HBO has yet another hit on its hands. The first season of True Blood was an excellent look at a world, particularly the deep south of the
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
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 and land, abandoned since his last living relative passed away with no heirs.
Sookie and Bill grow close, and in the first season they investigate a series of murders that has terrified the sleepy little town. Most people thought that Sookie's brother, Jason, was the killer, but it turns out they were wrong.
Naturally not everyone likes vampires, especially the Religious Right. That's examined in more detail this season as Jason Stackhouse becomes embroiled in a Christian sect, the Fellowship of the Sun. While he's traveled off to
It seems that a very ancient and powerful vampire, Godric, has disappeared. He's the Sherrif of a large area of the country, based in
The second major plot line this season revolves around Maryanne, the rich woman who showed up in Bon Temps last season and invited Sookie's best friend, Tara, to live with her rent free. It was a good tome for
After watching this series of shows, the first season looks like it was just a warm up. Now that the main characters and the world they live in have been established the writers can really get down to telling some good stories and exploring what they've created. (Well, they and Charlaine Harris who wrote the books the show is based on.) This world gets fleshed out a bit more, and it's quite an interesting world too.
One of the great things about this program is that it really isn't a monster show like Buffy. It's a drama that happens to have vampires, shape shifters, and telepaths in the cast. 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 and their real agenda are 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 killed Miss Jeanette and put her in the back of a policeman's car, 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 even the mysterious bar owner Bill is a "bad boy" in one way or another, not to mention good looking. That's a pair of facts that my wife assures me doesn't hurt the show at all.
The main problem I have with this season is the 'vampire rights' subplot that's obviously supposed to be an analogy for gay rights in the
Getting back to the show's good points: it is very sexy. Lead Anna Paquin (X-men movies, Almost Famous) was a perfect casting 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 imperfections make the show seem real. She has a lot of screen presence and the chemistry with co-star Stephen Moyer (who also appeared 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 select the 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 good. The first thing that viewers notice is the nice detail. As a matter of fact, that increased definition works against the show in 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 at the beginning 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 of living in
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 magnificent job of accenting the emotions of scenes without ever becoming intrusive or overbearing. The full soundstage is used with ambient noises coming from all corners of the room and the result is very 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 lot to draw the viewer into the show. This is a great sounding set that I couldn't find any fault with.
As with season one, this set has an extensive Picture-in-Picture "enhanced viewing" mode. While watching the shows (with a player equipped for P-in-P playback, many early stand-alone player's can't) viewers are treated to a plethora of in-character interviews with the people who populate the show, trivia, factoids, and even flashbacks to the first season. This can be distracting when watching an episode for the first time, so luckily most of the video content is accessible from the extras menu.
There are also six commentary tracks with various members of the cast and crew who talk about the show, the production, and their characters. While I didn't have time to listen to all of these, the ones I spot checked was entertaining and informative.
The fifth disc includes the bulk of the stand along featurettes. It starts out with Character Perspectives, over two hours of some of the in-character shorts that made up part of the P-in-P experience. These are fun, getting a chance to hear the characters speak about their thoughts and motivation without having to shoe-horn it into an episode, but it did go on for a bit too long. Near the end my eyes were glazing over. The in-characters pieces continue with Fellowship of the Sun: Reflections of Light where the Reverend Nelwin and his spouse give advice to members of his church, and The Vampire Report, a series of news reports.
This is a nice set. The show keeps getting better as it goes, and it was nice that they included the video P-in-P extras in a separate section in this collection. In addition to that the audio is outstanding and the picture is very good. Creepy, violent, tender, intriguing and very sexy, this show is well worth checking out. Highly Recommended.