The Vampire Diaries may have made vampires trendy again, but it’s True Blood that made them cool. Based on Charlaine Harris’ acclaimed novels, the whole series is available as a Sky Box Set, which makes now the perfect time for some fanged binge-watching.
Don’t let the vampires fool you, though – Twilight would never had got past the censors if it had this much sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll, guts and gore. So without further ado, here are 10 important questions answered about the show that just wants to do bad things with you.
So what’s the premise of True Blood?
Set mostly in Louisiana (like the on-trend True Detective), we enter a world where vampires are ‘out of the coffin’ and freely walk among humans, drinking the manufactured blood substitute Tru Blood for sustenance to stop them pulling a Suarez on their mortal neighbours. Some of the neighbours are fine with having a member of the undead in their local book club, and some aren’t. Likewise, some of the vampires are happy to live peacefully alongside humans, and some wish to rise up and rule.
The drama centres on supernaturally gifted waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), whose life is changed when vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) walks into her workplace, Merlotte’s. Six seasons later, Sookie has battled terrible forces of evil and met powerful forces of good, set against a backdrop of all the craziness of small-town America – corrupt cops, overzealous church leaders, undercover drug rings and messed up families. And that’s before you even get to the vampires, whose political machinations are just as messy and would make Frank Underwood smile with approval.
We’re talking sparkly skin and can’t walk in daylight?
While the vampires we meet in the series are cut from a similar vein as the Cullen family (read: stiff stances, piercing glances), there’s considerably less glitter and considerably more fang. And if they walk in daylight they go up in flames, so there’s no need to worry about sparkly torsos. Plus, the cast of vamps (as they are called) are generally gifted with incredibly good, erm, bone structure, most notably the smouldering Eric Northman (Alexander Saasgard), who crosses paths with Sookie and Bill on multiple occasions.
Oh no, not another love triangle?
Again, we’re well out of teen territory; this show’s sexual appetite is as red-blooded as the title might suggest (possibly beating Game of Thrones in that regard, so don’t watch it with prudish companions). And aside from these three, a rich cast of supporting characters – from Sookie’s loveably dumb brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) to her best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley), as well as a whole host of supernatural beings – add a little chaos to the small town of Bon Temps.
Wait, there are werewolves too?
Yes (notably the hunky Alcide – Magic Mike’s Joe Manganiello), but also shape-shifters, faeries and, erm, were-panthers. And as mentioned earlier, religion adds an extra dimension – from Greek mythology and bayou superstition to Wiccans and voodoo magic.
Who are the goodies and the baddies?
Rather like Game of Thrones, it’s nowhere near that black and white. We meet good vamps, bad vamps, wonderfully bad vamps – Season Three’s main villain, the deranged vampire King Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare), is a show highlight, channeling a Southern and supernatural version of Sherlock’s Moriarty – as well as good weres, bad weres, religious zealots, shadowy organisations bent on the destruction of vampires, vengeful spirits, bitter ex-girlfriends, who just happen to like blood…
Does each season have a different villain?
Pretty much, yes. While the central cast remains the same throughout, different back stories emerge alongside the central drama – a Wiccan coven in one, an anti-vampire church in other – mixing emotional themes (such as a subplot about war trauma) alongside the appearance of witches or werewolves. Human drama, despite not all the players being human, is what keeps the show together.
So it’s got heart.
Oh, definitely. Except in the one episode where someone has theirs cut out. The parts are well written and convincingly portrayed, with a whole raft of different characters, and motives, to get your teeth into. From the devotion shown by each vampire to his or her Maker (the vampire who turned them), to Sookie’s unwavering love for her family, which turns to heartbreak as she learns truths about them, to the touching romantic relationships – such as Merlotte’s chef, Lafayette, and his boyfriend, Jesus, or single mother Arlene and her paranoid beloved, Terry (who has a pet armadillo called Felix), there is something for everyone to root for.
Has it got humour?
By the bucket load. Dark wit is one of the show’s great strengths; Lafayette and Pam get some of the finest lines ever written for television. Speaking of which, this is a show in which you’ll get to see a vampire (Russell Edgington) rip out a newsreader’s spine live on air, deliver his message of horror to the show’s viewers and then utter the line: “And now the weather! Tiffany?” The show knows not to take itself entirely too seriously, which is why when it does the moments of drama strike such a chord.
Has it got credentials?
The show was created by Alan Ball (of American Beauty and Six Feet Under) and joins HBO’s impressive pantheon of hits. It’s the broadcaster’s third most-watched show of all time (behind The Sopranos and Game of Thrones) and has won an Emmy for its ensemble cast, as well as being nominated and winning countless other awards.
Plus, as a pub quiz fact, Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer are now married in real life, making this the Deep South-set, silver screen, toothier version of Mr & Mrs Smith. Sort of.
Ok, I’m sold. Where can I watch it?
If you don’t have Sky, you can watch True Blood Season 7 online on NOW TV. An Entertainment Pass lets costs £6.99, no contract.