Everything Alan Ball touches turn to gold: American Beauty, Six Feet Under and now True Blood – his television follow up. Produced for HBO, it’s already got street cred and industry awards. This here is the hot new thang.
Set just a few years into the future there are vampires amongst us. But since the widespread availability of synthetic blood, they no longer need to devour humans. Instead they fight for respectability and advocate acceptance. Vampires suffer prejudice, simply for being different. Are you getting the metaphors here?
Based on the book The Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris, the setting is the small town of Bon Temps in deepest, darkest Louisiana. Visually, this small town is a southern sister to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Small road diners, dilapidated shacks, savannah trees and night critters abound. The ‘indie’ opening credits feature everything from Baptist revival meetings to the Ku Klux Klan with a rockin’ bluegrass theme. Ball’s world is gothic working class – raw and steamy.
Front and centre of the story is Sookie (Anna Paquin), a cafe waitress who has telepathic abilities. Serving unfriendly customers who are always longing to grope her is a daily chore. Working alongside her are bartender Tara (Rutina Wesley) and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), a gay cook who turns tricks for money.
When Sookie meets Bill (Stephen Moyer), a handsome 173-year-old vampire, she is drawn to his magnetism and intrigued by the fact she cannot hear his thoughts. These two misfits are a match made outside heaven. “You can never find a human man you can be yourself with,” he insists.
Australian Ryan Kwanten (Home & Away, Summerland) plays Sookie’s brother Jason, a road worker and horny bad boy who finds himself as the number one suspect in a murder case. Someone is killing young women and they’re usually his recent conquests. With a ripped bod and rabid naked scenes, Kwanten is sex on a stick.
Ball marks his territory slowly in True Blood. This is a grand melodrama built on character, concepts and tone. Bubbling beneath the surface is a sexual energy and an unsettling feeling that horror lurks around every corner. The performances are superb, with Paquin shifting from strong and sexy to vulnerable with consummate ease.
Previously, Alan Ball has proven he is prepared to defy conventions with his storytelling. Methinks he’s just warming up here.
True Blood premieres 8:30pm Tuesday February 10 on Showcase