29 September, 2009

Preview: "True Blood"

True Blood makes its terrestrial début on Channel 4 just as season 2 has finished in the US. Now I have to try and forget my disappointment in Season 2 (especially an incredibly annoying incident in the finale) and plug the quite good Season 1.

The series has been adapted from the Charlaine Harris novels by Alan Ball best known for American Beauty and Six Feet Under. I was expecting something in the same style and it took me a couple of eps to get rid of my expectations and watch the show for what it is and not what I wanted it to be.

True Blood, like Six Feet Under, deals with death but, unlike Six Feet Under, no thinking or self-reflection is required; it's just pure escapist entertainment.

The series is set in a world where vampires are out of the closet and no longer need to drink human blood to survive because of the invention of a substitute called "Tru Blood". Religious bigots and wing nuts, however, are pretty much anti-vampire and don't believe they should have equal rights.

The main characters are Sookie Stackhouse, a psychic, and Bill Compton, a vampire, who goes to the bar where she works.

The incident I referred to in the season 2 finale was plot-driven hack stuff. I stopped watching The Shield in an early season when they did the same thing. Even though that may have been more my loss than The Shield's, I can't see myself watching season 3 of True Blood. But make your own mind up on both seasons.

Q: Your previous work didn't have bad guys, per se, but morally ambiguous characters dwelling in dark areas. What's it like working with characters in "True Blood" who are just flat-out bad guys?

Ball: "Certainly, in the source material, they're bad. That's part of the joy of it. It takes place in such a fantastic world where vampires exist. I think it makes me less inclined to seek the humanity in every single character. In 'True Blood, it's pretty clear that these are bad people and you're not supposed to want to see them do well. There's enough moral ambiguity going on elsewhere."

Q: You've said you've never been a big fan of vampire tales, but there's a cult addicted to the genre. Why do you think there're so many huge fans?

Ball: "I only have my own half-baked theories. Vampires are certainly a huge sexual metaphor. At one point, Chris Albrecht, back when he was [running] HBO, asked me, 'What is this series about?' And I thought, 'I can't say, (in a dopey voice) "It's about a lot of vampires, 'cause I think they're real fun,"' so I said, 'It's about the terrors of intimacy.' (laughs)

"But the more I think about it, the more I think that's true. It's about how terrifying it is to really let your guard down and open your psyche up to another creature. And with vampires, you're not only opening yourself up emotionally, you're opening yourself up physically - you could die.

"We live in a world where emotion and the need to connect with something deeper and more profound has been distilled into these negative doctrines - 'Feel bad about yourself. You have to behave; you have to be controlled.' We live in a culture that wants people to be afraid and protect themselves from everybody else, which is the exact opposite of what the human soul wants.

"We all have that part of ourselves that needs abandon. We all have a need for transcendence, so maybe people turn to this fantastic fiction for that."

True Blood,
Channel 4, Wednesdays, 10:00pm

(from 7 October)

Pilot screenplay
(Via Lee)

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