True Blood is an American dark fantasy horror television series produced and created by Alan Ball. It is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris, detailing the co-existence of vampires and humans in Bon Temps, a fictional small town in northwestern Louisiana. The series centers on the adventures of Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a telepathic waitress with an otherworldly quality.
The show was broadcast on the premium cable network HBO, in the United States, and was produced by HBO in association with Ball's production company, Your Face Goes Here Entertainment. The series premiered on September 7, 2008 and concluded on August 24, 2014, comprising seven seasons and 80 episodes. The first five seasons received highly positive reviews, and both nominations and wins for several awards, including a Golden Globe and an Emmy.
The first five seasons of True Blood received critical acclaim, despite the fact that initial impressions were mixed. Linda Stasi of the New York Post 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."
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, [True] Blood proves that there's still vibrant life — or death — left in the 'star-crossed cute lovers' paradigm. You just have to know where to stake your romantic claim."
Season 5 was the final season with Alan Ball as showrunner, after which he was replaced by Brian Buckner. The sixth season was met with generally mixed reviews in contrast to the critical acclaim of the previous five seasons. Many critics noticed the decreasing quality of the scripts, production values, and even the acting, with more of a focus on action and less on character development. Season 7 continued this trend, receiving fewer positive reviews, and the viewing rate also declined considerably compared to previous seasons, with only 3 million tuning in every week, down from the 5 million from the fourth and fifth seasons.
The cast received positive reviews in the early seasons, with praise going to the performances of Nelsan Ellis and Anna Paquin. For the first season, Anna Paquin won the Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama Golden Globe at the 66th Golden Globe Awards; she was also nominated the next year and won Saturn Award at the 13th Satellite Awards, a ceremony in which Nelsan Ellis also won the Saturn Award. Stephen Moyer won the Best Actor in Television award at the 2010 Saturn Awards.
Metacritic, an aggregator of critical responses, found "generally favorable reviews" for the first five seasons, with ratings of 63, 74, 79, 74 and 74, respectively. The sixth season rated 58 and the seventh 54, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
True Blood was the subject of a Sesame Street sketch parody titled "True Mud" (2010), featuring puppet versions of Sookie, Bill, Lafayette, Sam, Tara, and Sheriff Dearborn. In the skit, Muppet Sookie struggles to fulfill Muppet Bill's pleas for a pint of "True Mud", as the other characters speculate whether or not he is a "grouch".
Anna Paquin (Sookie), Stephen Moyer (Bill), and Alexander Skarsgård (Eric) appeared on the August 2010 cover of Rolling Stone covered in blood and completely naked. This cover drew criticism due to the image's supposed promotion of sexuality and violence. The show's creator, Alan Ball, stated in the magazine, "To me, vampires are sex... I don't get a vampire story about abstinence. I'm 53. I don't care about high school students. I find them irritating and uninformed."
Allegory of LGBT rights
The struggle for vampire equality in True Blood has been interpreted as an allegory for the LGBT rights movement. Charlaine Harris, the author of the book series on which the show is based, stated that her initial characterization for the vampires were as "...a minority that was trying to get equal rights". Several phrases in the series are borrowed and adapted from expressions used against and about LGBT people, such as "God Hates Fangs" (God Hates Fags) and "Coming out of the coffin" (coming out of the closet).
Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker wrote that the show is built "around a series of metaphors: Vampire rights stand in for gay rights, and now the clever laughs elicited from this bratty-vampire girl represent an extreme of adolescent rebelliousness". David Bianculli of NPR wrote, "True Blood is big on allegory, and the tension about accepting vampires into society is an obvious play on civil rights in general, and gay rights in particular". However, the series' creator, Alan Ball, who is gay, has stated that such a comparison is lazy and possibly homophobic; and Lauren Gutterman of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies has expressed concerns that the show might perpetuate negative stereotypes of homosexuals as deviants.