Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Question of the day: what is the deal with True Blood?

Okay, I'm a day late and a dollar short. Literally. Or make that a year late, because our only TV is Netflix, which means we get TV shows a year later than everyone else unless I make my mom record them for me. We just finished the second season of Mad Men, we're about to watch last year's season of Dexter, and last night we started True Blood.

I guess my question, having just watched episode #1, is this: How do people like it? Does it evolve and improve? I'm sure it must when Eric comes on. But I bet he doesn't have that much screen time. Or does he?

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the Sookie series, and I so want to like the show, and so does Mr. Crane, and we're sticking with it, but neither of us are so sure. It's possible we are terribly spoiled by shows like, oh, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.
Which brings me to my next item: last year there was this link on Marta Acosta's Vampire Wire to an interview where Alan Ball seemed to boast that he never watched Buffy. (Uh! I couldn't find it! But here's a link to an interview with another mention of comment.)

To Mark and me, Alan Ball deciding not to taint himself by watching Buffy is like a writer saying she wants to write a great classic novel, but not wanting to taint herself by reading Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Jane Austen, Graham Greene, etc. In fact, that's barely a metaphor--it's exactly what Joss Whedon is to TV. (Mr. Crane feels even more strongly about this.)

Does Sookie evolve into somebody to somewhat admire?
Part of me liked Ball's choice to make Sookie a goofy wacky girl, but it robs the show of a shining moral center, like Buffy. In fact, in the books, Sookie is a shining moral center of sorts. I know Sookie can't be Buffy, but does Sookie evolve into somebody to somewhat admire?

Do adaptations have less excuse for not finding character sweet spots right away?
A lot of series that go on to greatness start annoyingly at first. A good example here is Star Trek: The Next Generation. I wanted to throw the toaster at the TV whenever Data would come on the screen with his lack of understanding of idioms, and Number One with his whole schtick, but that series became its own glorious animal once these characters got their right footing. Ball, however, is adapting a high-quality, character-rich series, so why did this pilot feel flat? Pat of me cuts Alan Ball less slack, because he started with ready made characters. Is that unfair?

One of my prime measures of the goodness of TV, movies or books is fun stuff to look forward to--a character to understand, a struggle I'm invested in resolved, a mystery solved, somebody realizing something fun, a couple united. Are people feeling it?

OMG, how tedious of me posting on this!! But now I have the benefit of everybody's experience.

A few random notes:
  • Okay, finally I see why everyone is so annoyed by Tara.
  • It is sort of weird to know what is going to happen. When the dog came around, I really wanted to tell Mark, Hey, guess what, that's really the bar owner, Sam! But I had to keep my lips zipped.
  • I see Alan Ball saw fit to keep Bill every bit the lame hero as he is in the series. Oh, of ALL the things to be true to, why that one?
  • The moments I liked Bill were when he was being really old fashioned.
  • Again, I was pleasantly surprised that Sookie came off as a bit of a wacky girl. I thought that was a great choice. From the pictures of the show, I totally thought she'd just be the neighborhood bombshell telepath.
Please advise!!


Chris said...

I haven't watched the show and don't intend to, but I'm curious whether you've seen Blood Ties (from the Tanya Huff books). I have the first season, but a friend borrowed the dvd and I haven't watched it yet.

Mandi said...

I am a huge fan of TB -

First - I can't really remember the first season but I think Eric gets more screen time in the second season (which I also think is the better season).

The characters definitely grew on me as the show progressed. I would say stick with it..although there are many changes from the book - the big plots are carried forward and I think some of the changes they make are for the better.

I hope you enjoy seeing Sookie's brother naked because you get a lot of that in season one:)

ps - dexter is awesome!

Carolyn Crane said...

Chris: No, but I want to watch it! I'm moderating a panel about UF adaptations at RT, and even though you don't have to be an expert just to ask the questions, I want to be up on stuff. In fact, I should read the books, too.

Mandi: Okay, thanks for that! That is good news.

Patti said...

When I first heard about the series, we taped it on our DVR. We watched the 1st episode and said, whatever. Then a few weeks later my brother told us he was still watching it and it was so good, so I decided to give it another chance. That night we watched episodes 2,3,&4, and I wanted to watch ep 5 but it was after midnight and we had to go to work! Give it a chance, it does click.

BTW, as much as I love all things vampire, I still have not seen Buffy...I know, I know, I want to but I can't find anyone to borrow it from!

Blodeuedd said...

I never knew that Sookie was supposed to have a little more curves and stuff so after I have read the books I miss that.

Oh yes Tara annoyed me to death.
Everyone annoyed me and I stopped watching, the books are so much better

AnimeJune said...

Okay, I'm popping in as someone who's grown to love the series way more than the books (or rather, book - I was bored as hell with the first Harris book and didn't read anything else of hers).

Sookie does become a moral centre eventually - actually, judging from the messageboards I've visited it's actually garnering a couple of complaints about her character because she actually starts moralizing too much. I dunno, I like her.

I also like Tara, actually. She's hilarious, particularly in the first season. She loses some steam in the second, though.

Most of the characters I really like on the show have little to no relevance in the novels (Lafayette, Tara, Sam, Jason) so maybe that's it. I also felt the show dealt with the wider consequences of vampires coming out of the closet better than the book did - which told us that vampires had gone public but didn't really show us all that well what it entailed.

I still think some of the special effects and vampiring are cheesy (some of the sex scenes are just gross/silly) and the gratuitous violence and nudity are all Ball. I still like the show, though - it's zany humour and southern atmosphere are just so catchy.

And Eric is awesome.

Carolyn Crane said...

Patti: No Buffy! LOL. Okay, that is good news about our upcoming seasons. I hope we get into it as much!

Bldd: Yes! The curves!!

AJ: Well that is really wonderful insight. And even in the first episode, I suppose the show deals more with the "out of the closet" thing. Also, well, that's fine news about Eric.

wren said...

I have loved muchly the books by Charlaine Harris (Although book 8 had me worried a bit). When True Blood started, I thought WTF?!?! It seemed as though Alan Ball took Harris's basic idea then Ball-erized it. Where were the dry wit and odd characters? Why did we have to actually see all the sex Jason had? Etc.

But I decided to stick with it, mostly to see just how much would change from the books. And in some ways the show has gotten better. In other ways, I just roll my eyes. Especially when he gives a character so much more play than they had in the books, to the point that you'd like to reach into your widescreen and yank them out.

For me, anticipation is all about what the characters will be/do vis a vis the books. (Will Bill ... y'know; Will Eric lose his ...?)

Yes, Sookie evolves to be a little more like the girl we know and love. But I don't think she will ever find the "voice" we're used to.

Tara continues to annoy me in a big way. I guess she's the character you always want to hit upside the head.

Sam becomes rather interesting, I think.

I'm worried that Ball will keep Sookie and Bill together when one of the most interesting things in the books is the variety in her love life.

I do wish he'd watched some Buffy. Then he'd see you could have fun, adventure, plot and love/lust without it all boiling down to sex. Don't get me wrong - I like sex as much as the next person (and I think Eric and Jason would be kinda fun) - but a little goes a long way.

A final note that has nothing to do with any of the above - but is anyone else annoyed by the make-up? Eric and Bill are so pancaked with white it's ridiculous, along with their red-rimmed eyes. Plus you can see where the white ends at the neckline. Yet the female vamps look completely normal (relatively speaking).

Carolyn Crane said...

Wren: That's cool that Sam becomes more interesting. Even in the first episode, he seemed really likable. Thanks for your thoughtful answer - you are about where I am with how I feel about the series (Book 8 is Dead to Worse, right?) Oh, and I SO agree with the minor love interests. Like, Alcide Herveaux (?) Loved him!!! And Eric, of course.

orannia said...

No help here sorry CJ - I've never watched it :) I do hope the subsequent episodes improve though.

Jill D. said...

Okay, Here is my two cents (more like twenty five, for what it's worth)

If you have read the books, I think it is a mistake to go into the watching True Blood anticipating similarities because the TV show is very different from the books. You are only going to be disappointed.

Having said that, I really am enjoying the books, but I have only read three. I also really like the TV show, but I like it for different reasons than I like the books. For example, in the TV show I love all the different characters and my favorite happens to be Lafayette. Lafayette in the TV show is really different from the book. Also, the TV show has very subtle, humorous nuances that a person might not notice at first. The best way I can describe this is in the choice of music played in certain scenes. I can't really do justice in describing it.

I think True Blood is one of those shows that needs to be watched repeatedly because you miss things the first time around. Quite frankly I think it is clever programing, but die hard fans of the books aren't going to think so expecially if they have certain expectations. I say appreciate it for what it is. It certainly entertains me.

Sarah said...

Certainly not a patch on the books and I am not a great fan of Tara, yeesh. Mind you, I can't say I ever imagined Sookie like that either. However, I watched and it was worth it for the Eric moments. He is just... Eric.

I think you're probably better off watching Weeds (the best show in the universe) or Glee. :)

Hilcia said...

Hmm... don't read the series, don't watch the show. No help to you, I know. ;P But, I'm with Sarah, Weeds... that's the show! Oh, and Dexter, of course. :)

Brenda said...

I watched a few of the shows, and didn't really get the hype either. There are so many better shows out there. And if I get a hankering for vampires, I can always watch my DVD's of Buffy or Angel.

Carolyn Crane said...

Orannia! Well, thanks for stopping by! I hope so, too.

Jill: Thanks. This sounds like really good advice. Cool about Lafayette. Even in #1, he had a lot of screen time, so that's good.

Sarah: Eric. Okay! Thanks for the rec's, too!!!

Hilcia: Another vote for weeds!

Brenda: LOL. Yes, thank goodness for Buffy or Angel DVDs!! The cure to all bad TV!!

Simone said...

Jason is naked a lot in the first season. Eric is naked in season 2. Sam is also naked, season 2 for sure and I can't remember if season 1.

And something about vampires.

Carolyn Crane said...

Simone!! Snort. Okay! This is a very useful bit of info! LOL. I wonder when season 2 comes out on netflix.

Michelle G said...


I'm addicted. :)

But I was disappointed in season 2. It just seems to me that the writers were trying to show the world that HBO will let them have all the nekkid folks they want running round having random sex in the front yard, back yard, bar, middle of the road....It was just too much. I was glad it ended and hope season 3 is better. :)


Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Ohh CJ you are moderating a panel at RT? Fabu!

For some reason I haven't read Sookie or watched True Blood.

Funny how there are certain books or shows I can't get enough of, while others I don't even think of reading or watching.

Alone in Holy Land said...

I loved Charlaine Harris's books so much that I was so happy when they decided to broadcast "True Blood" here, in Israel. I have to say that all my excitement vanished rapidly after season 1...
I don't like the movie characters, I think the producers had their best shot with Vampire Bill, but that's it. Eric??? I have to admit I had a sort of a crush on him (the book character) and I was so dissapointed by the movie one. Come on! He was supposed to be a Viking warrior, an almost god or something, not this...this...midget.
And sorry, but too much sex and nakedness for my taste.
I would trade any time Ture Blood for Buffy or Angel...

Simone said...

Oh, and you're right about Star Trek TNG. My rule of thumb is the Puffy Riker rule: Puffy Riker = latter (and better) episode.

Thankfully, no one was ever naked in that show!

writtenwyrdd said...

Carolyn, I saw True Blood season 1 on dvd, as I don't have pay channels. And while the story arc was a bit warped to give Jason a drug habit and expand on his love life (making him the big humorous element of the show) the show overall is very good, in my opinion. The first season doesn't have as much of Eric as I'd like, though; so perhaps you might agree with my sense of things in that regard after you finish the season.

I'm hoping season 2 will have more of Mr. Northman.

Jill D. said...

Writtenwyrdd, Season 2 definitely has more of Eric in it. If you liked season 1, I think you will like season 2 as well.