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HBO's 'True Blood': Audiences don't bite

Trueblood HBO just can't catch a break.

After engineering a massive, multimillion-dollar marketing campaign to promote "True Blood," the new vampire series from Alan Ball, Sunday's premiere drew just 1.44 million viewers.

That's bad news for the cable channel, which hasn't been able to launch a new one-hour drama to any kind of ratings fanfare in some time. Without one of its previous powerhouse lead-ins ("The Sopranos," "Sex and the City") its new shows have floundered.

David Milch's offbeat surf drama "John From Cincinnati" debuted to 3.4 million in June 2007 (albeit following the well-attended series finale of "The Sopranos"), while the sexually explicit drama "Tell Me You Love Me" suffered without a strong lead-in, premiering to 910,000 viewers in September 2007. 

Neither of those shows was as heavily marketed as "True Blood," and both were canceled after one season. (The low-budget "In Treatment," a half-hour, five-night-a-week therapy drama starring Gabriel Byrne, was renewed for a second season but delivered even more modest ratings than "Tell Me.")

The "True Blood" audience was lower than even the last new episode of HBO's "Big Love," which delivered 2.88 million in August 2007. And it pales overall when compared with the network's past drama premieres such as "Big Love" (4.56 million in March 2006), "Rome" (3.8 million in August 2005) and "Deadwood" (5.79 million in March 2004).

It should be noted that pay channels like HBO and Showtime air their series episodes several times over the course of a week and over various multiplexes, and HBO executives will be paying close attention to the "True Blood" premiere's cumulative viewership. (A later 10:30 p.m. airing Sunday added 672,000 viewers to that overall tally).

On the positive tip, reviews for "True Blood" have ranged from lukewarm to enthusiastic. Times critic Mary McNamara was less of a fan, saying Ball zapped the fun out of the original Charlaine Harris' novels and turned it into a "heavy-handed political fable."

Ball, of "Six Feet Under" fame, tried to level expectations for the series last week, telling Time Out Chicago that he didn't feel the pressure to strike gold twice. "I do the best show I can, then I go home and I have a life. Ultimately, it's just television."

Meanwhile, 1.645 million tuned in afterward for the Season 5 premiere of "Entourage." Numbers improved upon "True Blood," but also rank as the series' smallest audience since July 2005. The premiere was down 29% from the fourth-season opener.

-- Denise Martin

Photo: HBO

Comments () | Archives (32)

Maybe HBO should have had True Blood follow Entourage instead of the other way around. Seems like a no-brainer.

I think "True Blood" is the best new show since "Deadwood".

tell me you love me was hbo's best show since deadwood. that it grabbed less than a million viewers, and hbo didn't stay with it, is a classic example of how bad decisions aren't the exclusive domain of the networks.

Disappointing news, because the show is good. I hope it picks up a lot more viewers soon. After last year's crapfest vampire show, Moonlight, it's only fair that a GOOD vampire series stays on the air.

"True Blood" lacks bite. Honestly I really wanted to get into this show, but I just couldn't.
Even though I wasn't expecting much, I was still disappointed.

I really loved True Blood can you please keep it going. You took away our moonlight, Dresden files and Kindred. There are alot of people who read this genre amd we really love seeing our favorite books on the tube, and just whem\n things get good, you shut down. The teens in our world have Harry Potter and now Twilight. You would so have alot of viewers. WAKE UP1

It is a good sho, on a great night. Perhaps it would be better to follow Entourage, though that might conflict with those who want to watch Mad Men at the first opportunity.


I really hope True blood Isn't canceled. I really like this show, it could be better... But i still love it!
I hope more viewers come along.

Well From the trailers it looks like a really good show but the only problem I have is I dont have HBO so I cant watch it thats a huge bummer I waz trying to see if I could watch it online but I cant so I guess there's no way for me to watch it and I really want too.

I have read all the books and i think that the series just needs time to get further into the plot. I really enjoyed episode 2. Hope HBO stays with it. I miss the dresden files, and now this! KEEP THE SHOW GOING!

i really really really like this show
i hope it starts picking up more views because i really like it
i would just die if it got canceled

I'll watch anything having to do with vampires, but this show is kinda lame and surprisingly boring after their sex, drugs & rock 'n' roll themed previews. Nothing happens for 50 min. other than blah blah blah dialogue and then for the last 5 min they do something kind of "cliffhangery" and then it's over. Honestly the only reason I'm still watching is because I find one of the characters attractive - I guess that makes me lame too... If they don't spice it up soon then Ball and co. deserve their fate - and by spice it up I don't mean more disgusting sex scenes and slutty outfits.

I love the show! I think they are doing a great job portraying the book. Some of the people have shown up diffrent but that is just fine by me, as I think it adds to the story. I hope HBO keeps it going through all the books.

Can't wait to see more!

wish vamps were real though:(

I wish we could watch it on HBO's website...I can't find it online and I don't have HBO.

1.44 mil viewers & they already ordered a second season?

i think hbo will axe this thing before the second season.

I am totally in love with this show being that I am begining to appreciate the genre , Recently being hooked on Twilight I like this show and hopefully wait until beautiful sunday arrives and lets me watch Trueblood I am in love with this show and would be devestated if it were cancelled. PLease save Bill !! !! i am hopelessly in love with him and his mysterious yet estremely orgasmic presence on the small screen . I think the show is wonderful !!

Trueblood is creative and touches on many issues of diversity. Finally an innovative show!

I think this show is wonderful.. funny, tacky, awkward. The characters are hysterical with very entertaining dialogue. A light and humorous morality tale with some unexpected HOT sex.

I love True Blood! Keep it going. It's awesome.

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