A couple of nights ago I had the chance to watch the first two episodes of the new Alan Ball series for HBO TRU BLOOD. I had been seeing some advertising here and there for a drink called Tru Blood, but until all the bus stops in the South Bay converted their advertising to the show and HBO’s association with it I had no idea what it was.
First episode began and almost immediately I sensed I was not going to like it. The opening skit played out, two drunk teenage lovers stop at a gas station advertising they indeed sell a bottled blood beverage and get a good scare out of it.
Ho Hum. It felt… rehashed, as vampires almost always do.
The opening credits began and I was surprised to see Alan Ball’s name on it.
Now, Alan Ball is a name I have come to associate with great things. First there was AMERICAN BEAUTY (need I prattle on about how great this film is? I don’t think so) and then there was SIX FEET UNDER, a show from HBO’s heyday that I had developed somewhat of an obsession with for a time. The characters and their complex relationships so mirrored things in my own life at times, not necessarily exact scenarios but emotions and rites of passage, that I became sucked in. The majority of season three I watched in one night, eschewing sleep for completion to the saga of Nate Fisher’s missing wife.
So seeing that Alan Ball was associated I decided I wouldn’t jump the gun and make a nasty judgment.
After two episodes however, I am more than ready to make a nasty judgment.
I now believe I would rather watch someone act out Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet as musical theatre than continue on with this show (that might be going a bit far, but you get the point).
First off, one of the major plot points bears a striking resemblence to the recently mega-popular Stephanie Meyer books that are loosely referred to as The Twilight Saga. I have not read these books, but being that I work in a bookstore I have seen the momentum gaining behind them for a couple years now, and sometime in December they are set to make the jump from insanely popular young adult novel to what will no doubt be an insanely popular film series. My wife read all four recently and clued me in to the point that Tru Blood, which appears to center around a telepathic waitress who meets a vampire she is attracted to at least partially because she cannot hear his thoughts in her head, is essentially lifted from one of the major plot points of Meyer’s books, which follow a telepathic vampire teen hunk who becomes smitten with a girl whose thoughts he cannot hear.
How do people do this? It’s no coincidence, that’s for sure, and it feels like a lame attempt at capitalizing on the pre-Twilight movie fanfare. Anna Paquin is the waitress (and probably the person on the show whose fake Louisiana accent I find hardest to swallow) who, in trademark Alan Ball form, is surrounded by a bunch of hyper-sexual twenty-somethings who screw screw screw the night away with anyone and everyone they can. What I’m wondering now is if Mr. Ball can do anything without those same, now tired and not even remotely risque sex scenes that peppered Six Feet Under in brazen but remarkably tasteful ways for five seasons? Maybe a new series about devout nuns who… well, in the end they’d probably all end up keeping journals about Catholic relics they used nightly to service themselves, so why bother.
The acting is all around pretty bad, but it is not entirely the fault of the cast. The major problem, from what I’ve seen, is that the characters all seem pretty flat. The vampire is timeless and gorgeous, the women are all southern bell sex pots and the men shirtless, hard-drinking, honky tonk fighters who act with cock first and fists second. And then there’s the almost insulting way in which the show so casually declares that the fact that a bottled beverage containing actual blood is on the market because, hello? Vamps ‘came out of the coffin’ two years ago and now coexist somewhat uneasily with humans, to the extent that Vampire community leaders guest on political talk shows.
And of course, half the population accepts them and knows you cannot judge a whole ‘race’ by a few bad apples and the other half of the population seeks to exercise their biggoted hatred on them. Eww, think in an interview extra on the first season box set the cast and crew will talk about how the whole show is really just a deep metaphor for racism and biggotry against homosexuals? Thank You, Alan Ball, for continuing to pick at the moral scabs this country still, remarkably harbors eight years into the twenty-first century. You fight the good fight.
I’m sure there was a briefcase full of hundred dollar bills somewhere that led to this whole awful project. At least now, when my wife drags me to see the Twilight movie, I might enjoy it on some level, knowing that I’d rather be watching pre-teen tripe in a cinema crowded with gawking and fidgety sixteen year olds than sitting in comfort at home watching second rate drivel.*
*This entire soapbox runs the risk of sounding as though I am insulting my wife and many, many of my adult co-workers’ tastes, as I am currently one of the only people I associate with day to day who has not read Meyer’s books. Here’s the thing, maybe one day I will give them a try – I’ve actually listened to Ms. Meyers speak and read a few interviews and find her to be, frankly, an inspiration as a fledgling writer. She always pimps the bands she listens to while writing and I think that is AWESOME. She also appears to be a perfect example of someone with talent who didn’t have any previous connections and achieved her fame the old fashioned way, with no in-house advantages. However, working in a bookstore and seeing a sea of teenage girls go GA-GA apeshit over the release of these books and the yearly author signing we do with her, I just cannot bring myself to crack one yet. It has been the same thing with Harry Potter. So, no, I am not insulting anyone’s tastes, just saying at this point I couldn’t care less about these books.