Last night Devilman and I watched the first three episodes of TRUE BLOOD, HBO's new series based on Charlene Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels. I've never read any of the Sookie books (tho' I've always admired their covers--very American comic book primitive), but judging from the tv show they are very Southern Fried Gothic. You know--moonlight, magnolias, psychobilly, snake-charmers, rednecks and vampires.
The show takes place in the Deep South and follows Sookie, a telepathic waitress, as she slowly becomes involved with Bill Compton, a 200 plus-year-old veteran of the War Between The States, who owes his longivity to his habit of drinking human blood. A habit that he is able to now break free of thanks the Japanese invention True Blood, a synthetic blood that fulfills all vampiric nutritional needs. Thanks to True Blood, vampires no longer need to hide in the shadows; they've 'come out of the coffin' and are now demanding equal rights with humans. (The show clearly wants to sorta kinda explore the issue of racism in America substituting vampires for other minority groups, but so far that trope has taken second fiddle to Sookie's growing desire for Bill, and that's probably just as well--that sort of substitution can become pretty heavy handed pretty quickly.)
TRUE BLOOD has been getting mixed reviews, but I rather liked it. Anna Paquin, who plays Sookie, does an excellent job of imbuing the character with just the right amount of Southern sass, steel magnolia and naivite. Stephen Moyer, who plays Bill, does a pretty good job of brooding and looking romantically old timey and inscrutable.
I also appreciated that the writers did attempt to inject some sort of historical perspective to people's reactions to the vampire. For example, when Sookie's grandma finds out how old Bill is, she asks if he'll come speak to the local chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy--that would be my exact reaction if I ever ran into a vampire who had fought in the Civil War. Well, not the Daughters of the Confederacy part, but wanting to hear a first hand account of the war--definitely yes! And Bill does seem like the kind of guy who could have been born in the 19th century--he still retains some of those old timey qualities, whereas most tv vampires seem utterly contemporary (Angel & Spike--I'm looking at you!)
And I really like the theme song, Jace Everett's Bad Things. Very psychobilly swamp-grass--one of my favorite genres of music. The credits are also way cool--HBO shows always have great credits even when the shows themselves are awful. (Now I'm looking at you, Carnivale)
Devilman pointed out that the writers have, at times, sacrificed plot continuity for melodramic moments, which is true, but then it wouldn't be a gothic if there wasn't quite a bit of melodrama, so that's okay with me. The first two eps mostly set up backstory and character dynamics; the plot points don't really start rolling until ep three, so if you are tempted to watch, I'd give it at least that long before giving up on the show, should you be leaning that way.
For the moment, I think I'll stick with the show.