True Blood succeeded in sucking in non-vampire fans

NATALIE BOCHENSKI
Last updated 05:00 07/09/2013
True Blood

INTRIGUING: A leaked photo of Vampire Eric on True Blood.

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OPINION: The news that True Blood will meet its True Death after a seventh season next year will have sent many fans into a quiet, contemplative mood.

They'll quietly contemplate those sweet, sweet memories of Alcide with no shirt on and Eric's marvellous wang reveal on top of that mountain in the season six finale. Talk about a cliffhanger.

But the end of True Blood represents more than just the loss of steaming hot man flesh from our screens.

OK, sure, it's mostly about the steaming hot man flesh. Or the steaming hot lady flesh, if that's your bent.

However, it's still worth examining the role the sexy supernatural drama played in HBO's all-conquering march to the front of TV's Second Golden Age.

True Blood premiered in 2008, just a year after HBO's flagship drama The Sopranos ended after seven series. 2008 also saw the end of The Wire after five seasons. With that, HBO's crime era took a breather (to be revived in 2010 with Boardwalk Empire), allowing space for some different ideas to flourish.

True Blood's creator was Alan Ball, who already had a deliciously morbid interest in death having spearheaded the sometime forgotten (but never by its fans) Six Feet Under. He developed the series after coming across Charlaine Harris' novels The Southern Vampire Mysteries.

In a way, True Blood was the heir to Dead-wood, the brilliant 2004-06 series that mixed high drama and epic history with moral ambiguity and superbly creative swearing.

Deadwood was about competing powers living outside the law in a foundling community; True Blood has been about competing powers living in a new world paradigm where vampires are "out of the coffin" and living alongside humans. Both were set against strange, often insular cultures - the Wild West and the Deep South.

Deadwood had its fair share of nudity and sex - something pioneered by HBO back in the days of Oz and yes, Sex and the City - but True Blood added a different element: high camp and trashiness.

Finally, we could enjoy a soap opera without feeling too guilty. True Blood hit on a sudsy blend of lust and horror that demanded ongoing viewing.

The show easily reeled in fans of vampire mythos, but its real credit lies in its appeal to non-vampire lovers. The kind of people who didn't get Dracula's self-loathing and hipster aesthetics, or were left cold by the delicate but showy throat-sucking antics of most vampires since. Even Buffy and Angel, both quality vampire shows, stepped around the issue of gore by having staked vampires turn to dust.

True Blood, on the other hand, revelled in the blood. It wasn't a good night unless someone ended up sticky. When a vampire met their True Death it was visceral and nasty. That complication also drove stories and relationships - how would you clean up after an explosion of black and red cruor in your basement? Just how outrageous would it be for crazy vampires to have sex on a bed drenched in blood?

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And thank goodness for True Blood making conversion to vampirism a complex moral question rather than a flippant attraction to the dark side - even 1000-year-old Eric had only had one progeny, Pam, before circumstances in season six led him to turn Willa.

The case could be argued that the resplendent bloodiness and shifting moralities explored in True Blood opened the door to a show like Game of Thrones.

True Blood changed, of course, over the years - Sookie went from being charmingly annoying to annoyingly annoying, Bill's southern charms were spellbound by the Authority and Eric went from being an actual bad guy to just our favourite bad boy.

It's occasionally lost its way - what the hell was up with those werepanthers in season three? - and let duller storylines have too much screentime (although in fairness, while the werewolves were dull, Alcide himself could be on screen much, much more), but that's the normal course for a show.

It's also worth noting that the female characters are as rounded and complex as the males, which is always welcome. Pam is totes badass, Tara has been sidelined a bit but she's fantastically stubborn and loyal, Jessica is conflicted about growing up vampire, Sookie is . . . well, OK, she's not that bad. Women have been the Big Bad as often as the fellas: think Maenad Maryann, Marnie the witch and saucy Salome. It also empowers female sexuality, rather than demean it: Violet's er, demands, of Jason Stackhouse in series six were an admirable example.

There'll be plots to tie up in season seven; primarily whether Bill and Sookie will get back together. Surely we must hear Bill huskily whisper "Sookie" one last time. Whoever they choose to kill off or give a happy ending to doesn't really matter - as long as they do it full of vigour and viscera, I'll be watching.

- Stuff

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