I have a problem. An addiction. For the past month or so I have been completely and totally hooked on ‘True Blood’. I watched the first couple of episodes from the series, currently being shown on Channel 4, and (I hope you'll pardon the pun as there are probably worse on the way) I have been well and truly sucked in. I have found myself compelled to watch two or three episodes every night, hungry for more sustenance and never quite getting enough.
If you’re so far blissfully unaware of its existence, ‘True Blood’ is a vampire based drama series from ‘Six Feet Under’'s Alan Ball - hardly an original concept, especially in today’s ‘Twilight’ obsessed tween society. Even before Edward Cullen came along looking like he might burst into tears at any given moment, there has been a heightened taste for vampire drama since Bram Stoker put pen to paper. ‘True Blood’ is definitely not a teen drama though, and makes Twilight and its slightly chromosome deficient TV brother ‘The Vampire Diaries’ look adolescent and awkward. ‘True Blood’ has bite. There is a lot of blood and guts, some pretty graphic and at times downright violent sex (wait for the brutal moment where one vampire breaks another's neck while going at it, twisting her head 180 degrees so he doesn't have to see her still conscious face), drug references, gritty portrayals of racism and homophobia, and some pretty clever allegories that tie the whole plot together nicely. Where ‘True Blood’ differs from previous vampire dramas is the idea that vampire society is not necessarily a shadowy underground network keeping itself hidden from humans and their everyday lives. As True Blood begins to unfold it has been two years since the vampires “came out of the coffin” and officially revealed their existence to mankind, appealing for equal rights with humans since the recent development of synthetic “Tru Blood” has allowed them to live without snacking on their human neighbours.
The ensuing political and social tension between human society and the vampires lends itself easily to allegory, throwing up parallels with the plight of many minority groups in our own society; the gay rights movement is referenced in phrases such as “God hates fangs”. Throw some religious fanaticism into the mix, as well as some megalomania on both sides, and there’s a lot of material to work with. On top of this, vampire blood is an extremely powerful and addictive drug to humans and ‘True Blood’ deals quite uncompromisingly with its portrayal of drug use, addiction and alcoholism. There’s a constant theme comparing the animalistic nature inherent within humans with the outwardly animalistic vampire race, and the question of how much humanity they have capacity for. With its portrayal of vampires, ‘True Blood’ makes us think a little more deeply about our own nature and our own humanity.
The series follows the relationship between the vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer - who cropped up briefly as a bloodsucker in the 1998 UK drama ‘Ultraviolet’) and the slightly supernatural Sookie Stackhouse (the delicious Anna Paquin), who has always been a little different in her own way, having been dealing with the ability to hear the thoughts of others her whole life. After saving each other’s lives at the outset, the two form a partnership that is not easily accepted by the sleepy town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. While the two take on troubles from human and vampire society alike head first, the supporting cast of Sookie’s friends and relatives provide plenty of diversion: her hard-nosed best friend Tara and her alcoholic mother, Sookie’s dim-witted, easily led sex-machine brother Jason, and a shapeshifting bar-owner boss Sam Merlotte, there is plenty to keep you occupied and thirsty for more. As the show goes on we meet more and more supernatural beings, from werewolves to witches, but it never really seems too tacky in the way that TV with paranormal subject matter tends to. The vampires we encounter - aggressively brooding tracksuit-clad Eric Northman, lesbian lady of leisure Queen Sophie Ann, and mad-as-a-box-of-frogs Franklin - do not conform to the existing bloodsucker stereotypes, showing other TV dramas how to do it with style, raising an eyebrow and often poking fun at conventional TV and film vampire portrayal.
Series 2 is currently showing on Channel 4 and you can catch up with the last episode on 4OD. At the moment, mysterious newcomer Maryann Forester is affecting the whole town like one big disco-biscuit inducing dancing, shagging, late night partying and really really massive pupils. Sookie has not all that surprisingly been mauled by a mystery creature after foolishly walking home alone down deserted country roads following a lovers’ tiff. Newly “made” vampire Jessica is coming to terms with adolescence and vampirism in one hard to handle bundle, and the not so deep-thinking Jason has found himself drawn to a fiercely anti-vampire Christian sect complete with its own fang-hating songs and members only super cool “honesty ring”.