Takes Balls to Bring Vampires to HBO

Reprinted below is an article that originally appeared on the blog TV on the INTERNETS on August 10, 2007.

I believe there are 2 main reasons why Vampire shows have been relatively nonexistent on television over the past few years. First, no one wants to be compared to Buffy. And second, a show about vampires in the age of new media is begging for an unoriginal blogger with a Typepad business account to make a “This Show Sucks (Blood)” headline.

Leave it to Alan Ball, however, to grab the undead by the incisors and bring True Blood to HBO come January 2008.

On its surface the show seems like standard HBO fare.

  • Take convoluted conceit (Drifters in the West : Vampires in the South)
  • Place flawed characters in a location that becomes a metaphor for existence (Mobsters in suburban New Jersey ; Struggling Rock Band in Manhattan)
  • Use hook of outlandish premise to lure audience into yet another character drama that ruminates on the themes of love, family and mortality

Based on the books by Charlaine Harris, True Blood has a lot to aspire to if the original author’s website is any indication of the quality of her work. Judging by her frequented message boards and fastidiously updated blog it would seem Charlaine Harris’ stories are less John Berendt and Faulkner than a healthy mix of Ann Rice and J.K. Rowling.

Even Ball admitted to the lighter tone planned for the series.

“The books are funny, scary, sexy, romantic, bizarre and really fun,” Ball said. “I couldn’t put them down. I will try to remain as true to the spirit of her book as possible.”

He continued,

“I was ready to do something a little lighter in tone than ‘Six Feet,”‘ Ball said. “Five years of staring into the abyss was enough.”

He wasn’t kidding about that lighter tone. Several of the writers slated to produce pieces for True Blood have backgrounds in sitcom and prepubescent sci-fi. Brian Buckner, for example, was nominated for 2 Emmys as a co-producer on Friends and later contributed to the ill-fated programs Joey and The Class. Raelle Tucker came from writing stints on Supernatural.

Things on the production end don’t seem that much more esteemed. Production manager Bill Johnson’s most notable credits are Executive Producing A Walk to Remember and acting as Unit Production Manager on Malibu’s Most Wanted. Checco Varese as cinematographer doesn’t look like he’ll bring much in terms of mind-blowing aesthetics, either, with his most outstanding achievement a collection of Dave Mathews Band videos.

It is HBO, however, the home of The Sopranos, Deadwood, Entourage, Six Feet Under and so many other productions that boast incomparable achievement in the field of Set and Art Design. True Blood’s one saving grace and harbinger for modest success seems to lie in Suzuki Ingerslev, whose art direction seems to be partially responsible for HBO’s reputation as not just TV.

Come January, however, we’ll see if HBO really can trump Buffy as the definitive small screen portrayal of Vampires. Or if, in the end, True Blood really will underwhelm and prompt millions of headlines across the blogosphere to claim True Blood Sucks (Alan) Balls.

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