When you came in the air went out.
And every shadow filled up with doubt.
I don't know who you think you are,
But before the night is through,
I wanna do bad things with you.
After HBO's mega-successful series Sopranos and Sex in the City
finished their runs, the Hollywood
ripe with speculation as to whether or not the premium cable station
up with another hit. (Which I considered
patently absurd. HBO has the highest
good to bad show ratio of any station, cable or broadcast, and they
some great shows on like Curb Your
Enthusiasm. But I digress...) With every miss (*cough* John
from Cincinnati *cough*) there was someone willing to
pronounce the network dead and devoid of ideas.
But just the year after Sopranos ended the station released a
interesting look at a world where vampires are real:
Blood. Based of the book "Dead Until
Dark" by Charlaine Harris, this series isn't so much about vampires
as how their presence would affect small town America. With an all-star cast playing an assortment
of wonderfully odd characters, HBO has another hit on its hands.
Due to the invention of artificial blood, vampires have now
come 'out of the coffin' and revealed their existence to humanity. Since they no longer need to feed on humans,
they want to be productive members of society... or so they say.
The politics surrounding vampires doesn't really concern
Sookie Stackhouse however. Being a
waitress at a restaurant/bar in the small town of Bon
she's never even seen a vampire. On top
of that she has problems of her own including the fact that she's a 25
virgin who's never had a boyfriend.
That's because Sookie has a special ability:
she can hear other people's thoughts, whether
she wants to or not. It's hard for her
to get past the first date when she knows the boy across the table from
wondering how far he'll get that night.
That changes when Bill walks into the restaurant one
evening. A ruggedly handsome and extremely
genteel man who is new to town, Bill is the one person who Sookie can't
'hear'. That's because he's a vampire,
'killed' during the civil war he's come to reclaim his family's house
abandoned since his last living relative passed away with no heirs.
Sookie soon takes a liking to Bill, and he to her, much to
the astonishment of everyone in town.
They always thought she was strange, but to be dating a vampire? That's just not right. The
person who is most vocal in his distain
is Sookie's boss, Sam, a man who holds a torch for Sookie but has a
himself. Others who have a problem with
Sookie's love interest include her older brother Jason, a womanizing
who is not the brightest bulb on the tree, and her best friend Tara, an
aggressive black woman who can't seem to hold on to a job or a friend. In fact the only one who seems to like Bill
is Sookie's grandmother, who is excited to meet someone who actually
the civil war.
Things get more complicated for Sookie and the residents of
Bon Temps when a woman is killed. Jason
was the last person who was with her, she even taped them having sex,
the immediate suspect. When more women
start to turn up dead, all with vampire bite marks on their bodies and
have slept with Jason things start to get murky, and Sookie starts to
that she'll be next.
This show, based on a series of books, works very well for a
variety of reasons. First of all it's
not a who dunit or monster series, but an interesting drama. The vampires in the series aren't the focus,
they're just something that separates this world from our own. The problems that vampires have (quite
analogous to gay rights currently in the US,) and their real agenda,
more incidental background material than the driving force of the show. The reason you'll want to go on to the next
episode isn't to find out who's killing the 'fang bangers' but to
revisit the wonderfully
eclectic and eccentric characters that populate the show.
They're all very interesting and most of them
have secrets. Just about every male in
the show, from the muscular but dim Jason, to sexy vampire Bill and
mysterious bar owner Bill, is a "bad boy" in one way or another, not to
good looking. That's a pair of facts
that my wife assures me doesn't hurt the show at all.
The fact that vampires and mind readers are real also opens
up a lot of possibilities. When Tara's alcoholic mother says that there's a
in her, who are we to say that there isn't?
Could werewolves exist? What
about ghosts? Could it be a supernatural
entitiy that is killing all the women Jason sleeps with?
Be warned however - there is a lot of sex in this show.
Originally cablecast on HBO, there is full
frontal nudity and seeing women's breasts is not uncommon.
Which brings me to the only real problem I
have with the series... vampires and sex.
Vampires are dead. It's clearly
stated that they don't breath and don't eat food. They
can't even eat food, even for just the
enjoyment of it. They do have the desire
to drink blood, which is both a method of procreation and sustenance
them. So why in the world would they
want to have sex? There's no
imperative that creates a sex drive as with humans and they don't do
else (like drinking alcohol) simply for the physical pleasure it
creates. Yet once character claims she was
for sex by a vampire, and others keep human groupies around for feeding
purposes and as sex toys. The first I
can understand, but the second? Okay, I
admit I'm thinking about this a little too much, but the more you do,
it makes sense.
Even with this flaw, the show is very sexy. Lead
Anna Paquin (X-men movies, Almost Famous) was a
choice. She's attractive, but not a
bombshell-beauty knockout. She looks
like someone you would find waiting tables at a bar in Louisiana.
The gap between her top front teeth and other slight
the show seem real. She has a lot of
screen presence and the chemistry with co-star Stephen Moyer (who also
in the excellent BBC vampires TV show Ultraviolet)
really makes the show steam during their romantic scenes.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The twelve episodes that make up this first season are
presented on five Blu-ray discs.
Unfortunately they're housed in one of those fold-out books. You know, the ones where you have to have
four feet of free table space to unravel the cardboard so you can
disc you want. Most studios have gone to
double thinpaks by now, and I wish HBO had followed.
The 1.78:1 AVC encoded image looks very good, but it isn't
quite reference quality. The first thing
that viewers notice is the nice detail.
As a matter of fact, that increased definition works against the
a couple of places, mainly when someone is wielding a wound that is
made with a
prosthetic makeup appliance. These
tended to less realistic than they would have in SD, Sookie's black eye
the end of the season is a good example.
The earthy palate that was used for the show was reproduced well
too. The show captures all of the ambiance
living in Louisiana
and just watching some scenes will make you feel hot and humid. The swamps were filled with bright green
foliage and brown rotting vegetation, the flesh tones are great, and
the red blood
is vivid and impressive. Lines were
generally tights and even low-light situations had a good amount of
detail. The only problems I saw was that
some scenes were a tad on the soft side and there was a bit too much
some places for my tastes.
Presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, the
show sounds absolutely wonderful. From
the first notes of the opening song the full-ranged audio does a
job of accenting the emotions of scenes without ever becoming intrusive
overbearing. The full soundstage is used
with ambient noises coming from all corners of the room and the result
effective. This doesn't only apply to
the action sequences, but to the quieter moments too.
The soft sounds of a graveyard at night or
the gentle noises you hear while two people are fishing on a lake do a
draw the viewer into the show. This is a
great sounding set that I couldn't find any fault with.
Here's a riddle: When
does a Blu-ray set that doesn't skimp on high-quality bonus features
marks? Answer: When
it literally takes HOURS to access
them. There are some great things hidden
in this set: mock commercials for an
artificial blood drink aimed at vampires, Vampire Rights public service
announcements, background on how some of the characters were turned
vampires, and comments on some of the residents of Bon Temps by
male-prostitute drug dealer in the show, and much more.
The problem is that these are only accessed
by using the Picture-in-Picture "enhanced viewing" mode while watching
shows. If you don't have a player
capable of displaying Picture-in-Picture (as many early stand-alone
can't), you're out of luck. Even if you
can access these, it's very distracting if you're watching the shows
first time, as I was. It's much more
enjoyable to see the shows 'clean' and then go back and catch the
extras. Which brings me to another flaw...
enough of them. It's easy to go ten
minutes without getting a pop-up comment or feature, and each episode
a few such moments. If they had made
these videos accessible from the extras menu it would have been a great
but as it is these are so hard to access that it's nearly the same as
weren't include at all.
There are also six commentary tracks with various members of
the cast and crew.
Disappointing extras aside, this is a nice set. The
audio is outstanding and the picture is
very good. The series is just hitting
its stride too. Placed in a unique
world, populated with interesting characters and sprinkled with
twists, the show is easy to get hooked on.
I'm just glad that it wasn't running on Fox or it would have
cancelled half way through. Though there
is a lot of sex, it's also a very sexy show and well worth checking out. Highly
images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not
represent the image quality on the disc.