Category: True Blood

'True Blood': This week in manufactured 'True Blood' controversy....

Trueblood10_30 Has "True Blood" gotten too gay?

It seems like kind of a ridiculous question, honestly. The show's developer, Alan Ball, is an openly gay man, and the show is based around vampires, monsters well known for what one of my friends calls their "ambi-sexuality." The idea of the vampire's bite has been used by any number of writers as a kind of fill-in for sexuality, and the fact that vampires will bite pretty much anyone -- including animals -- to get the blood they so need to survive has been used to stand in for all manner of sexual behaviors and kinks over the years. (I mean, the other big vampire series of the moment -- "Twilight" -- is all about a vampire who won't use his bite to make his girlfriend a vampire until they're married, which is a metaphor so bald-faced it shouldn't even count as symbolism.) So, honestly, when the vampires on "True Blood" start making out with other guys, it doesn't strike me as terribly surprising. It's just the show making subtext into text. I get that some people find this offensive, but I always wonder just why they feel compelled to watch "True Blood" -- a show that takes perverse joy in all manner of sexual and violent behavior, from lewd to comparably chaste -- in the first place.

Anyway, the issue arises because a couple of weeks ago, Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans said the following on his Twitter account: "So... caught up on Trueblood las nite.. Not a fan of how they get u hooked with the 1st 2 seasons then bring on a barrage of homosexuality..." Herremans later deleted his Tweet and all subsequent responses to both fans and Philadelphia Inquirer columnist John Gonzalez, who was good enough to preserve the Tweet for his readers and journalists everywhere. Herremans tried to walk back these comments in response to queries from Gonzalez, issuing statements that were essentially stating that gay people were free to exist, so long as Herremans didn't have to see them doing anything. (The gay people of America say, "Thanks, Todd!") Herremans later issued an apology, and hopefully, he'll no longer be asked to be an arbiter of taste for the American people.

The Last two weeks, then, have been filled with fans debating whether what Herremans said has any merit. Slate, in a fascinating column, thinks that the show hasn't suddenly developed gay themes out of nowhere (since they've always been present) but argues that the series has created a sense of "gay panic" this season. And over at entertainment site Zap2It, fans on both sides of the issue were invited to comment as to whether the show's gayness had become suddenly overwhelming. The debate is polite (at least in the edited blog post), but it's clear that there are heavy passions on both sides of the issue.

What do I think? I think it's Alan Ball's show, and I think anyone who's surprised at gay sex being depicted on screen (or even kisses between two men) has missed a whole mess of subtext -- and text -- over the years. It's one thing to be offended by the gay sex on "True Blood." That means it's probably just not your thing, and while I disagree that the depiction is disturbing or disgusting, you're certainly free to like different things. But to act as though the show suddenly and abruptly pulled a dirty trick on you for showing these things strikes me as disingenuous. The show has been dabbling in homosexual themes since Episode 1, and to act as though it hasn't either suggests you're not paying very good attention or willfully ignoring certain things because you enjoy the show so much. (And I'd like to thank Allen from last week's comments section for bringing this to my attention with his blog post.)

But this is probably a debate you guys would like to have in comments. So I invite you to discuss it there (politely, please), while I move on to just what you had to say about last week's divisive episode.

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'True Blood': If everybody's supernatural, then nobody is

Trueblood10_10  Usually, after a big, game-changing event like last week's Russell newscaster massacre, a TV show like "True Blood" will take a breather episode, figuring out a way to slow things for a week or two before heading in for another big episode. Part of the fun of the second season of "True Blood" was that it never slowed down, but that also meant that it ran out of story around Episode 10 and then dragged out the revelation of how the gang got rid of Mary Ann over the last two episodes, which were truly terrible. This season, the show has interspersed slower-moving episodes among all of the other ones, and the pacing is working better. But it still feels weird to go from an episode that ends on such a huge note and head into an episode where the big event is barely even mentioned. 

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'True Blood' Saturdays': 'We will eat you after we eat your children'

The big "True Blood" story this week was the show ending up on the cover of Rolling Stone. Only it wasn't a particularly chaste cover. The series' three stars -- Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyers and Alexander Skarsgard -- appeared completely naked, with hands and legs covering the parts you can't show on a newsstand and blood drenching everything else. If you want to look at it, you can see it here. It's slightly not suitable for work, but, honestly, if your boss gets upset that you're looking at a Rolling Stone cover that's in the news, it may be time to find a new boss (and good luck with that). 

Anyway, if you like your sex all mixed up with implied violence -- and this being "True Blood," there's a good chance you do -- then you probably love this cover. And, indeed, most of the fan reaction I've read online is really in favor of this. I guess I can see why. It essentially encompasses much of the show's cheekily sexy and bloody aesthetic, and it doesn't hurt that all three stars look good naked. But -- and maybe this is my former print media employee talking here -- I found it all kind of tawdry. The sex and violence on "True Blood" are so fun because they're so over the top. Everybody's getting naked, and everybody's getting drenched with blood. To try to encompass all of that in one image that flirts with the edge of good taste is probably an impossible task, but this one is winking a little too hard. There's basically no subtlety to it, and while I suppose that may be true of the show as well, much of the time, at least the show is rarely coy about anything. It's all right there, out in the open.

Then again, my reaction seems to be in the minority. There are a few people out there who find the cover kind of gross and tacky, but it seems most fans really like it. It's certainly good exposure for the show, and it reaffirms that this is one of the shows of the moment, regardless of what you think of the current season's level of quality (a question that also seems to be dividing fans). The show has really landed right in the middle of American pop culture, and that's something that's hard for an HBO series to do. Really, HBO hasn't had a show that's been this big in the cultural world at large since the heyday of "Sex and the City" and "The Sopranos." (For more reading on "True Blood" from this week, check out this excellent column by Emily Nussbaum on how the series is the "porn 'Buffy.' ")

But let's talk about last week's episode.

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'True Blood': Finally, a 24-hour news channel I'd watch

I think it's now official. I would vote for Russell Edgington for president.

Sure, he'd probably place me under the subjugation of a race of vampire overlords, but, man, he's one charismatic dude, and he sure knows a way to make his point in a memorable fashion. Indeed, the last scene of this episode was one of the best the show has ever done, and that was almost all due to Denis O'Hare's performance as Russell. Sure, the speech he was handed was well-written, and the moment as conceived was such a brutally shocking one, but O'Hare had to make all of this come together, and he reminded me of just why he's become the most fascinating "True Blood" villain to date. This was the kind of shocking TV moment people will be talking about for years to come, and everyone involved carried it off with absolute aplomb.

American Vampire League spokeswoman Nan Flanagan is in her limo, driving on her way to the airport to head for Oregon to try and drum up support for a vampire rights bill. She's been in Bon Temps to try to suss out why, exactly, Eric killed Talbot and try to bring him back under the sway of the Authority. After she finally lays the problem of what to do with Russell at Eric's feet and tries to wash her hands of the whole mess, it seemingly becomes obvious that Russell is going to make Nan the next target of his campaign of terror, after killing the Magister a few weeks ago. It certainly helps that she's in the midst of a romantic moment with a lovely young lady, all the more unlikely to be ready should Russell somehow invade the limousine. Above her, the TV babbles on about the rights amendment and how Oregon is the latest battleground, the anchor distilling the story as much for the people of the world of "True Blood" as for the viewers at home.

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'True Blood' Saturdays: 'You killed my Cooter!'

Jessica Wow.

Some of you REALLY disagreed with me that last week's "True Blood" episode was stuck in the mud and not going anywhere. I heard from you in comments, in e-mail and every other possible way. One of you even wrote a blog post about how stupid I was!

I'm not complaining; I love this kind of response. And it must be said that it's fun to argue like this about the show, about what it is and what it should be. Keep sending me those thoughts because you guys are smart and passionate fans of this show, and it's always fun to read just what it is that you think, even when you fiercely disagree with me. That said, let's toss it to you guys and see if you can change my mind on the ultimate worth of last week's episode.

A reader named Ellen wrote me to say that she didn't believe the final reconciliation between Bill and Sookie was supposed to be as permanent of a reconciliation. She thinks it's all a buildup to the two having a more permanent breakup, since when you leave a longstanding relationship, it's often hard to completely write that person out of your life. A number of you took this tack, and I have to say that this is probably a case where I'm being a bit hasty in my judgment of the show. There's every possibility that Sookie and Bill will be split up again in a couple episodes, and I'll have egg all over my face. I don't hate the idea of Sookie and Bill together -- though I think their scenes can drag the show down -- but I was pretty miffed that an episode that began with such a clear statement of Sookie and Bill being split up for good would end with a question mark being put on that statement. Let's wait and see what happens.

Morgan Earle writes to talk about what Sookie is, a question the show moved to the back-burner last week. Morgan sent me a handy list of Naiad subcategories after I raised the possibility of Sookie being a Naiad two weeks ago. But Morgan hopes the show doesn't go that way because:

"All that aside, I will still be disappointed if they turn to Greek mythology to explain the origin of 'True Blood's' most important character. It's already been done, why do it again? Major fail. To be blatantly honest, I think I would rather her turn out to be a fairy. Then, at least no one would expect that, and it wouldn't be redundant."

I still think making Sookie a fairy would be obvious, but Morgan has a good point. Going back to Greek mythology could feel like a cheat. Let's hope the producers of "True Blood" have an answer that makes sense but also is something few people are guessing.

Now, let's turn to comments.

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'True Blood': What would we do, baby, without us?

"Family ties" may as well have been the theme of tonight's "True Blood," "Night on the Sun," which slowed the plot way down in favor of scenes where characters who haven't spent a lot of time together this season got to check in with each other, while other connections were forged and broken. It was also quite a come-down after the last two blisteringly paced episodes, though I suppose that sort of thing is inevitable. I just wish that the whole episode hadn't been a long journey to a place we already knew we were going back to and that it hadn't undid one of its most interesting plot developments within the same exact episode. It makes it seem like the writers don't have a great deal of confidence in their characters to sustain interest, outside of the way we first came to know them.

Here's what I'm complaining about, less obliquely: In the first scene of the episode, Sookie breaks it off with Bill. Then, in the last scene, the two are back together again and having ravenous sex. I suspect that this is a part of a general motif in the episode, of people going back to things they should know are wrong for them, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating to have the show dangle a potentially interesting storyline -- let's see what Sookie and Bill are like apart, instead of together -- then take it away from us within the same episode. Anyone who's ever watched TV ever is going to know that these two are going to end up back together again by the end of the series. It's just the way the medium works. But along the way, we should get some interesting stories of what they're like both separate and apart. This episode is frustrating in that regard, though, again, it seems possible that this is all set-up for a more permanent break-up down the road.

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'True Blood' Saturdays: Let's talk about spoilers

Trueblood10_53 It's probably time for us to have a chat about spoilers here at the Show Tracker "True Blood" blog.

I know that the series is based on a series of very popular books. I know that many, many of you who are into the TV series have read the books. And I know that it can be very hard to sit there and watch the series string out big revelations from the books when you already know what's going to happen. But I'm going to ask one thing of you: Please, please don't spoil the experience for the rest of us.

I haven't read the books "True Blood" is based on. The show could reveal tomorrow that Eric is actually a man-eating plant of one variation or another, and I wouldn't bat an eye because I'd have no idea that this revelation was made in Book 7 or whatever. Now, honestly, if you spoil me, I won't be terribly upset. I don't have a huge aversion to spoilers, and I'm just going to shrug it off. But many, MANY of your fellow readers and comments section dwellers don't want to know what's coming up, even though you do. It's easier to avoid spoilers for books that have been out for years than it is for popular movies or TV shows, sad as that may sound. So when you say with all certainty just what Sookie Stackhouse is in the books and that she's likely the same thing in the show, well, it kills a little bit of the fun for a lot of people.

Here's the thing: The people who approve comments here at Show Tracker don't always know what's a spoiler and what's not a spoiler. So it can't be on them. It'll have to be on you guys to police yourselves and be polite. I know the temptation is always there, particularly when it seems like those of us who haven't read the books are being intentionally dense, but we want reading the Show Tracker blog for "True Blood" to be just as fun an experience as watching the show. So -- and let me bold this for emphasis -- let's ONLY discuss what's happened on the show up until the episode that just aired. Speculation is fair game, but if you know spoilers (thanks to reading the books or reading other spoiler sites), please, please keep them to yourselves. If this policy doesn't work out, I'll have to figure something else out about deleting comments or making sure spoilers aren't published.

In the meantime, let's talk about last week's episode. There were 34 comments on last week's article, and I got over a dozen e-mails, so I won't be able to get to all of your points. Suffice it to say that many, many of you have some interesting things to say about the series. Onward!

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With 'Game of Thrones,' HBO is playing for another 'True Blood'


You have to give the HBO executives credit for candor. Speaking of "Game of Thrones," the upcoming series based on George R.R. Martin's fantasy novels, programming president Michael Lombardo admitted that he personally doesn't particularly care for those kinds of stories. "It wasn't the genre we responded to, it was the storytelling," he told reporters Saturday at the TV press tour in Beverly Hills.

That concession might count as a sacrilege in some quarters, but HBO knows a potentially profitable market when it sees one. The pay cable outlet is hoping that "Game of Thrones" will follow the path of "True Blood," the vampire drama that has steadily grown into HBO's first major hit in years and was likewise adapted from a series of genre novels with a ferociously devoted fan base. 

But HBO knows they've got work to do. "There's enormous pressure on the 'Game of Thrones' people," Lombardo said. "It's a very sophisticated audience; you have to get it right."

HBO co-president Richard Plepler pointed out that with "True Blood," creator Alan Ball found a way to tap into that passionate fan base. "Alan has created this extremely compelling and addictive world. ... When you get passionate fan bases, they talk with each other and that's catalytic," he said. But he noted that social-media services such as Twitter can also be a "double-edged sword." "You can obviously have a negative power of amplification," he added. 

The network showed about 15 seconds of "Game of Thrones" footage as part of a larger clip of coming attractions, but explained that CGI effects still had to be added (a network spokeswoman says the producers have been shooting for only two weeks). The show is scheduled to premiere sometime in spring 2011. 

In the meantime, executives dropped a few details about returning shows. "Entourage" will "definitely" end its run next summer after eight seasons, Lombardo said. He declined to speculate about the future of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," saying that the network had learned not to put pressure on creator and star Larry David. 

Executives also scrambled to reassure skeptics about "Luck." The upcoming horse-racing drama, which stars Dustin Hoffman in his first series role, was created by David Milch, whose last HBO effort was the roundly drubbed surfing drama "John from Cincinnati."

"Luck" will be different, Lombardo said, because Milch "has such a clear vision for the show." He added that reporters shouldn't pre-judge the show "whatever you think of 'John from Cincinnati' and its failings."

--Scott Collins

Photo: Opening scene of "Game of Thrones." Helen Sloane / HBO

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'True Blood': The mystery that is Sookie Stackhouse

 The question "True Blood" wants us to be asking is "Who is Sookie Stackhouse?" The entirety of the season apparently hinges on the answer to this question, and this episode delves into it more deeply than any episode before. The list of characters who know her secret is growing by the episode (even as the audience has yet to catch on), and the answer is so surprising that it even shocks Eric. I worry that this is a lot of buildup for this plot point, that by making it seem like it's so shocking, the show will force us to all come up with our own theories (which I'm about to do) and thusly create a situation where the final reveal is something everybody's figured out already and/or something everyone's speculated about, thus making it feel a little anticlimactic. Plus, if it's something that was hinted at or expressed in the books, there's a whole segment of the audience that already knows, and these moments must be painfully boring for them. 

So all those warning expressed, let's speculate about just what Sookie Stackhouse might be, shall we?

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'True Blood' Saturdays: 'Where do you think you are, lady? Red Lobster?'

Jason Everyone seemed pretty happy with last week's episode of "True Blood," considering the only major criticism of it in comments was the fact that it featured two men kissing. (And, honestly, if you can't handle seeing two men kissing, why the heck are you watching "True Blood"?) Scripted by series mastermind Alan Ball, the episode was equal parts funny, gory and heart-rending, and it  probably was one of the best of the season, if not the series. So much stuff happened that it's hard to imagine just where the show is going to go from here, but I'm looking forward to seeing it try Sunday night. 

But before all of that, let's see what you thought.

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'True Blood': A great, gory, good time


"I Got a Right to Sing the Blues" is one of the better episodes "True Blood" has ever done, blending the grandly dark drama, the daffy over-the-top humor and the insane twists and turns the show is known for in nearly equal measure. There are a few scenes that don't work as well as they might -- Tara breaking Sookie out of the room where she was imprisoned was awesome in theory but edited a bit confusingly -- but for the most part, this was an episode that revealed the show clicking along on all cylinders. Remember, even as I complain about some things, I thought this was one of the show's top episodes. Now, let's complain about some things!

The Jason and Sam plot lines continue to feel essentially disconnected from everything else, as did the story of Arlene and Jessica dealing with the disgruntled customer. With all of the insanity going on over in Mississippi, with the way the show will occasionally just cut over to Sophie-Anne doing something equally crazy, it sure drags the show down when it returns to Bon Temps and a bunch of story lines that have nothing to do with anything. It's becoming increasingly clear that the theme of the season is staying true to oneself and embracing one's true nature, and I don't mind the ways these stories tie in to that idea. But I do wish that they didn't feel so disconnected from everything else going on. Last season, the two main story lines -- the Newlins and Maenad -- each had elements to keep us invested and tied in all of the characters. If you weren't really feeling the Maenad story line during a certain episode, well, at least Michelle Forbes' performance was reliably goofy and fun (I mean this as praise). This season, if you're not really feeling the Sam story line, there's just nowhere for it to turn. It can't suddenly reveal, out of nowhere, that Marshall Allman is an all-star actor on the level of Denis O'Hare, because he's not.

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COMIC-CON 2010: 'True Blood' brings 3rd season spoiler reel as 'gift' to fans

The powers behind HBO's vampire hit "True Blood" -- currently in the middle of its third season -- came to Comic-Con on Friday bearing a provocative reel of highlights from episodes coming up the rest of this summer. Yes, that's right -- some mild spoilers follow! (Find the reel here).

Mangiello Executive Producer Alan Ball thanked the raucous crowd in Ballroom 20 at the San Diego Convention Center for its support and described the clip reel as a "gift to you." And an appropriately puzzling gift it sometimes was, with some brief glimpses of a red-eyed werewolf, quite a bit of fang-sprouting and a suddenly bad-ass Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) toting a shotgun and yelling: "Get out of my house, bitch!"

 Offscreen, there was some news too: Panelist Joe Manganiello, who's played the werewolf Alcide Herveaux this season, confirmed that he's just been promoted to a series regular.

Otherwise, the panel was the "Comic-Con" love-in that might be expected for a vampire show whose ratings have only grown since its breakout last season. 

Among the highlights:

-- Asked for further upcoming plot developments, Ball replied:"Everyone goes to therapy, everyone goes on medication and everyone is really happy." Joke, it's a joke, people.

-- Ball said he'd like the show to run as long as possible. "But I don't want to get to the point where we have to explain why vampires are aging," he added.

-- Author Charlaine Harris, who writes the books on which the show is based, said that "things are evolving differently" in her fictional world than they are in the TV version and she advised fans to treat them as "two separate entertainment experiences." She also said she's known for eight or nine years how the story ultimately ends. "But please don't capture and torture me to try to find out," she said.

-- Scott Collins (follow me on Twitter @scottcollinsLAT)

Photo: Joe Manganiello and Anna Paquin last season. Credit: John P. Johnson.


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