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HBO: True Blood


EricMontreal22

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I thought the first episode was good. It wasn't great like I was hoping from Alan Ball, but I liked the basic premise of synthetic blood making it okay for vampires to coexist with humans and the main vampire was really sexy (so was the lead heroine's murderous brother). So far, the black girl is my favorite character because her take-no-bull attitude is hilarious and I'm expecting it to get her in a lot of trouble. I want to wait for at least one more episode before critiquing it more fully.

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For a show being promoted as a vampire series, the vampires were seriously lacking. I think Alan Ball might be out of his element with this. The problem with science fiction is that often the writers will focus on elements (such as space travel, futuristic weaponery, etc.) and not dele into character-based storytelling. For the vampire element, I think that was part of the problem. When it was dealt with, it was to inform the audience of what the world was like instead of blending it into the characters and their story. For instance, the opening scenes in the car and at the gas station were complete throwaways except for the background information. We weren’t given enough about Bill to like the character or to be interested in learning more about the character. The only time the supernatural sort of work was during the blood draining scene, but that was ruined by the Sookie reads minds plot device.

As you can probably tell based on the last comment, I didn’t care for Sookie’s mind reading ability. I found most of the time it was used as a comic relief or simply to give exposition. This falls back on problem I stated above about the element (mind reading) driving the plot over the character. The show would have been much more interesting if Sookie actually cared for Sam, but had trouble maintaining a relationship with him because she could read his mind. This would also have given more depth to her attraction to the undead since she cannot read their minds. I didn’t feel like Sookie’s ‘gift’ was as much of a curse as it could have been. With Sookie coming to terms with her power, it was quite a bore and didn’t make her enough of an outsider as I believe TPTB want us to see her as.

Overall, I didn’t really like the characterization of Sookie. She seemed to be too naïve to be at the center of the action. For someone as lively as she was, I didn’t see why she would become instantly attracted to Bill. She wasn’t some social pariah and she didn’t seem to be into the fetish element. There connection didn’t feel genuine to me. Bill’s characterization was notably absent, but not crafted in a way to make me interesting in finding out more about him either.

Another thing I really don’t care about is the murder of that young woman. Usually, when a series opens with a murder mystery, the storyline is used as a way of presenting exposition as well as forwarding the plot. The problem in this case is has done neither create plot or given us information about a number of people. Jason’s arrest was too predictable. It would have been better if they found the vampire tape and arrested Bill, or one of his vampire friends, and Jason was worried that Sookie would find out what he was thinking. The arrest reveal was undramatic, however I assume it was moreso in the book series as they probably didn’t have a graphic sex scene before hand.

I don’t consider myself a prude. When intricate to the plot, I’m all for it, but the opening scene hand job gave no dimension to the show. I didn’t understand what they were trying to hint at with Jason getting off to the vampire sex and then later when he was screwing the dead girl and talking about the vampires.

Rather than focusing on sex, I’d rather they’d delved more into the characters. Lafayette was hilarious and I loved the conversation about being afraid of the [email protected]#$%^&*] with other waitress saying he wanted to smack her ass. I thought that scene was hilarious. Later, I loved Tara’s verbal whiplashing of every person came in contact with her. Both Lois Smith and Sam Trammell are actors whose previous work I’ve enjoyed so I was rather disappointed that they got little airtime.

I’ll tune in again to see if it gets better, but overall I wasn’t impressed.

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You know that's interesting--because I completely don't watch it as a fantasy or sci fi show--and I can completley see your problems with it from that perspective. Then again the whole point is about Vampires interacting as real people, beign just another minority--I don't really think in that case the explanations good fantasy and sci fi need, need to be explained--at least not straight away. From what I know of the novels that so far this is following very closely (except, as I mentioned, maybe in tone) youd o learn more about how vampires come to be, etc but that's part of the mystery element--but I think from the start it's frankly not necesary.

HOWEVER a lot of what you're looking for is out in the viral media campaign--ie the hour or so of videos that they've been posting as the BloodCopy report bloodcopy.com/

I love Lois Smith and she's said in interviews that this is one of the best roles she's been offered in her later years with lotsa airtime--so don't worry there.

I liek the mystery angle and how it's both central to the story and, oddly, not at all ( a bit like Twin Peaks?) Having read the first chapter of the novel though, not written by Ball, maybe he was TOO faithful to the story (not dialogue as much as how everything happens) becuase most of your complaints can be tracked back there. I've heard that the plan is to stick pretty closely to the first mystery and then branch out in their own direction.

The main reason Sookie is SOO drawn to Bill is she can't read the mind of a vampire. Personally I see how that owuld be a HUGE instant draw--when you ahve to shut out these voices ALL the time, never havign ANY real mystery about anyone you encounter, suddenly to HAVE all that intrigue? Wow--that's intriguing and sexy--or would be to me (If I could read minds ;). The other element is more cliche I think--she's stuck in this small town with fairly small minded people, even those she loves and suddnely this exosit *outsider* comes and she sees an escape from that--cliche maybe but again valid IMHO.

I disagree about things like the opening scene being throaway-I thought it was a great "teaser" that had elements of horror and comedy and give you a quick bite of what to expect (similar maybe to Ball's death intros to SFUnder which often thematically tied into the actual episode--but I admit not as deep--this is a lighter series). The sex seems to be something people like or not--I do think HBO migth have asked them to play it up (HBO used to be known for its sex but lately SHowtime and even FX have totally eclipsed it--there's more gratuitous sex in 30 mins of Nip/Tuck than most of TB). But I disagree that it doens't add a part--it gives a sense of the danger and attraction IMHO--the human/sex with vampires element being a huge part of this "mythology". Ball builds his shows and stories *slowly* though so I think it's a bit too early to see (although I admit if the pilot lost your interest that's a definite problem).

Anyway, while I disagree a lot ;), I liked reading your review--I admit I'd kinda ignored the fantasy/sci fi Vampire element oddly enough and I think you have some interesting points.

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Even watching it as a series about vampires as people being discriminated against, didn't you feel that this thread was under developed. Even in a slow building show, the dramatic thrust was on the murder, which at the moment is not intricate to the main plot other than the fact Sookie is Jason's sister. Laura Palmer's death affected other people, her family, her boyfriend, her best friend. The dead woman on "True Blood" wasn't connected in that way. It worked on TP because when in focus it had weight. There is no weight to the murder plot on TB so far. I assume the murder plot will eventually implicate a vampire before revealing a human actually committed the crime to demonstrate the monster within humans. Right now though, there isn't anything to suggest that.

I saw the Blood Copy stuff, which made the episode sort of a let down. The Blood Copy stuff created an interesting mystery, developed some interesting conflicts (the AVL vs. the Association of the Sun?), and then the show was so blah. The Blood Copy stuff got boring when it started dealing with the show's characters. I did like seeing soap vets in the clips: Jessica Tuck, Doris Belack, and Christopher Dunham (I think). I wasn't necessarily looking for the show's present more about vampires, but commenting on the poor way it was handled in the pilot, in my opinion. Sookie and Bill didn't drive the story the way I thought they would.

If Ball did follow the book, this would sort of make sense. In a book, you have to create the atmosphere through dialogue and exposition can be given to the reader without interrupting the story. However, this just translated poorly in the pilot. The show wasn't structured. It was like TPTB wanted to take you on a lazy river ride, but the water was stagnant. There was no plot in most of the opening episode, which really hurt the show. Scenes didn't really build up to anything and didn't seem to establish longterm story. Some of the restaurant scenes were interesting, but it didn't lay the groundwork for anything. I really didn't enjoy Sookie's interaction with the customers as it led little to the development. On the otherhand, I felt most of Jason's scenes were fairly plot driven, but as I said above there's nothing driving the plot now.

I agree that the mind reading is a fascinating way 'in' for the Sookie and Bill relationship, but I felt that should have been built up more. Also, Sookie's mind reading was a plot tool. At times, she could hear everyone's thoughts and other times she had to look inside their mind.

I can see your point about the opening scene, but I don't think it was as effective as simply opening with scenes at the restaurant, which incorporate the sex, humor, and darkness of the series. By the time the plot actually picked up for Sookie, I was ready to tune out. A pilot is meant to grab a viewer and I wasn't pulled into the story in the way I hoped to. After learning that HBO recently dumped "12 Miles of Bad Road" by Linda Bloodsworth-Thomson, one of my favorite showrunners, I was rather disappointed with this show.

The problem with the dark attraction though is nothing beats good old fashion longing for one another. There wasn't enough of that between Bill and Sookie to make me care about them. The sex scenes though are what I'm talking about in my post above about mythology. Jason and the dead girl's sex scene told us more about tone and vampire society than it did about Jason or his story. Does that make sense?

I'm glad to hear Smith is getting more to do. Was the grandmother character in the book?

Personally, I'd rather see the show deal with the conflict betwen the AVL and the religious right.

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I think there is a prob that you indirectly bring up--the books, I understand, have a RABID following, and I think already there's an issue about how faithful to be. To be honest, I suspect from your thread you'd hate what I've read of the books--every suggestion you have or problem is related (nearly) to the source material, the graphic sex being the main difference. From interviews with Alan Ball I think the show will go more into conflict between the AVL and conservative groups--something the boosk had little interest in--the books also take a lot for granted character wise.

I broguth up why Sookie liked Bill so quickly initially--cuz she couldn't read his mind--simply because you implied you saw NO reason a girl like her would be attracted to him whatsoever--when personally i thought that was one of the better developed aspects of the pilot. I have to say some of your other criticisms I think are unfair seeing as this IS the pilot (i'd be curious to see what you think of the Fringe pilot) and a lot of what you seem to want to get developed, will be developed I have no doubt within the course of the season.

That said I know what you mean about the pilot being a sort of "lazy river ride" (though I disagree on the stagnant)--this was a great criticism by many of Six Feet Under--Ball's writing is very character based and almost not at all plot based--something I love. I found the pilot fascinating and enjoyable from start to finish but I can see why someone wanting more plot wouldn't. (Similar to Mad Men in a way--the pilot of which had next to nothing happen and I think lost a lot of viewers with that). I will admit that it's not a comfortable mix yet--because the show, with the mystery, etc, DOES have plot driven elements that Ball isn't super comfortable with yet--I'm willing to give him time.

"Also, Sookie's mind reading was a plot tool. At times, she could hear everyone's thoughts and other times she had to look inside their mind. "

I didnt' see it this way at all--she doens't have to look inside their mind but she does have to focus to hear one person'sspecific thoughts. She always hears them but usually she can tune them out--if that makes sense. But yes it's a plot tool--midn reading usually is ;)

"The problem with the dark attraction though is nothing beats good old fashion longing for one another. There wasn't enough of that between Bill and Sookie to make me care about them. The sex scenes though are what I'm talking about in my post above about mythology. Jason and the dead girl's sex scene told us more about tone and vampire society than it did about Jason or his story. Does that make sense? "

Sorta. I dunno--for me it says a lot about Jason, tied to his other scenes, we basically have a clear view of his character--he see sex as a conquest, is a cad/slut, etc, but basically isn't a murderer. But i'm fine with it telling us more about tone and vampire society anyway.

As for Bill and Sookie I saw TONS of longing for each other, curiousness, etc--even the scene at the window. Some critics have hated how heightened the scene in the cafe was--so melodramatically romantic--I love that. It's a stylized show.

the Grandmother wsa in the book but from what i've read mor eminor (I only read half of the book--it's very easy rading and seemed a fun enough read but I stopped because I decided I'd rather follow the mystery in the show and not find the solution in the book. I know later books add werewolves, etc, something Ball seems ot have little interest in).

I actually kinda appreciated that the Blood Copy stuff focused on the world at large, etc, and then suddenly with the show we got a close up ENTIRELY on this tiny community and a few characters dealing in this broader world.

Most criticsa nd people I know foudn the opening great--I think it also is the scene that sendsup horror movie conventions the most (the slutty couple ends up in a seemingly vampire saturated community etc). I dunno, I couldn't imagine being bored after 5 mins and not caring when the main character scome in.

And I'm sure I don't need to tell you it's not fair to blame this show (which was itself meant to premier last year but then the stirke happened) because a show you were lookign forward to but haven't seen didn't make it to HBO ;) (Although I didn't realize HBO passed on 12 Miles--i was *really* looking forward to it as well. They passed on it apparantly in the Spring though, True Blood was picked up actually last Fall, so I don't think there was much connection)

Anyway once again I like reading your thoughts and appreciate them, I get wher eyou're coming from. I just largely disagree (at the risk of sounding too fanboyish). I just wanna make clear, cuz I know my tone sometimes can come off snarky, that I enjoy readeing a different opinion na dcomparing my thoughts--and appreciate your reviews.

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Adaptations are hard- you have to please the establishment while bring in the new people. Some people can never be sastified. Maybe I'm one of them :P

I should clarify a few things. My problem with Sookie's attraction to Bill lie in their INITIAL meeting when he first came into Merlotte's. She seemed smitten even before she met him. I could understand the mind reading thing once she found out about it, but from the second he entered the bar she wanted to be with him. The other thing is I don't necessarily want plot over character, I just want a strong story thread. There wasn't anything driving the events in the story. Each character went from point A to point B to point C without any build. However, I think this falls back on the narrative structure, which most shows have trouble with in their first weeks.

I'll admit I'm being a bit critical, but I was disappointed by the hype (as I was with recent "Dark Knight" movie). Considering the massive campaign HBO launched, I was disappointed. I thought the show would be an enjoyable vampire story, but instead it was moreso a twenty-something drama set in a bar/restaurant with a little sprinkle of the supernatural. My understanding is that more vampires will be introduced as time goes on so hopefully there will be a bit of a shift.

I enjoyed "Six Feet Under" until Lisa showed up. I kept watching, but by the time she died I beleive I had only been watching on occassion. I didn't mind the pace of SFU, but SFU had tightly written narratives, even if they were more character based.

By stagnant, I just meant that for the most part nothing happened that built plot. The kids fool around in the car and then go to the gas station. Tara worked at a retail store and was fired. The waitresses served their customers and Sookie read their mind. The first fifteen minutes before Bill arrived was lacking significant action and delivered sometimes bad and other times better exposition. The only thread built up was building was Jason and Merleene. It wasn't enough to keep me interet as had no clue who Jason was.

Thanks for clarifying the Sookie mind reading thing and yeah it typically is a plot device :P . I just thought there were better ways to incorporate that into who she is.

The reason I brought up "12 Miles" was that they were both shows that were put on hold by the writers strike and they both have been said to be all over the place by critics. There were 6 episodes of "12 Miles of Bad Road" produced, but HBO didn't proceed any further after the writer's strike where as "True Blood" was allowed to continue production.

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Hey:)

Reading about 12 Miles online it seems when it was turned down the creators sent episodes out to critics, to try to get hype and another buyer (surely someone else will buy it?) Anyway the critics were largely VERY hard on it--but the ones who loved it LOVED it--maybe HBO realized they had, even for them, a really divisive show (LA Times says "Sent out to critics by its creators, who hoped to prove that HBO was making a grave mistake, 12 Miles is a nightmare tug of war between the bold, the brilliant and the really, truly terrible. The tale of a Texas real estate dynasty, it cries out not for a review but a psychiatric diagnosis -- schizophrenia? Bipolar disorder? Never have so many Emmy-deserving performances been trapped in such a muddled mess of a more than occasionally offensive storyline.") Maybe they felt they were cutting their losses. That said, as I pointed out, True Blood is already proving VERY divisive with critics anyway, so we'll see how it does.

I *loved* Six Feet Under--even thru its trouble periods I foudn it pretty brilliant--it really spoke to me in a way few shows do, so I admit that's a HUGE biase on my part--and I understand why some people didn't feel the same way but it doesn't mean I agreed. So I've waited for this show for ages and maybe I'm too ready to love it (even though its feel is quite diff than Six Feet Under) I'll admit--thouigh watching the pilot a second time--this Sunday I liked it even more than when I downlaoded the pre-air pilot in the Summer (which was a bit different--namely the girl from Passions played Tara--and surprisingly I liked her better, so far).

That said here in Canada we got far less of the hype I think Americans with HBO did--if anything I've had to make friends aware of the show. I know that hype can make you judge things more critically than you migth if you stumbled upon them. My only point was I think some of the thing syou criticized for not being in the pilot are things that (I'm hoping) will be satisfactorially explained/cleared up in future episodes.

I think we'll have to come back to this after the second episode airs (I admit I could end up eating my words). ;)

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Ryan Kwanten and Steven Moyer drew me in. Flashes of humor kept me there. A kick-ass cliffhanger (literally) brings me back. Rutina Wesley and Nelsan Ellis might turn out to be my favorite characters.

I haven't enjoyed HBO since John From Cincinatti and Flight of the Conchords (which I loved). This was the first show that will win a welcome return from me. The tedium of Tell Me That You Love Me, Big Love, and In Treatment will take a very long time for me to get over. Where were these three "cr*pfests" (to quote Sylph) renewed, and not JFC?

Finally, a show that is a little fun, a little shocking and surprising.... I don't have high hopes, actually, that it will sustain...but I have hopes.

I miss Six Feet Under every day.

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I wanted to LOVE Tell Me You Love Me--and not just for the graphic sex :P It seemed a good excuse for a true relationship drama, but it let me down big time. Didn't even bother with In Treatment.

Why don't you think Alan Ball can keep up the show?

I read the openign night got very low numbers for HBO...

Showtime has the WAY better programing than HBO. The last great show HBO had was the Wire!

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Well I loved the second episode even though I thought it had some big probs--I get why this show is polarizing people so much. What made it for me were the Sookie/Bill scenes, and anything with Lois Smith (her interaction with Bill was especially *great*)--I also love how this show seems to be giving us really big cliffhangars each week.

My main gripes are still that Ball hasn't seemed to have found a tone between the books' wimsy and his more harsh reality. The supporting characters are starting to shape into their own though--I like the relationship between Tara and her cousin Lafayette--as well as that of Sookie and her brother--they love each other and protect each other even though she knows he's basically a useless horndog to everyone else and can't defend his actions.

Oh and here I thought i was an average red blooded male--but seriously like EVERY second conversation Sookie picks up in her head is thoughts about sex--and pretty graphic ones. I think she'd be bored if she followed me around for a day at how little I look at people on the street and think about (excuse me here) [[email protected]#$%^&*] them.

E

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