Dexter ages well, True Blood not so much
It's interesting how some shows seem to age gracefully and know to bow out at the right moment. Some don't.
Dexter, which returned last week (SoHo, Mondays at 8.30pm), is a show entering its eighth season - an eighth and final season which seems set to bring the story of Dexter Morgan, played brilliantly for nearly a decade by Michael C Hall, to a bloody conclusion. The first two episodes of the new season have been stunning.
By contrast, True Blood - which returned to Prime last Friday at 9.30pm - is a bloody mess, both literally and figuratively. And as I watched vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) emerge from a puddle of blood as the resurrected form of vamp-goddess Lilith (nickname: Billith, of course), I wondered just what on earth I was still watching it for.
(Warning: spoilers from new seasons of both Dexter and True Blood follow.)
The biggest difference between the two is that of focus and scope. Dexter has always been focused on its lead character; almost everything that happens on the show is as a result of, or as an extension of, something that Dexter has done.
In addition, the most memorable moments of the show have been those that dealt with Dexter's most intimate relationships - with his son, his sister, his former wife, and especially with his father, from whom he learned the code by which he operates. It might make the show a little predictable, and we might know more about Dexter than we ever needed to know about any character, but it's always an interesting hour.
This season has started the same way, drilling into Dexter's psyche by introducing Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling), a woman who claims to have invented Harry's code - it's a great twist for this final season, though the creepy surrogate-mother angle introduced last night made my skin crawl - and laying waste to his relationship with Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) in the wake of LaGuerta's death last season.
Meanwhile, True Blood has aged like whatever the opposite of fine wine is. Bear Grylls' drink of choice? Used hot dog water? Let's go with that: True Blood has aged like used hot dog water.
For the first few minutes of last Friday's premiere, I was actually excited: all the main characters - except Billith and Sam - were cruising around in the same car, arguing about what to do next, and fringe characters like Andy Bellefleur and Alcide Horveaux were missing in action entirely.
Then we cut to an ad break, and when we came back Andy had half a dozen fairy babies, Alcide was getting into a ménage-a-trois with a pair of wolvettes, and the main gang were going their separate ways. My heart dropped. Clearly we're headed for another season featuring too many storylines and too much time spent on characters I stopped caring about two seasons ago. Most can't carry stretches of a single episode, let alone a season.
I find it interesting, though, that I'm more excited for an eighth season of Dexter than for a sixth season of True Blood. I think a lot of that is to do with how the shows have aged over time; Dexter has never been at the level of a Sopranos (or even a Justified), but I've always thought it was a good show, an entertaining hour.
But True Blood just seems to get worse and worse every year. I have to say, for the first time, I'm not really all that interested in watching a new episode - let alone nine more new episodes to round out the season - of the best vampire show on television. I think I'd rather drink a cup of used hot dog water.
What do you think: has Dexter aged well? Has True Blood aged badly? Are you excited for new seasons of either show? And how do you think the final season of Dexter is going to pan out?