21 September 2008 | cchase
"Awwww, SOOKIE SOOKIE Now..."
Dracula living in a trailer park instead of a castle. NOSFERATU out on the bayou. THE LOST BOYS hangin' out down by the Chattahoochie with a keg, instead of in an underground lair with a beachfront view. A great dinner of catfish, blackeyed peas and rice and cornbread, served up with a tall, warm, bubbly bottle of...BLOOD.
However you want to describe it, TRUE BLOOD is not only unlike any vampire story that's been done before, it's not like any series that's on right now. It's DARK SHADOWS-meets deep-fried Southern Gothic, and only Alan Ball, the creator of SIX FEET UNDER, would dare stick his neck out to bring it to you.
Based on the novels of Charlaine Harris, which I've never read, (but certainly will after this!), BLOOD takes place in the not-too-distant future. It's been two years since the world got a shock it never expected: vampires came "out of the coffin" as a race. We suspected they always lived - and fed - amongst us, but now it's official, and just as before with race relations and as it is now with GLBT people, the reaction across the board is the same - fear of change and fear of the unknown influences most people's feelings about it. And it doesn't seem to matter much that vamps now opt for finding nourishment from a bottled beverage made of synthetic plasma called - wait for it - "TRU BLOOD", rather than from the warm, breathing, two-legged receptacles called Everybody Else.
Sookie Stackhouse, however, has her own unique take on the whole deal. Sookie (X-MEN'S Anna Paquin) lives and works as a waitress in Bon Temps, LA, at a roadhouse restaurant called Merlotte's, the center of most of the series' action. She serves up pitchers of beer and sweet tea, and will give you a piece of her mind, once she has a piece of yours...though you'll wonder how she knew what you were thinking. Sookie is a telepath, and unfortunately for her, she can't turn off the constant flow of other peoples' streams of consciousness...most of which offers way too much information.
The only minds she can't read are vampire minds, something she discovers when she encounters Bon Temps' first vamp, the courtly and smoldering Bill Compton (Brit actor Stephen Moyer in a bravura performance). They are taken with each other on first sight - Sookie, who is not afraid of the unusual since she herself fits that category all too well, and Bill because he cannot figure her out - is she mortal, or something more?
Looking on this blossoming romance in various stages of curiosity, disgust or outright disapproval are Sookie's brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten), a walking hormone on two legs whose IQ matches his boot size; headstrong, opinionated Tara (Rutina Wesley), Sookie's childhood BFF; Sam Merlotte himself (Sam Trammell), Sookie's boss, who's got it bad for her and wears his heart on his sleeve on and off the clock; Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis), the boldly out, proud and randy cook who serves as Greek chorus, instigator and confidante to Merlotte's employees, but most especially to Sookie, and her 'Gran', Adele Stackhouse (the marvelous Lois Smith), who couldn't be happier that Sookie is romantically involved with somebody...even if he is undead.
Not a single opportunity is wasted here to explore every nuance of mixing the ordinary with the extraordinary, in a way that even a series as outstanding as BUFFY could only get close to. Passion burns, secrets abound, betrayal, murder and things even worse lurk around every corner. It's what you've hoped for but never gotten from every soap opera that couldn't show you what was REALLY going on...until now.
Best of all, TRUE BLOOD is like the best songs that come from Mississippi Delta blues. It has an irresistible melody and a driving beat that pulses with sex, muscular sensuality and undeniable heat, with an undertone of menace lurking just beneath, ready to explode without warning...and sometimes even without provocation.
As with 6FU, Ball and his crew are firing on all cylinders here in the first two episodes I've seen. I sure hope they can keep it going...With the early renewal for a second season, HBO sure seems to agree, and so do the fans. Especially this one.