Ever since Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel ended I have been waiting for a new vampire-themed TV series to sink my teeth into (pun intended). A couple of month's ago, True Blood aired on terrestial TV in the UK for the first time. Channel 4 attained the rights to screen the series and I was hooked from the start. The only thing that put me off watching it again was having to put up with annoying advert breaks every 10 minutes. Nothing kills my viewing enjoyment more than advert breaks. So I did what I always do when faced with such a situation - I waited for the boxed set of DVDs to come out. In this particular case my wait was very brief as the DVD boxed set came out before the TV series had finished airing. Result!
THE STORY. True Blood is based on the Sookie (invariably pronounced "Sucky") Stackhouse series of books by Charlaine Harris. Sookie (superbly played by Anna Paquin) is young waitress working in a bar in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. She has a special gift/curse in that she is a telepath. In her world, vampires are known to exist, having come out of the closet a few years ago. When a vampire called Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) walks into Sookie's bar for the first time she instantly falls in love with him. The fact that she cannot read his mind gives her a comforting break that she has been searching for ever since her special ability first manifested. He is just as infatuated with Sookie, although for different reasons. Her love life becomes even more complicated when her boss, Bill Merlotte (Sam Trammell) admits to being in love with her. Not only is Bill her boss but he's a shapeshifter as well. He generally transforms into a dog. Series 1 deals with a serial killer who is killing young women who have had sex with vampires.
The supporting cast are just as interesting and well-rounded as the three main leads mentioned above. First up is Sookie's brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) who isn't the brightest tool in the box but whose good looks ensures he is never short of female companionship. He enjoys a tempestuous relationship with a V addicted hippie called Amy Burley (Lizzie Kaplan). V is vampire blood, a drop of which gives humans an incredible high. Some vampires still drink human blood but most drink a synthetic blood designed by the Japanese, known as True Blood. Sookie's best friend is Tara, (Rutina Wesley) a young woman with a quick temper, whose life is a mess, thanks to her alcoholic, bible-fearing mother. Tara's cousin, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) is extremely funny as the bar's chef. He might be a gay, black man from the deep south but you wouldn't want to mess with him. The nicest character in the show is Adele, (Lois Smith) Sookie's grandmother, a sweet old lady, with whom Sookie lives.
THE EXTRAS. The DVD set comprises of five discs, containing all 12 episodes of series 1. Six of them feature very good commentaries by members of the cast and crew including Anna, Stephen and the series executive producer, writer and director, Alan Ball. It was interesting listening to Stephen Moyer do his commentary, as he is an English actor but his character, Bill, speaks with an American accent. The only other extra was a mockumentary called "Vampires in America" which took a serious look at how vampires have integrated into modern society. I liked it but at 15 minutes long it was far too short. I'd have loved to have seen more features about the making of the show as well as interviews with cast and crew.
THE VERDICT. This is a series that ticks all the right boxes. Gratuitous violence, bloody check. Explicit sex scenes, sizzling check. Harsh language, effing check. Humour, check. Tragedy, check. Mystery, check. Throw in characters that you quickly come to love and care about and you have a winning combination. The sex, violence and bad language pretty much ensured this was going to get an 18 certificate rating and it did. This vampire tale is about as far removed from the saccharine and kiddy-friendly world of Twilight as you can get. This a series for adults and I welcome that approach with open arms. Produced by HBO, one of the directors admitted that they could get away with far more than normal TV series or motion pictures. Yeehah! I say. The series did start slow but by episode 3 it picks up the pace and come episode 12 you are on a roller-coaster ride and you don't want to get off. I am so glad that this series has received such critical acclaim and a wide fan-base. My only complaint is that I'm going to have to wait about a year for series two to be released on DVD.
The big advantages of buying a boxed set of DVDs is being able to watch the series when you want to, and as many episodes as you want, and not having to put up with bloody adverts! True Blood series 1 costs £39.99 but if you shop around you should get it for a lot cheaper than that. I bought my copy from Amazon for a fraction of that price.
Oh, I've just remembered one other thing that I absolutely love about the series - its opening credits and theme song. Just sublime! I rate the series 10 out of 10. However, I rate the DVD set 8 out of 10 - let down by the lack of extras. Nevertheless, I still highly recommend all vampire fans to purchase this treat. It's funny, sexy, gory, smartly written and directed and a sheer joy to watch.