True Blood has been a phenomenal success. It has been going for five seasons; I keep reading about it as a classic example of quality television; and people are repeatedly telling how good it is. My friend, Brigid Cherry, has even edited an academic book on the subject. (Note to self: given the quality of Brigid’s work, I should probably read this, despite what I am about to say).
The problem is that I really don’t ‘get’ this show. I watched the first series, and I really had to force myself to through it; it wasn’t a pleasure; it was more like pulling teeth. I had heard so much about how good it was that I felt obliged to give it a try; but, seriously, it was painful. The characters really grated; the plot seem to meander about all over the place; but most unforgivably the sex and violence were just boring.
It was as if, having secured a deal with HBO, the program makers just went a bit loopy. Brett Mills once (brilliantly in my opinion) described watching The Dark Knight as like having someone shout ‘look at how profound I am being’ for two and a half hours! True Blood felt like the program makers were shouting ‘look what we can get away with on cable’, which sought of destroyed any tension or shock or thrill. Surely sex and violence shouldn’t be this boring!
On another level, the sweet seductions of vampirism with its sensual appeals seem to be reduced to the hit of crack or a kinky one night stand. Neither of which look very enticing – just a bit sleazy. God, maybe I am getting old but it just doesn’t seem to be any fun any more. But, then again, maybe its not me. I am not singing the praises of The Vampire Diaries, and should really write a entry on the show, which certainly has numerous irritations; but, frankly, I would rather curl up with a box set of this bunch of whining teenagers than spend more time with the inhabitant of Bon Temps (which is as far from a good time as I care to get).
I keep seeing endlessly comparisons between True Blood and the Twilight saga, comparisons in which Twilight is not only a bit of a straw man but critics even seem a little unfair to Twilight. It is like claiming that Night of the Living Dead is more gory than Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein: it is a meaningless comparison and both of these films are more fun than True Blood (and Twilight).
If you really want a slice of Southern Gothic (another irritating attempt to avoid the horror label), you would be much better off with the Sonja Blue novels by Nancy A. Collins, particularly Tempter. But of course they haven’t made a television series out of those novels – and that would really test the ‘freedom’ of cable.