Thursday, 8 April 2010

Love Bites - Sinking my Teeth in to True Blood

The second season of Southern vampire yarn True Blood is currently in full swing on FX in the UK and season 3 is just around the corner for HBO viewers in the States. With that in mind now seemed like the perfect time for me to sink my teeth (geddit?) into a show that although I initially sang the praises of I’ve been somewhat quiet on since.

True Blood caught me by surprise if I’m honest – given the current pop culture fascination with vampires I expected this to be another soppy cheese-fest with moody looking vampires kissing each other a la Twilight. So imagine my surprise when, due to the hype from across the pond, I tuned into the first episode and discovered a dark, twisted, dirty and razor sharp show that pushes the envelope and offers a new twist on the standard vampire tales we are used to.

As good as season 1 was though, thus far, season 2 is on track to be even better.

Why? Well, unlike some shows that jump ahead months or even years between seasons, True Blood picked up season 2 immediately where season 1 ended and there was no quick resolution to the cliff-hanger and then a time jump. The story continued chronologically from where it left off which meant there was no introducing new viewers to the characters no setting up new characters – just straight into juicy storylines and it worked very well indeed.

We already know these characters and how they think and act, so now after a season consisting of a rather large amount of exposition and foreshadowing we are cracking on to some big story arcs and it makes for one hell of a show.

The main thing that had me excited for season 2 before it even began was the promise of Vampire sheriff Eric Northam getting more involved in things which meant more of the brilliant and ice-cool Alexander Skarsgard.

And on this front, I’ve not been disappointed – Eric has featured prominently in every episode thus far and the prospect of getting some back-story and further insight into this great character has me eagerly anticipating each new episode.

Elsewhere, Bill has really grown on me this season – has he always had a sense of humour and have I just missed it or is this a new direction for season 2? Because so far Bill has come out with some cracking one liners and witticisms and it has really warmed me up to him as the major male star of the show. Although anything would have been better than him just growling “Sookie” in a Southern drawl as he seemed to spend most of season 1 doing.

I’m also enjoying the stuff with Jason at the cult, sorry, church. Although I am struggling to get past the church leader who is supposed to be some sort of revolutionary anti-vampire leader, but I can’t shake him as Amanda Bynes’ geeky boyfriend in the dire What I Like About You.

Speaking of which, another casting choice that always makes me laugh is whenever Eric’s bodyguard/associate Chow makes an appearance, given that he’s played by Coach Ken Tanaka off Glee who I can’t forgive for his Accafellas performance of I Wanna Sex You Up.

The eclectic casting works well for the show though, given that it’s set in a town full of weird and wonderful characters.

Also having a good season are Bill’s new progeny Jessica who is nowhere near as annoying as I expected and Chris Bauer (Frank Sobotka off The Wire) as drunken Detective Andy Bellefleur.

The only thing for me that is letting season 2 down so far is the extensive time that is being spent focusing on Marianne and her dealings with Sam and Tara et al.

As much as I like Michelle Forbes, every time they throw to a scene with this character my hand hovers dangerously close to the fast forward button. I’m sure as we go on that there will be more clues as to her intentions etc. but at the moment I don’t really have any reason to care about what she has planned for the Bon Temps residents.

If this leads to something meaningful for Sam and/or Tara (who especially has been kind of just there since all the stuff with her Mum got put on the back burner) then I will be happy, but if this is just some sort of dumb sub-plot then it could leave a very sour taste when brilliant established characters like Lafayette seem to be being edged out to the peripheries somewhat.

Don’t get me wrong though, that is only a minor gripe on what thus far has been a resounding success of a season for True Blood’s sophomore year.

The show seems to making great strides in establishing itself as one of the must see shows on TV right now irrespective of its rather ‘in’ right now subject matter. This show is so much more than a vampire love story and anyone who compares it to Twilight really needs some sort of psyche evaluation. If Twilight took a cocktail of Viagra, Speed and Southern Comfort it wouldn’t even come close to being as hot, sweaty and twisted as True Blood.

Factor in all the juicy segregation subtext and the racism, if that’s the right word, issue of humans and vampires, and you have a show that’s not only cool, captivating and fresh but also very, very relevant.

A great cast (a staple of any HBO show), wonderfully observed characters and a warped sense of dark humour make this one of the quirkiest mainstream shows currently airing.

True Blood has achieved popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, although its success on these shores has to be attributed to the current vampire craze that is sweeping the globe, because under normal circumstances I find it hard to believe that a show such as this would gain such a strong following with UK audiences.

There’ll be people out there who conversely are put off by the fact that True Blood is billed, often quite wrongly, as being a show about vampires; and that’s a crying shame because you also have shape-shifters, telepaths and maenads, as well as gay drug dealers, shell-shocked war veterans and a whole host of some seriously creepy townsfolk.

I understand that in advertising shows often have to be pigeon-holed, but more often than not it hurts the show more than helps it. True Blood has suffered that fate and right now while hormonal tweens who don’t know any better continue to eat up that Twilight horse shit, it is working in this show’s favour. But I just hope that when the next flavour of the week comes along and those only watching for the subject matter desert the show that the real fans can get behind the show enough to keep it on the air until it has run its course, which right now seems an awful long way off, because at the moment True Blood has never been hotter.

True Blood – Season 2 airs Fridays @ 10pm on FX in the UK. Season 3 will being shortly on HBO in the US.

Other Musings:

- Jonathan Creek returned to our screens over the Easter weekend for one of those increasingly rare but always welcome one-off specials.

I won’t get into the plot which was as ridiculously implausible and convoluted as ever but for the most part this was 90+ minutes of the BBC at its best.

Creek has always been that rare breed of gothic storytelling with a great British sense of humour underlying it and with Alan Davies in the title role the show has always dealt out the laughs in equal doses with the intrigue and scares.

This special suffered slightly from feeling like it had been heavily cut to get an hour and a half’s running time and I still don’t particularly like Sheridan Smith as Jonathan’s new ‘partner’ but that said: nothing would please me more than to see the show return for a full season.

For now though I’ll make do with these randomly scheduled but always delicious specials of what I like to call “the best episode of Scooby Doo ever.”

- No air date has been announced for this country yet, but I’m chomping at the bit to get a viewing of FX’s new show Justified.

This network is on fire right now, with the likes of Rescue Me and Sons of Anarchy and I have very high hopes for this Timothy Olyphant starrer that gives me Sons vibes and has had rave reviews for its short run Stateside so far.

- The writers of Lost must be avid TV or nor TV readers because no sooner had I complained about the lack of Desmond on Lost, everyone’s favourite Scotsman made his (not so) triumphant return.

What Widmore wants with his potential son-in-law is anyone’s guess but a series that has been nothing short of brilliant this season can how only get even better with Desmond Hume back in the mix.

- This Saturday it is the World’s greatest Horse race The Grand National.

Now any regular readers will know that my Horse Racing tipping skills leave a lot to be desired (which is probably why I didn’t get that job with Timeform…) Although to be fair, if you’d followed my tips during Cheltenham you may have actually made a profit as I threw up a couple of good each way shouts.

Irrespective of my lack of tipping flair, as has become tradition I wanted to give a couple of tips for the big race, but when you consider last year’s 100-1 winner you’d probably have a better shot of picking a winner by sticking a pin in your Racing Post.

I’m sticking with Black Apalachi this year, he almost did me so proud last year, really stretching the field and looking every bit the winner until he unseated on the second circuit.

Under more weight this year and with his trainer openly saying that last year was probably his year to win it, his chance may have fallen with his jockey last year, but loyal to the end I’m sticking with him.

Elsewhere, there are plenty more runners I like the look of this year: former winner and last year’s runner up Comply or Die jumped like a dream during his prep race at Cheltenham and should go well again.

Snowy Morning is another Horse with race form and I fancy him to run a big race along with another race stalwart: Cloudy Lane who is a great each way shout at about 50-1.

Others to look out for are: Black Apalachi’s stable companion Vic Venturi and the lightly weighted pair The Package and Irish Raptor – who should go well providing he doesn’t fall.

But all that said, knowing my luck, something at 500-1 will probably go and win!

TV Moment of the Week:

From Friday’s Daily Show –

Jon Stewart: (RE: John Oliver feeling homesick) Is there anything I can do make you feel more at home?

John Oliver: Can I drunkenly head butt you until I shatter your nose?


24 Day 8 Death Counter:

Hour 14

- Nabeel – shot during the gunfight with General Brucker’s commandos

- x2 Secret Service Agents – shot during the gunfight with General Brucker’s commandos

- President Hassan’s other Security Detail member - shot during the gunfight with General Brucker’s commandos

- x2 Secret Service Agents - shot during the gunfight with General Brucker’s commandos

- x2 Brucker’s commandos – shot by Secret Service Agent Molly O’Connor

- x2 Secret Service Agents - shot during the gunfight with General Brucker’s commandos

- Molly O’Connor – [assumed] although her death wasn’t shown on screen it is assumed that O’Connor met her fate at the hands of the commandos as well, given the fact she headed straight towards them in the tunnel and the commandos soon caught up to Jack, Hassan et al seemingly unharmed.

- x6 Brucker’s commandos – (JBK) shot and killed by Jack Bauer during the gunfight

- x1 Brucker’s commandos – shot and killed by President Hassan

Episode Death Total = 18

Cumulative Season Death Total = 68

(Ongoing) Jack Bauer Kills (JBK) Total = 18


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