Richly populated with a wide variety of unique characters, not to mention a serial killer and lots of sexy vampires, Bon Temps, Louisiana is a decidedly interesting place in which to spend some time. Alan Ball's True Blood may not quite measure up to the triumph of his Six Feet Under, but it's as good a series as any HBO has put on the air since The Sopranos ended, and it's well worth a renewal or two.
Based on a series of novels by Charlaine Harris, True Blood drops us into the weird world of Sookie Stackhouse (the energetic Anna Paquin), a young waitress who has ability to hear people's thoughts, a talent that annoys the hell out of her. In this slightly alternate reality, vampires live among humans, albeit in a fairly segregated fashion. The invention of synthetic blood, the so-called True Blood of the title, means that vampires need not kill humans to feed, so they have been granted civil rights. The problem, though, is that they still prefer the real thing.
When Sookie happens to fall in love with the pale but dashing vampire Bill Compton (Steven Moyer), a 168-year-old Civil War veteran, few people approve. It's not natural, people tell her, as if it was 1960 and she was dating a black man or it was 1980 and she was dating a woman. The allegorical nature of the vampires' plight is obvious, and Ball latches onto his metaphors and runs with them. When a vampire walks into Sookie's restaurant, all heads turn and eyes shoot daggers, as if to say, "Hey, boy, you don't belong here."
Another problem: Someone is killing the women of Bon Temps, and Sookie's beloved grandmother is among the first to meet a bloody end on her kitchen floor. Most townsfolk naturally suspect vampires, but Sookie wants to uncover the real truth. Vampires aren't bad, she keeps insisting, they're just different.
She'll be distracted along the way by a cast of wonderful supporting characters. Sookie's wild brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) is nothing but hormones in a tight T-shirt, a sex addict who discovers that vampires do it better and that drinking vampire blood delivers a highly addictive rush. He's trouble. Sookie's best friend, the foul-mouthed Tara (Rutina Wesley), is dealing with an alcoholic mother, low self-esteem, and man trouble, while Sookie's boss Sam (Sam Trammell) would be better able to express his love for Sookie if he weren't also a shape shifter who frequently turns into an adorable dog.
Also on hand is Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), a large gay African-American man with painted toenails who serves as the town's fry cook, drug dealer, gigolo, and road worker. Busy guy. He's the one who adds extra zing to the episodes, as do the vampires themselves. These young, nubile pleasure seekers have their own bar a couple of towns over, and it's a wild place. Vampires sure know how to party.
Sookie's relentless pursuit of her grandmother's killer will be interrupted only by hot sex scenes, occasional grave digging, and quick but potent flashes of bloody gore. It's tough living in Bon Temps, but it's never dull.