite the great-if-obvious gay rights arc that frames the True Blood universe, I’m not sure how much I enjoy the show over all. My main problem, I think, lies in its main character, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) a waitress at a swamp bar who can read people’s minds but would rather not admit it. Because her brain is often filled with other people’s thoughts, many seem to think she’s slightly retarded. She certainly acts like she is, but I can understand how frustrating not having a thought to yourself would be. That would drive anyone slightly batty and make them act as though their synapses fired a little more slowly than others. I understand Sookie’s attraction to the Vampire she meets, Bill, because his are the only thoughts she cannot read. With Bill, Sookie can finally have a quiet mind and be somewhat normal. I like Paquin as an actress, but there’s something about how she fits into this role that doesn’t quite work for me. Her Sookie is mostly just really annoying. I know Paquin is better than this. Just watch HurlyBurly, where she is the wisest teenage transient prostitute you will ever meet.

This episode did have some hardcore, pretty disturbing Vamp on Human sex. And I’ll give it a chance if I can see some more of that. It’s HBO, so I’m sure I will.

The Husband:

When all is said and done, one word will be used to describe the series premiere of True Blood – uneventful. While setting up its handful of overly quirky characters amidst a quirky setting – Podunk with a capital “P” backwoods Louisiana – and a quirky infusion of Vampire lore, it sort of forgot to tell an actual story.

As usual, I can’t in all good conscience get mad at the episode for a lack of real forward momentum, but in the last few years, pilots have adopted a sort of put-up-or-shut-up approach. While not shoving everything into their first episode, they make damn sure you have a general understanding of what the show shall entail and give you a great story in the meantime. Just last week, Fringe took a full 95 minutes to basically air a self-contained movie, one with a beginning, a middle, and an end, with an immersive understanding of the characters in question. Pushing Daisies did something similar with only an hour. So did Journeyman. So did Heroes. So did many many other shows.

I shouldn’t be complaining, I know, because comparing HBO to regular network TV is like comparing apples to HP microchips. In network TV, you are only guaranteed a 13-episode order, and even then your program could get pulled in under 6 episodes due to crap ratings. With cable, you are almost 100% guaranteed a full season without much interference until the end rolls around, and in the case of HBO, they seem to almost demand – and accept – that your story could take far more than one mere season. But look at Deadwood or Carnivale. We got a fuckload of information from both of their pilots, got a general understanding of the future of each show, and got just enough to want to tune in again.

But something like HBO’s The Wire – basically one of the best shows ever created – never really had three-act structures to their episodes and instead extended that storytelling “formula” to each season instead. So really…what the fuck do I know? I guess it’s all in how you do it.

True Blood basically provided us with the bare minimum of what we needed to know. Sookie is a psychic. Vampires exist. Shit is happening. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera. But if I told you that I could surmise a full-season arc from the information given, I’d be a liar. Sookie wants Bill the Vampire’s dong. Sookie runs afoul of some drug dealers who also deal in Vampire blood. Sookie’s brother is wanted for questioning involving the death of a hot naked redhead. That’s about it. Everything else is completely character-driven.

Sookie and Bill, sittin' in a tree, f-a-n-g-i-n-g.

Sookie and Bill, sittin' in a tree, f-a-n-g-i-n-g.

Now when I say “character-driven,” believe me, I do not mean that I don’t want well-rounded individuals on my programs. Quite the opposite. That’s what gets me hooked in regards to the best shows ever produced. But when it’s all character and no story, I can get a little restless. But I have better patience for cable dramas than I would with network ones, so giving True Blood a full season of attention isn’t asking for too much. (Not to mention how having it OnDemand frees up our DVR like you wouldn’t believe.)

Quick note: Within four days, I have seen actress Jessica Stroup in three separate projects. On Thursday, we watched 90210, where she plays Silver. On Friday, I unfortunately watched the risible “remake” of Prom Night, where she plays Claire. And yesterday, we watched her in True Blood’s opening scene as “Sorority Girl.” As my wife proclaimed, “Stroup! Get off my TV!”