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Arts & Culture

Why I'll Miss True Blood

Michele Forbes as the Maryann, the Dionysus-worshiping maenad, in HBO's True Blood.
Michele Forbes as the Maryann, the Dionysus-worshiping maenad, in HBO's True Blood.

I was a "True Blood" hater during season one. I complained about the writing, acting, accents, and potboiler plotting. But like many strange addictions, I kept watching, curious to see if this train was going to wreck (over and over again!) or chug along into something more interesting.

Now, at the end of season two, I'm sad to see this hot mess of a television show come to a close (until next summer anyway). My fondness for the citizens, vampires, shapeshifters and various other supernaturals of Bon Temps grew in direct proportion to my lessening expectations from the show. Character depth? Artful dialogue? Complexity and depth? Psshaw! Leave such highfalutin business to other HBO dramas and "Mad Men." This southern vampire soap is about rowdy, tawdry fun for all who are willing to suspend multiple layers of disbelief and intellect for a solid hour each week. Sign me up!

Apparently lots of people signed up. "True Blood" is now the most popular HBO drama since "The Sopranos." (Just for the record, I would call it a dark comedy, not a drama.)


I will say this about the show: it has become extremely efficient at attending to multiple plotlines within each episode. Before you can wonder at the downright ridiculous circumstances of one character, you're dropped into the craziness of another.

This season, "True Blood" ramped up all the endearing qualities of the show. First, the camp factor was out of control. Just once, I'd love to sit down and watch an episode with John Waters, to see if he'd squeal with glee or roll his eyes. I suspect he would've LOVED the Newlins, the hyper-coiffed couple at the helm of the Christian, anti-vampire church called the Fellowship of the Sun. Though I suspect Waters would have concocted a better ending for them (that one just fizzled, didn't it?).

The sex/romance is also notched up, with Sookie and vampire Bill's snoring, candle-lit romance suddenly threatened by Eric, vampire hottie du jour (he's tall, pale, and Nordic). Eric spends most episodes leering out from under heavy eyelids in both lust and condescension. He is, as a result, terribly sexy.

What else did "True Blood" conjure up this season?

Orgies, and lots of them. Orgies around a fire pit, orgies in a juke joint, and orgies in poor Gran's house (Sookie's sweet and innocent southern grandmother who died at the end of last season). In fact, there were so many orgies, it got to the point where I was all, "Ugh, really? Another orgy? How boring."


Normal-looking naked people. Not necessarily what we watch TV for, but there you have it. During season one, a friend complained she couldn't watch "True Blood" because all the characters seemed "too Hollywood" - all buffed out and straight from the gym - they just didn't look like real Louisiana small-towners (no offence to my Louisiana readers). Well, it's as if Alan Ball heard her complaint and said, "I'll give you a naked fat man and raise you 20!" Pale, pudgy, hairy, and blubbery – we saw all naked body types dancing and doing the nasty per Maryann's Dionysian bidding. I grimaced multiple times per episode.

Speaking of Maryann (played with fervor by Michele Forbes), "True Blood" introduced us to maenads this season. As a maenad, Maryann could do her little shiver dance and everyone in Bon Temps was suddenly drunk, violent, and randy. Their eyes turned black and they'd bang their heads against the wall, cut off their fingers, and eat a shepherd's pie made with a human heart! Suffice it to say, Maryann was as wackadoodle as they come.

This season, Jason Stackhouse got even dumber! He landed in a heap of trouble by joining the Fellowship of the Sun, sleeping with the minister's wife (naturally) and thinking he could save the town from Maryann. I love Jason's dim-witted sincerity and the writers are giving him the best comic lines. In last night's season finale, Jason and Andy are strapped with guns, ready to ambush Maryann, and Jason pumps them up by rattling off lines by former action heroes, ending with "I love the smell of nail polish in the morning." Classic.

Jessica, Hoyt, and Hoyt's Mama. This trio was one of my favorite plotlines this season. The young vamp/human love story of Jessica and Hoyt was just as sweet as can be (during their first all night telephone call, he reads her his comic book)! Jessica, recently turned vampire by Bill, struggles with being both a teenager AND newly dead. I mean, the identity issues! But nothing compares with the pure pleasures of mean and vicious Maxine Fortenberry, Hoyt's mama. A caricature for sure (as many "True Blood" characters are), she's controlling, hateful, a gossip, racist, a master manipulator, and a mommie dearest for the ages. One of my favorite scenes this season was seeing her play the Wii while under Maryann's violent spell. Surreal!

Evan Rachel Wood showed up for a few episodes at the end of the season as a Yahtzee-loving, vampire queen who dates back to Greek and Roman times. She was all leggy and porcelain pale, with a lascivious appetite indulged at every turn. A drop of blood just popped with color on her pale skin, and I couldn't help but wonder if her constant smirk was just a taunting of former boyfriend Marilyn Manson, who may have stirred anew at her turn as queen of the undead. She'll be around for next season, as last night's finale suggested. I suspect we'll see other celebrity cameos throughout the run of "True Blood." If I were an actor, I would much rather show up on "True Blood" as a shapeshifter or maenad, rather than do just another industry send-up on the annoyingly monotonous "Entourage. "

Wish list for season three of "True Blood?" Please, less Bill, more Eric. More Lafayette. Less Sookie, more Maxine Fortenberry and Jessica. Whatever you do, don't change the opening credits. And…let's see…oh yes, do add werewolves! Let's play for a while under a full moon.