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True Blood is an American television drama series created and produced by Alan Ball. It is based on the Sookie Stackhouse book series (known as The Southern Vampire Mysteries) by Charlaine Harris. The show is broadcast on the premium cable network HBO in the United States. It is produced by HBO in association with Ball's production company, Your Face Goes Here Entertainment. It premiered on 7 September 2008.

The show's second 12-episode season premiered on 14 June 2009. Alan Ball has said that he plans to start shooting the third season before Christmas 2009.

True Blood details the co-existence of vampires and humans in Bon Temps, a fictional small northern Louisiana town. The series centers on Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a telepathic waitress at a bar, who falls in love with vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer).

The first season received critical acclaim and won several awards, including one Golden Globe

Plot

Following the creation of synthetic blood, vampires have progressed from legendary monsters to fellow citizens overnight. Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) is a telepath and waitress at Merlotte's in the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps, owned by Sam Merlotte, a shapeshifter--though this secret is kept hidden. One night, Sookie meets Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), a handsome 173-year-old vampire who has returned to Bon Temps following the death of his last remaining relative. As she cannot hear his thoughts, she finds it easy to be in his company and over the first season, the two become romantically involved.

The main mystery of the first season concerns the murders of women connected to Sookie's brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten). First Maudette Pickens, then Dawn Green, and Amy Burley, are all strangled shortly after having intercourse with Jason. Though the town sheriff suspects Jason is the killer, Jason and Sookie's grandmother is murdered shortly afterwards. At the end of the season it is revealed that Drew Marshall, posing as Rene Lenier, boyfriend of Arlene Fowler, is the killer.

In addition to the murders, the first season concentrates on Sookie's relationship with Bill, and Sam's relationship with Sookie's friend, Tara. Bill explains the rules of being a vampire to Sookie and, after he finds himself killing a vampire to defend Sookie, he is forced to sire a young girl as punishment. In the last episode of the season, the new vampire is left with Bill. After Maudette and Dawn's murders, Jason becomes addicted to vampire blood, "v-juice", and has a short relationship with another addict, Amy, which ends when she is murdered. At the end of season one, Jason joins the anti-vampire movement and seems to be clean.

The final episode ends with Detective Andy Bellefleur discovering a body in his car.

Cast and characters

Main characters

* Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a telepathic waitress in a small-town restaurant.

* Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), a vampire with whom Sookie falls in love.

* Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell), the owner of Merlotte's, where Sookie works. He is a shapeshifter, often watching over Sookie in the form of a dog.

* Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten), Sookie's brother, road crew supervisor for Bon Temps.

* Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley), Sookie's best friend, bartender at Merlotte's (played by Brook Kerr in the unaired pilot).

* Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård), Sheriff of one of the five vampire districts, he is very powerful in the vampire community.

* Detective Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer), the detective investigating Jason Stackhouse.

* Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis), Tara's cousin, short order cook at Merlotte's, drug dealer and prostitute.

* Benedict "Eggs" Talley (Mehcad Brooks) (Season 2— )

* Daphne (Ashley Jones), a new waitress at Merlotte's and love interest for Sam (Season 2— )

* Dr. Ludwig (Marcia DeRousse) (Season 2— )

* Eden Hamby (Annalise Basso) Jessica's little sister (Season 2— )

* Godric (Allan Hyde), a 2,000 year old vampire who looks like a teenager (Season 2— )

* Hadley Hale, Sookie's cousin (Season 2— )

* Isabel Beaumont (Valerie Cruz), an elegant, Hispanic vampire (Season 2— )

* Rev. Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian), head of the Fellowship of the Sun, an anti-vampire church that Jason joins (Season 2— )

* Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp), wife of Rev. Steve Newlin (Season 2— )

* Sophie-Anne Leclerq (Evan Rachel Wood), the vampiric Queen of Louisiana, even more powerful than Eric (Season 2— )

* Stan (Ed Quinn), Godric's lieutenant in Texas (Season 2— )

Supporting characters

* Arlene Fowler (Carrie Preston), a waitress working with Sookie.

* Hoyt Fortenberry (Jim Parrack), a friend of Jason and Rene who works on the road crew.

* Sheriff Bud Dearborne (William Sanderson), the town sheriff.

* Pam (Kristin Bauer), assistant to Eric and bouncer in his bar; "made" (turned into a vampire) by Eric.

* Maryann Forrester (Michelle Forbes), a wealthy, mysterious "social worker."

* Lettie Mae Thornton (Adina Porter), Tara's abusive, alcoholic mother.

* Terry Bellefleur (Todd Lowe), cousin of Detective Andy Bellefleur, Iraq war veteran, and bartender at Merlotte's.

* Jessica Hamby (Deborah Ann Woll), a young vampire "made" by Bill as a part of his punishment for murdering a fellow vampire.

* Lorena (Mariana Klaveno), a cruel vampire, who "made" Bill at the end of the Civil War.

* Nan Flanagan (Jessica Tuck), the spokeswoman and 'face' of the America Vampire League.

* The Magister (Željko Ivanek), a vampire who sentenced Bill for murdering a fellow vampire.

Deceased characters

* Maudette Pickens (Danielle Sapia), a local woman who videotapes sexual encounters with vampire Liam and with Jason Stackhouse. Killed by Drew Marshall.

* Mack Rattray (James Jean Parks) and Denise Rattray (Karina Logue), a lowlife couple who attempt to drain Bill Compton of his blood. Killed by Bill.

* Dawn Green (Lynn Collins), Sookie's co-worker and friend, Jason's girlfriend. Killed by Drew Marshall.

* Adele Hale Stackhouse (Lois Smith), Sookie and Jason's grandmother, nicknamed "Gran". Killed by Drew Marshall.

* Uncle Bartlett (Cheyenne Wilbur), Sookie's pedophile great-uncle. Killed by Bill.

* Malcolm (Andrew Rothenberg), Liam (Graham Shiels) and Diane (Aunjanue Ellis), vampire acquaintances of Bill Compton who live together in a "nest" and don't wish to mainstream. Burnt alive with Neil Jones.

* Neil Jones (Kevin Michael McHale), coroner's assistant and closet fangbanger. Burnt alive with Malcolm, Liam and Diane.

* Longshadow (Raoul Trujillo), first bartender of Fangtasia. Staked by Bill.

* Eddie Gautier (Stephen Root), a vampire supplying V for Lafayette. Staked by Amy.

* Amy Burley (Lizzy Caplan), Jason Stackhouse's bohemian, drug-addicted love interest. Killed by Drew Marshall.

* Drew Marshall/Rene Lenier (Michael Raymond-James), Arlene's "Cajun" fiancee who works on the road crew with Jason Stackhouse. Beheaded by Sookie.

* Miss Jeanette (Aisha Hinds), a drugstore clerk who performs phony exorcisms on the side. Had her heart cut out.

Production

Development history

Series creator Alan Ball had previously worked with premium cable channel HBO on Six Feet Under, which ran for five seasons. In October 2005, after Six Feet Under's finale, Ball signed a two-year agreement with HBO to develop and produce original programming for the network. True Blood became the first project under the deal, after Ball became acquainted with Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mystery books. One day, while early for a dentist appointment, Ball was browsing through Barnes and Noble and came across Dead Until Dark, the first installment in Harris' series. Enjoying it, he read the following entries and became interested in "bringing Harris' vision to television." However, Harris had two other adaptation options for the books when Ball approached her. She said she chose to work with him, though, because "[Ball] really ‘got’ me. That’s how he convinced me to go with him. I just felt that he understood what I was doing with the books.”

The project's hour-long pilot was ordered concurrently with the finalization of the aforementioned development deal and was written, directed and produced by Ball. Cast members Paquin, Kwanten and Trammell were announced in February 2007 and Moyer later on in April. The pilot was shot in the early summer of 2007 and was officially ordered to series in August, at which point Ball had already written several more episodes. Production on the series began later that fall, with Brook Kerr, who portrayed Tara Thornton in the original pilot, being replaced by Rutina Wesley. Two more episodes of the series had been filmed before the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike shut production of the 12-episode first season down until 2008. That September, after only the first two episodes of the series aired, HBO placed a second season order of twelve episodes on the show and scheduled for production to commence in January 2009 for a summer premiere.

Opening title sequence

True Blood's title sequence was created by Digital Kitchen, a production studio that was also responsible for creating the title sequence of Six Feet Under. The sequence, which is primarily composed of portrayals of the show's deep South setting, is played to "Bad Things" by Jace Everett

onceptually, Digital Kitchen elected to construct the sequence around the idea of "the whore in the house of prayer" by intermingling contradictory images of sex, violence and religion and displaying them from the point of view of "a supernatural, predatory creature observing human beings from the shadows ..." Digital Kitchen also wished to explore ideas of redemption and forgiveness, and thus arranged for the sequence to progress from morning to night and to culminate in a baptism.

Most of the footage used in the sequence was filmed on location by Digital Kitchen. Crew members took a four-day trip to Louisiana to film and also shot at a Chicago church and on a stage and in a bar in Seattle. Additionally, several Digital Kitchen crew members made cameo appearances in the sequence: Executive Producer Mark Bashore portrays a bar patron who dances with a woman and later gets into a confrontation; Bashore's sons appear as young boys messily consuming red berries; a Digital Kitchen office assistant and an assistant editor appear as weeping religious women and two producers, in one of the sequence's final shots, portray men baptising a Cajun woman.

In editing the opening, Digital Kitchen wanted to express how "religious fanaticism" and "sexual energy" could corrupt humans and make them animalistic. Accordingly, several frames of some shots were cut to give movements a jittery feel, while other shots were simply played back very slowly. Individual frames were also splattered with drops of blood. The sequence's transitions were constructed differently, though; they were made with a Polaroid transfer technique. The last frame of one shot and the first frame of another were taken as a single Polaroid photo, which was then divided between emulsion and backing. The emulsion was then filmed being further separated by chemicals and those shots of this separation were placed back into the final edit.

Eight different typefaces, inspired by Southern road signage, were also created manually by Camm Rowland for cast and crew credits, as well as the show's title card.

Music

Gary Calamar, the music supervisor for the series, said his goal for the soundtrack to the show that is to create something "swampy, bluesy and spooky" and to feature local Louisiana musicians.

The main theme song is "Bad Things" by country music artist Jace Everett, from his 2005 self-titled debut.

Composer Nathan Barr writes the original score for the series which features cello, guitar, prepared piano and glass harmonica among other instruments, all of which he performs himself. Nathan Barr's original score for True Blood will be released on CD in August 2009.

Elektra/Atlantic Records released a True Blood soundtrack on May 19, 2009, the same day as the release of the DVD and Blu-Ray of the first season.

Both Nathan Barr and Jace Everett won 2009 awards from Broadcast Music Incorporated in the BMI Cable Awards category for, respectively, True Blood's original score and theme song.

Viral marketing campaign

he premiere of True Blood was prefaced with a viral marketing/alternate reality game (ARG) campaign, based at BloodCopy.com. This included setting up multiple websites, encoding web address into unmarked envelopes mailed to high profile blog writers and others, and even performances by a "vampire" who attempted to reach out to others of their kind, to discuss the recent creation of "TruBlood", a fictional beverage which is featured in the show.

A MySpace account with the username "Blood" had, as of June 19, uploaded two videos; one entitled "Vampire Taste Test - Tru Blood vs Human", and one called "BloodCopy Exclusive INTERVIEW WITH SAMSON THE VAMPIRE".

A prequel comic was handed out to attendees of the 2008 Comic-Con. The comic centers around an old vampire named Lamar, who tells the reader about how TruBlood surfaced and was discussed between many vampires before going public. At one point, Lamar wonders if TruBlood is making the world safe for vampires or from them.

Several commercials featured on HBO and Facebook.com aired prior to the series premiere, placing vampires in ads similar to those of beer and wine. Some beverage vending machines across the US were also fitted with cards indicating that they were "sold out" of TruBlood.

Thousands of DVDs of the first episode were handed out to attendees of Midnight Madness, a special screenings event of the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival.

Blockbuster Video provided free rental of the first episode of True Blood several days before it was broadcast on HBO. The video had a faint promotional watermark throughout the episode.

On April 16, 2009, HBO released the first teaser poster for Season 2. The image uses a perspective technique that shows observers one of two images.

A minute-long promotional video advertising season two, which featured Bob Dylan's "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'," was released via Entertainment Tonight in early May.

Reception

The overall critical reception of True Blood has generally been favorable, despite the fact that initial impressions were mixed. The New York Post critic wrote of the opening episodes: "If HBO's new vampire show is any indication, there would still be countless deaths - especially among vampire hunters and the viewers who love them - because everyone would be dying of boredom. And so it is with HBO's new series from death-obsessed Alan Ball, creator of the legendary Six Feet Under, whose new show True Blood, won't so much make your blood run cold as it will leave you cold."

Whereas USA Today concluded: "Sexy, witty and unabashedly peculiar, True Blood is a blood-drenched Southern Gothic romantic parable set in a world where vampires are out and about and campaigning for equal rights. Part mystery, part fantasy, part comedy, and all wildly imaginative exaggeration, Blood proves that there's still vibrant life — or death — left in the "star-crossed lovers" paradigm. You just have to know where to stake your romantic claim."

By the end of the first series, True Blood had a score of 64. indicating generally favorable reviews, on Metacritic, the aggregator of critical responses.

Ratings

The first season of True Blood debuted at a very modest 1.44 million viewers compared to the network's past drama premiers such as Big Love which premiered at 4.56 million, and John from Cincinnati which debuted at 3.4 million.However, by late November 2008, 6.8 million a week were watching: this figure included repeat and on-demand viewings. The season finale's viewership was 2.4 million. True Blood has reportedly become HBO's most popular series since The Sopranos and Sex and the City.

The second season premiere of the series on June 14, 2009 was watched by 3.7 million viewers, making it the most watched program on HBO since the series finale of The Sopranos. The total number of viewers for the season premiere, including the late night replay, was 5.1 million.

Offbeat awards

True Blood won two 2009 awards at "Mr Skin's 10th Annual Anatomy Awards," which celebrate sex and nudity in motion pictures and television. True Blood won Best TV Show, and Lizzy Caplan won for "Best First-Time Nude Scene."

DVD release

The DVD and Blu-ray of Season One were released on May 19, 2009.


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