Sorry, fang enthusiasts: HBO announced yesterday that its long-running monster-porn series True Blood woiuld be ending after next season, leaving a massive void in werewolf-on-fairy action. Personally, I’d officially stopped watching True Blood earlier this past season when I realized I had zero interest in anything happening on the show anymore (the casting of Rutger Hauer is always a harbinger of the end, to be certain); but apparently there’s still enough lingering interest in the series to finish it out with a seventh season.
What happened with True Blood is tough to pin down. Some might argue the show is still as good as it’s ever been (you’re wrong, I’m sorry), some might point to certain plot developments as trapdoors which brought True Blood down further (fairies, fire-revenge demons, Christopher Meloni) and some might just admit the show ran out of steam. After all, there’s only so much mixing and matching the show can do with its stable of characters — which include (but are not limited to) such general figures as “Vampire” (Eric, Pam, Tara, Bill, Jessica) “Werewolf” (Alcide, Alcide’s dirty friends), “Shifter” (Sam, Luna, Emma, Tommy), “Humorous Human Comic Relief” (Arlene, Andy Bellefleur), “Threatening Authority Figure” (Russell Edgington, Marnie Stonebrook, Truman Burrell, Lillith) and “Sassy Warlock” (Lafayette). The novelty has worn off somehow. Perhaps the Twilight-ization of America jaded us to the genre, or maybe both we and showrunner Alan Ball grew tired of the Bon Temps crew.
True Blood, in its infancy, was fun and had promise: perky Louisiana waitress Sookie Stackhouse both fights with and falls in love with vampires in her bayou town. The gothic atmosphere was peppered with humor, action and relatable characters — even nice-guy vampire Bill Compton, who wooed the heroine with charm and wit while protecting her from those who would do her harm. Who couldn’t root for these crazy kids?
Plus, True Blood had two other things going for it: one, the Twilight saga, already famous in book form, was about to hit theaters and it had already begun to build up steam; two, it was headed up by showrunner Alan Ball, who’d already wrapped a massive HBO hit with the dark mortuary dramedy Six Feet Under three years before. Also, I have always imagined the pitch meeting to have sounded something like this:
HBO EXECUTIVE: We have to be honest, Alan, we like this idea, but we’re not sure there’s enough graphic sex in it. Could you add in some more graphic sex? You know, like everybody having graphic sex all the time? We here at HBO are kind of on a graphic sex kick right now.
HBO EXECUTIVE: Sold.
So here was born the plucky True Blood and its loveable heroine, played by Anna Paquin. The first season played out like a whodunnit, with dreamy vampire hero Bill Compton risking his life for his human girlfriend (bet you didn’t think at that time, two months before Twilight, that you’d get tired of that fresh new convention). Numbers were good enough for a second season which introduced the charismatic Maryann Forrester, who turned out to be a Greek enchantress or something, moving into Bon Temps and getting everyone to make out. Everyone was happy! Vampire Mania had only begun to grasp the country, viewers had something to replace The Sopranos and HBO had a new hit show with a lot of HBO-brand sexy sex.
Season three saw Sookie teaming up with an oft-shirtless werewolf to rescue Bill from a vampire king, season 4 introduced a coven of witches into the mix and season five brought us Law & Order’s Christopher Meloni as the head of “The Vampire Authority,” which worshipped a powerful lady-vampire named Lillith who would come back to life and live inside Bill Compton’s body in season six. Oh, and also Sookie’s a fairy.
If this all sounds very ridiculous, I urge you to realize that it all pretty much was very ridiculous. If you think about True Blood in its basic plot terms, it doesn’t particularly sound like Downtown Abbey. For a long time, True Blood was that new show that you were a little embarrassed to say you were too into, but you never missed an episode. It was melodramatic and overplayed, smoldering and soapy. It was both a weird indictment on the closed-mindedness of the South and a positive endorsement for overcoming the differences between one another. And it was gory. And there was lots of sex.
I don’t know about you, but for me there were always certain things that bugged me about True Blood. I’d never actually sat down and tried to list them before today, because I’d never had any need to do so. But since we’re celebrating the drama’s passing, maybe now’s the time to note them.
-It was very difficult to rationalize Jason Stackhouse breaking up Hoyt and Jessica. I always imagine that Ball and his fellow showrunners somehow thought that everyone wanted Jason and Jessica to end up together, but I never did. Instead, I felt sorry for Hoyt — one of the few non-monsters and normal, adjusted people on the show — as Jason usurped his best friend, then had Jessica glamour him on his way out of town to forget everything (one of True Blood’s most emotional scenes). What, we were just supposed to all cheer that Jason and Jessica could finally be together? Nah. Sorry. Still felt bad for poor ol’ Hoyt. It’s too bad the feelings of Hoyt Fortenberry were sloughed off so casually just because the True Blood writers needed more excuses to have “naked Jason covers his junk with only a pillow” scenes.
-Fairy Circus Land. I could deal with — though it was silly — the fact that Sookie was a fairy, but did we really need recurring scenes of fairy nightclubs and garden parties? It all just seemed like another excuse to get some more nearly-nude grinding into the show, and everyone there seemed kind of douchey anyway. I get that Ball and company needed a headquarters to impart fairy stuff to Sookie, but making “Fairy World” some sort of “beautiful people” club scene always seemed kinda dumb, didn’t it?
-Tara. Seriously. Just Tara. Was there any less likeable character on the show than Tara? Being from the South, I think we can all agree that accent was terrible. She dated “Eggs” (pronounced “Ay-uggs”),hooked up with and killed Franklin (oh, don’t even get me started on Franklin) and then disappeared to become a lesbian MMA fighter. Of course. Ugh. Tara.
-Terry Vs. the Fire Monster. The morality-play/side-story of Terry Bellefleur had zero bearing on the True Blood bible aside from giving poor Terry something to do, which was nice of Ball to do but ultimately unnecessary. Quiet war vet Terry discovered his transgressions as a soldier in Iraq had repercussions in the form of a curse that sent a monster made of fire after him and his platoon members. That old gag, right? The entire storyline felt out of place, though it did give Terry and Arlene some screen time. And was this before or after Terry and Arlene found out the ghost of a killer was possessing one of their children? Let’s just move on, shall we?
-“Amnesia Eric.” At some point, the storyline had to allow Eric and Sookie to hook up. After all, it’s a general rule of True Blood that if two people are both attractive they’ll eventually need to get it on. But wait — although Sookie and Eric are both attractive, they don’t like each other! This is just awful. How are we going to hurdle this? Luckily, Marnie the Witch’s vampire curse wiped Eric Northman’s memory clean just long enough to give the audience three episodes of Sookie and Eric knocking boots. Whew! Problem solved!
-Andy and his fairy kids. Look, I like Andy Bellefleur. He was one of my favorite characters on the show. But to saddle him with fairy children was a reach. HE’s a decorated police officer. But THEY’re fairies aging at a rapid pace! Tune in to Fairy Dad this fall on ABC Family! No thanks. (Or perhaps I should say “Thanks, Jessica.”)
-Werewolves and shifters were soooo season three. Sam had his moment in the sun when his hillbilly brother Tommy showed up. Sookie needed Alcide and the werewolves to help storm the vampire compound. Other than this, none of these characters really needed any further screen time. I can’t be the only one who didn’t completely care a.) who was running Alcide’s “pack” or b.) whether Sam got custody of child/dog Luna, am I? We won’t even bother with Sam’s inexplicably becoming the mayor. I’m sure he’s immensely qualified, half-running a bar while he turns into an owl in the forest and all.
In the end, we can all complain all day that True Blood isn’t as good as it used to be, but I posit to you that maybe — just maybe — True Blood wasn’t ever that good to begin with. We just watched it like it was. After all, just because something’s on HBO on Sunday night doesn’t make it good. Carnivale was a failure from the beginning. Family Tree, as much as I hate to say it because I love Christopher Guest, just never really clicked completely. And don’t even get me started on Girls, or I guarantee I’ll get into a fight with someone and ruin your birthday party. Let’s call True Blood what it was: an entertaining distraction, a gothic soap opera, a sexy-time Sunday night diversion. It’s okay. You can say it. It will free you. To continue to pretend it was more than this makes less sense than Jason Stackhouse fathering a commune of werepanthers — and the less said about that, the better.
RIP, True Blood. 2008-2014