True Blood is the latest series from Alan Ball (writer of American Beauty and Six Feet Under), and based on Charmaine Harris's Sookie Sackhouse novels. It takes place in Bon Temps, Louisiana, now; only vampires are real and have "come out" after the creation of Tru Blood, a synthetic blood vampires can survive on.
The core of the series is Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a naive waitress who can read people's thoughts, and her relationship with vampire Bill Comption (Stephen Moyer) . Surrounding them are Sam Merlotte who runs the local bar, is desperately in love with Sookie and has a secret (he turns into a dog. I'm not ruining anything, it's bloody obvious from about episode 3), Tara, a fiery young black woman who is Sookie's best friend, Jason Stackhouse, Sookie's incredibly dumb and horny brother, Eric Northman, a 1000 year old vampire and former viking, Jessica, a 17 year old girl Bill is forced to turn into a vampire and has to care for and LaFayette, a flambouyant gay cook and drug dealer.
The excellent first series gradually introduces the world and the characters quite brilliantly through 3 central stories: Sookie, Bill and Sam's love triangle, a murderer killing "fangbangers" (women who sleep with vampires) and the dealing of V (vampire blood's a drug). It is all pulled off really well, gradually building a solid lore. It is also surprisingly funny with a rich sense of humour throughout. And there's plenty of sex and blood.
The second series starts out fantastic with Anna Paquin tits and gets better. This time round we learn more about vampire culture with Sookie and Bill leaving Bon Temps with Eric to find his maker, Jason joins the religious right's anti-vampire movement/army while back in Bon Temps the mysterious Maryann (Michelle Forbes), who has a past with Sam, turns up and possesses the town. The first two stories come together nicely and come to a satisfactory conclusion with a couple of episodes to go allowing Sookie and Bill to return home and deal with Maryann.
This time round werewolves are introduced into the mix and they don't really add anything. The main story this series concerns the vampire King of Mississippi's attempts to take over vampires. The King himself is a fantastic character, supreme fun and this story was really good, sadly this series has far too many uninteresting subplots: Sam finding his birth parents and brother, Tara being kidnapped by a vampire, Jason wanting to become a cop, Jessica and Hoyt's love story, LaFayette falling in love with a witch (surely being a bloke he should be a wizard). This series also makes a massive mistake in explaining what Sookie is.
The first 2 series are quite excellent. Most of the irritating vampire traits are kept in check and there's some fun ideas added. There is also a good balance between drama, comedy and horror. And, best of all, the characters are great, in particular LaFayette, especially in series 1, is great fun, Jason is an extremely likeable idiot and provides plenty of laughs and Tara has some great putdowns.
The third series is less good, but still entertaining. As I've already said, The Mississippi vampire king is brilliant and there's some fantastic gore, but it's beginning to lose the balance it held so well for two series. The homo-erotic subtext that runs throughout the first 2 becomes less a subtext and becomes overplayed. It also suffers from giving too many characters too much to do. All the major characters have their own story and they don't fit together. This means that the better stories (the vampire stories) are sidelined so we can get enough screentime to major characters in previous series that should be taking a back seat (Sam, Tara and Lafayette). It is also starting to get a bit too silly with the amount of "magical" creatures. We already had vampires, shape shifters, Sookie and Maryann in 2nd series. Now we have werewolves, witches and Sookie's power defined on top. All in a town that has a population of 2,600 (according to the town sheriff). All a bit too soap opera.
It may be on the decline this year, but all is not yet lost. And if it is, at least there was 2 excellent series. Well worth it if you can stomach sex, blood and vampires.