Wednesday, June 12, 2013

'True Blood' returns Sunday -- but is it still entertainment?

Pretending that HBO’s ‘True Blood’ is anything more than trashy fun at this point would be a misnomer.

The show started out in the first season with a chance to be great – but it quickly devolved into something that could never be considered “quality” television.

Still, there were flashes of greatness in the earlier seasons. The past two or three seasons, though, can only be described as a guilty pleasure.

The acting is still okay – and Anna Paquin still embodies Sookie with a sense of charm that is almost infectious – but the storylines are all over the place.

While the first season of the show stuck relatively closely to Charlaine Harris’ first book in the series, things shifted pretty quickly after that.

What’s interesting about the series – which returns for its sixth season Sunday – is that I find myself liking certain characters in the television series more than their book counterparts. Of course, the reverse is also true, too.

For example, I absolutely love Ryan Kwanten’s Jason on the show – and I spent a lot of my time hating him in the books. In Kwanten’s capable hands, Jason is a lovable goof that tries really hard --  while his book counterpart was a hound dog with a mean streak.

Rutina Wesley’s Tara is another character I love on the show but am indifferent to in the books. Of course, show Tara is so different from book Tara they’re essentially different characters.

On the flip side, I much prefer book Bill to Stephen Moyer’s brooding show Bill. I guess it’s a trade-off.

Last season wasn’t the best season – by any stretch of the imagination – but I preferred it to the previous season (season four). I understand that the show runners were hampered by Paquin’s real life pregnancy (which resulted in her giving birth to twins prematurely).

That being said, I think the show is making the same mistake the books did – and no, I’m not talking about over-propping the character of Eric (who I enjoy on the show much more than I did in the books). I’m talking about the focus on Sookie’s fairy powers.

Harris started to lose her way in the books when she spent too much time obsessing about Sookie’s fairy roots – and the show is having that problem, too.

The magic of Sookie is that she’s a down home girl with down home dreams. The constant fairy
frenzy detracts from the central likeability of the character.

The other problem with ‘True Blood’, at least in my opinion, is that the cast is too big (that’s my same complaint for ‘Game of Thrones’).

I don’t think you need the constant secondary storylines going on – Alcide’s story from the second half of last season would be a prime example. Keep everyone in the main narrative as much as possible.

Also, I don’t think that separate stories need to be set up for Sam, Lafayette and (especially) Terry and Arlene every season. Some of those stories have been terrible – including Terry’s fight with the Balrog.

‘True Blood’ is long past the days where it was considered high quality television. It can still be entertaining, though. The key is not to force things.

What do you think? Is there still hope for ‘True Blood’?


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