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BUFFY-Loving Hercules Drinks In The New HBO Vampire Series From SIX FEET UNDER Creator Alan Ball: TRUE BLOOD!!

I am – Hercules!!
True Blood 1.1 FAQ What’s it called? “Strange Love.” Who’s responsible? Alan Ball, screenwriter of “American Beauty” and creator of “Six Feet Under,” directs from his own teleplay. The series is based on a series of novels by Charlaine Harris. Is it as good as “Six Feet Under”? Five “True Blood” episodes in, I’m saying not yet. What’s it about? A tiny twentysomething blonde with superpowers falls for a hunky 170-year-old vampire. How does her watcher feel about that? Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), who makes her living in Bon Temps, Louisiana’s Hooters-y Merlotte's Bar & Grill, has no watcher. She is not a vampire-slayer. She’s a vampire saver. Sookie the Vampire Saver? Vampires aren’t evil? In the universe of “True Blood,” some are and some aren’t, just like the non-vampires. What are Sookie’s superpowers? Paquin, no stranger to X-Men, plays a girl with Jean Grey superpowers: She’s telepath and, as best I can tell, capable of telekinesis. (Oddly, Sookie seems unaware of her telekinetic ability, which turns up in the first two episodes, but stays offscreen for the next three.) If she’s not a vampire slayer, why is there a girl with superpowers in a vampire show? Five episodes in, there’s no clear reason. We do learn that because vampires are dead and emit no brainwaves, Sookie cannot read their minds. Are there a lot of vampires in the “True Blood” universe? We discover over the course of the series that Louisiana is fairly teeming with them. Are there a lot of superpowered non-vampires in the “True Blood” universe? In the first five episodes, Sookie is the only one we meet. So I guess the series is similar to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in this respect. How are the “True Blood” vampires similar to the “Buffy” ones? They “live” for centuries. They’re superstrong. Their hearts don’t beat. They drink blood. They sport retractable fangs. They don’t fly or turn into animals. Sunlight kills them. How else do the “True Blood” vampires differ from the “Buffy” ones? 1) Everybody in the “True Blood” universe knows vampires are real; the bloodsuckers even have advocates who argue against vampire-discrimination on TV talk shows. They recently started outing themselves following a Japanese firm’s invention of artificial blood, marketed to vampires as a soft drink bearing the brand “Tru Blood.” 2) The “True Blood” vampires all seem to be able to use Jedi-mind-trick like hypnosis to make any human (except Sookie) do whatever they want. 3) The blood inside “True Blood” vampires is a valuable, addictive and illegal narcotic with healing properties. If you can get hold of an adult vampire and drain him, the street value of his blood is around $10,000. 4) The “True Blood” vampires don’t fear the crucifix, and can handle crosses without sustaining injury. They do, however, seem to be vulnerable to silver chains. 5) The “True Blood” vampires don’t have retractable demon-foreheads. Is there a big bad? There’s a multi-episode (season-long?) story arc about a series of murders in Bon Temps. Some townsfolk, naturally, suspect vampires, though it’s more likely the work of anti-vamp forces. This is an HBO show! And an Alan Ball show! Where’s all the gay stuff? Vampirism is used, not altogether successfully, as a metaphor for homosexuality. And Sookie’s restaurant employs Lafayette, a vulgar, lecherous and flamboyant non-vampire cook who makes no secret of his orientation. What’s good? The teaser, featuring a cameo by Bill Maher, effectively sets up the “True Blood” universe. Someone videotapes from truly unsettling vampire sex. Sookie’s high-maintenance best friend Tara and Sookie’s half-wit brother are both drawn broadly but earn solid laughs. So does Merlotte's randy cook, whose entreaties toward a fat customer in bib overalls are a highlight. Paquin looks plenty hot, whether she’s sunning in her bikini or dashing about in her Hooters-y uniform. What’s not so good? If I could read minds as efficiently as Sookie, I believe I would hop a bus to Quantico and earn a lot more than $9 an hour consulting for the FBI. Some of the dialogue (perhaps taken from the book?) is surprisingly graceless for a Ball project, and Sookie finds way too hilarious the idea that a vampire could be named “Bill.” There are pacing issues. The mind-reading sequences are awkwardly directed. And there are questions. Why is Sookie seemingly oblivious to the telekinesis that gets her out of jams? If Sookie can’t avoid reading minds, how can she not know her handsome boss Sam is in love with her? After he leaves Tara in charge of the bar, why does it take Sam the better part of an hour to find Sookie in his own smallish parking lot? If vampires can hypnotize people into doing anything, why is Vampire Bill’s safety so easily compromised in the first episode? Reviews are mixed: Time Magazine says:
… while writerly honor forbids me to use a "suck" or "bite" joke, the early episodes of True Blood are, shall we say, drained of interest. … Ball's characters, living and dead, are caricatures. He once said the only meddling HBO ever did on SFU was to ask him to make it less conventional, and he could have used that kind of intervention this time. …
The Wall Street Journal says:
… a campy attempt at Southern Gothic that too often passes over the truly macabre or grotesque for gratuitous sex and violence. Mr. Ball is clearly trying to lighten the mood and reach a younger audience. But his new characters lack the depth and complexity -- if not the humanity -- of the darkly comic Fisher family from "Six Feet Under." … "True Blood" is supposed to be a sexy, easy-to-swallow mystery, but too often it ends up leaving a bad taste in one's mouth.
Entertainment Weekly gives it an “C” and says:
… Ball has never seen a comic-dramatic premise he can't flatten with leaden metaphors. He pumps up a tedious subplot about vampires campaigning on TV for antidiscrimination laws. And he makes so many heavy-handed comparisons between vampires and homosexuals that you wonder if he's really never seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Lost Boys. …
USA Today gives it three and a half stars (out of four) and says:
… Sexy, witty and unabashedly peculiar … Ball is a man of many talents, but subtlety does not appear to be one of them, and viewers should keep that in mind. Many of the twists on the vampire minority metaphor are clever — a church billboard reads "God Hates Fangs" — but you do wish Ball would hammer his points home with a slightly smaller hammer. Even so, for a network that has lost its way of late in series, Blood is a much-needed infusion of new, well, blood. Drink up.
TV Guide gives it a nine (out of 10) says:
… Graphically sexy and scary, and often wildly funny …
The New York Times says:
… The tale gets more engrossing as it goes along, but the first five episodes, at least, don’t quite live up to the fierce score and the amazing, hallucinatory opening montage. …
The Los Angeles Times says:
… a heavy-handed political fable … Borrowing heavily from many genres, "True Blood" aspires to transcend them all but instead quickly deposits the viewer waist-deep in a literal and figurative swamp. …
The Chicago Tribune says:
… doesn't seem quite as steamy as it should be. Not a bad show, just not the home run HBO needs. …
The Washington Post says:
… isn't meant to be an exercise in good taste. Just a romp and a wallow -- and a bloody good one. …
The San Francisco Chronicle says:
… Both Paquin and [Stephen] Moyer do well here. And "True Blood" is fleshed out with other interesting characters getting to spout well-written lines. But at times the whole thing seems silly - it's often a default reaction when portraying vampires - and there's still the issue of tone: Will it settle or will the disparate mix continue to clash? At this point, "True Blood" appears to be a creative experiment. Ball should at least be given the chance to prove further whether he can slay viewers with his vision.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:
… lands squarely in the B+/A- realm inhabited by HBO's underrated polygamy drama, "Big Love." Like "Big Love," "True Blood" entertains without moody navel-gazing. …
The Boston Herald says:
… Most viewers will find the slow pace bewildering and the attempts to establish atmosphere mystifying. … Not quite a parody and not quite a supernatural thriller, “True Blood” will probably just leave you cold.
The Boston Globe says:
… You won't be drawn to "True Blood" if you don't like a heightened, almost cartoonish atmosphere. Paquin, giggly but calmly assertive, is something of an acquired taste as Sookie. To me, her overdone Southern accent has a comic emphasis, in the same way Kyra Sedgwick speaks with almost campy delight in "The Closer." I kept imagining Amy Poehler from "Saturday Night Live" mocking Paquin's drawl, but that never detracted from my enjoyment. Alas, Moyer, a Brit, has less luck with his accent, as well as with his characterization. He makes Bill too dreamily ethereal, and I hope his performance grows more vivid and grounded with time. If we're going to be emotionally engaged by this couple, in the way we were by Rachel Griffiths and Peter Krause in "Six Feet Under," we need to see him as more than a vague specter. There isn't enough Buffy-Angel charge between the pair, yet. …
Variety says:
… while the show is a trifle hokey, its soapy elements, gothic atmosphere and cliffhanger endings -- coupled with Anna Paquin’s knockout performance -- do reel viewers in, laying the groundwork for what may be the cultish, undemanding romp HBO needs to inject much-needed life into its lineup. …
The Hollywood Reporter says:
… with its constant profanity, gore and banal cruelty, will have a limited appeal. It might become appointment viewing for genre fans even as the rest of us steer clear of Bon Temps. …
9 p.m. Sunday. HBO.

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