Monday, September 8, 2008

Fall Television Preview - True Blood

It's something new here at The Popcorn Trick. We're going to try and help you stay current on this season's new crop of television. Now, boasting a staff slightly less than TV Guide, we obviously won't be able to give you the lowdown on every new series premiere. Don't get me wrong, we'd love to be able to do that, but no mysterious billionaire industrialist has emailed us yet offering us to watch TV and get paid. So, rather than wait for that scenario to unfold, we figured we would simply give you what we could. If you want a more straightforward, less cynical approach, head over to TV Squad.

First show on the docket: HBO's True Blood...

From Alan Ball, creator of the pretentious Six Feet Under, and the more pretentious American Beauty, comes a series about pretentious vampires. Ok not really, but not too far off. And don't get me wrong, I liked both Six Feet Under and American Beauty, but when you start looking at them a little closer you've got to admit - a bit pretentious.

Anyway, True Blood is based on a bunch of books about vampires in the south. Seems that vampires have been living amongst us for awhile, and with the advent of synthetic blood, they no longer see humans as lemmings, they can feast on whenever; they see us as domestic house cats. As a result, they've "come out of the coffin," (oh how clever) and made their presence known.

The series sets us up with a number of different characters (surprisingly few vampires in the first episode) but centers on Sookie (get it?) Stackhouse, a poor white trash waitress that just happens to be able to read minds. She meets her very first vampire, saves his life, falls smitten, ignores her friends' pleas to be careful, (I want to meet the protagonist that does heed the please to be careful, it would be so refreshing) and apparently (from the previews at least) gets into wacky adventures. Think Scooby Doo minus the talking dog and stoned guy.

Now that that's out of the way let's get into it - is it any good?

Since I'm not one of those cool people studios give screeners too, all I can go by is the first show. I have no idea where they are headed, or what storylines will continue. That said, I also realize this is just the first show, and it needs time to breathe and a chance to hit its stride.

What did I think?

There were problems. The characters are uneven. Some are a bat transformation away from becoming caricatures. Some have some depth that will undoubtedly be expanded upon as the series goes on. And then there's Tara. I'm not sure which direction she will go, but any direction has to be better than where she's currently headed. Presently a stereotype used for nothing more than exposition (her character development at the Wal-Mart type store made me cringe; her accusations of racism made no sense since she flew off the handle by screaming at people who didn't do anything to her other than "bother" her for help at place of employment. Really, this scene annoyed me, and put Tara in a hole for me. She got a little better, until sliding back into stereotype mode pining for Sookie's brother, and suggesting she might want to even hook up with Sookie. It's a long story)

I also found the guy playing the vampire to be a tad off. I realize they're trying to toe the line between supernatural being and ordinary person, but it's difficult to pull off and I'm not sure this guy is going to be able to do it.

Sookie is dangerously close to being annoying. As for now, I think she just pulls off innocent southern girl. But it's close.

The tone of the show dances around like a moth however. It goes from comedy, to romance, to thriller to porn without making excuses. I'm going to let that slide for now because all new shows run into that problem. But it also comes walks the razor's edge of becoming pretentious, and that is something to keep an eye on. I get the whole "vampires as gay people" metaphor; unfortunately many of those scenarios played out in the X-Men series. To rehash those things would bore the audience quickly.

With all that, you might think I didn't like it, but that wouldn't be entirely accurate. It had enough to hold my interest. I liked Sam, (owner of the bar where Sookie works) and I think the bar scenes are decent. I liked Sookie's grandmother; I didn't find her to be a stereotype. And I liked the story about the dead woman. I hope that's a subplot they continue to follow.

And I think Anna Paquin, (Sookie) if she can stay at least somewhat grounded, can carry the show, and make the viewer dismiss some of the negatives. There's a huge world here slowly unraveling, and it's an interesting one with a lot of potential. Unfortunately, I've read some spoilers (unfortunate that I know what's going to happen, not that they're necessarily bad) and so the surprise of some things will be lost on me. But I'm still committed to at least the next three episodes. Overall, I'd give the first show a B.


Anonymous said...

I dropped my HBO last week after having it for about 15 years, I couldn't justify it being raised on me to $20 a month, I mainly watch sports and only had it for their original shows.

Only thing I found I'll miss since the soprano's is done is CYE. That said, I watched a bunch of the 4 minute "teaser" trailers for True Blood ondemand and on summer night I was bored and watched. I couldn't really get the gist of it (realize that is their intent to tease) but I thought it was coming off too forced and the acting in that, which was fake vampire youtube blogs of them coming out, was just plain awful. Usually HBO could get me hooked with their trailers, this one didn't appeal to me at all...sounds like I am not missing much.

Goose said...

you're not - that's a valid assessment...honestly, it doesn't seem like it's going to be one of HBO's premier programs (Sopranos, Wire 6 Feet Under, etc.).

While I don't want to drop HBO (aside from college I've probably had it for close 25 years between my parent's house and mine. But it is getting expensive, and I there are so many other options and ways to see things these days, that I might start thinking about it.

And don't get me started on Comcast - I might look into Verizon if it keeps getting expensive.

Cline said...

I'm gonna check out TB tonight, but my hopes are not high. And this comes from a huge Buffy/Angel fan.

If your Comcast bill is too high, call them up and say you're switching to Fios. They'll give you a deal so fast it'll make your head spin. I'm paying ~$75/month for Cable + Internet which includes a hi-def DVR & HBO.

Also, I don't get the "Sookie" reference. I've led a sheltered life.


Goose said...

I hear ya on calling HBO, but I've also heard horror stories of HBO calling your bluff, so I sort of want to be ready to carry out the threat.

Pronounced with a southern accent (or with the accents they have on the show which I haven't nailed down yet, it sounds like "suckee," as in one who is likely to be sucked.

Anonymous said...

I did it in hanuary played the fios/comcast card...Comcast bent over backwards and ended up being cheaper than the Fios. My cable is rarely out. I also didn't want to miss the couple phils/flyers games that are on CN8 since fios doesn't have it. I also had the NHL center Ice which fios didn't have.

call during the week late at night(outsourced calls on the weekend and they will say yes to anything you ask then take it back when you follow up) that is a good bartering time.

They offered me HBO for $10 and tried to sell me on Entourage coming back, but i even got bored of that after season 2. I got a netflix account and queued up all the Showtime series I never saw like Weeds.

hendge said...

Can you tell I'm catching up on all my Popcorn Trick reading today? What can I say. Finally a slow day and it's a rainy Friday to boot.

I finally watched the first TB last night. I'm pretty much a sucker for vampire stuff. I too was a big Buffy fan, Underworld is one of my favorite movies, and I even liked Moonlight last season. So I was looking forward to TB.

I think you're right in that it was a little all-over-the-place. I wanted more vamps and I suppose we'll get there. I knew nothing about the back-story of the show at all, so the whole "racial discrimination" subplot that paints the vamps as some sort of minority was surprising to me and, unfortunately, not altogether exciting. If that becomes a major plot point, I will tire of it quickly.

It's really hard to tell a lot from one hour. But I give it a thumbs up so far and I am curious to see where it goes.