Monday, August 11, 2008


Last night I caught the latest HBO promo for TRUE BLOOD: a 10-minute piece called ALAN BALL: POV, with Ball discussing his TV and film work up to and including TRUE BLOOD, a ton of new TB footage, and interviews with TB's music supervisor and editor.

As someone who put TRUE BLOOD on my radar the moment HBO announced it as Ball's post-SIX FEET UNDER project, I of course ate this video right up. I've posted a 100 MB quicktime file for download if you're interested. I missed the first 15 seconds at the front -- but caught another promo, at the back end, for the next TB special: MAKING TRUE BLOOD. That begins airing on August 19.


Let me add here a piece of a fun MediaWeek review:

For the better part of a decade, HBO set the high-water mark for TV drama, drawing discerning viewers into its Sunday night carnival with a brace of excellent shows that were smart and funny and sophisticated, and one towering mob opera that more or less served as the Platonic Ideal for what television is supposed to offer but almost never does. (I will brook no argument here: The Sopranos was and is the greatest show in the history of the medium.) When presented with this seemingly endless succession of nonpareil storytelling, we automatically assume that the well will never run dry, even while a tiny voice tells us that great TV is an aberration, the exception rather than the norm.

Then, like the black screen that brought The Sopranos to its not-so ambiguous end, HBO’s remarkable hot streak ended. David Milch’s rushed John From Cincinnati was like some kind of salt-stained Beckett play, a stoned bouillabaisse of surfing, Gnosticism and Luke Perry that never went anywhere. (Although I do recall something about Al Bundy and a magical parakeet.)

And so what? The reason HBO served as an academy of excellent TV is that the people at the top subscribed to the auteur theory. They celebrated writers, they encouraged visionaries and they took risks. And when a network takes risks, the odds eventually catch up with it. But risk is what allows for greatness.

Which brings me to HBO’s latest salvo, the moody vampire drama True Blood, set to premiere Sept. 7. Starring Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress who gets all gaga over a dreamy bloodsucker, the show marks Alan Ball’s return to series television. That alone makes True Blood worth your consideration; after all, Ball was the presiding genius who brought Six Feet Under to life.

While I’ll never quite grasp why certain women find the vampire myth a source of eroticism––it’s a dead guy who sustains himself by lapping the blood from your torn carotid artery…What’s foxy about that?––True Blood is undeniably sexy. And bloody and profane and often very funny. While the locals are understandably averse to rubbing elbows with the new breed of undead (they sustain themselves on synthetic blood), Ball has said that the vamps aren’t meant to serve as a metaphor for any greater societal ill. Nor is vampirism a stand-in for sex. There’s plenty of the frenzied human variety on offer, because after all, it’s not TV, it’s HBO.

For all the rutting and violent exsanguination, at the heart of True Blood is an oddly sweet love story. For a 175-year-old ambulatory corpse, Vampire Bill is an awfully courtly gent. When he appears in Sookie’s yard the night after their first encounter, he’s no more threatening than any other swain who waits out in the starry dark for his crush to appear at the window. I half expected him to be holding a boom box over his head, blaring “In Your Eyes.”

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