It took a boring weekend back in 2008 for me to finally give HBO’s “True Blood” a real chance. After forcing myself through a handful of episodes, I was finally hooked. It played like a darker side of Twilight, with vampires and shape-shifters unleashing a vicious wrath upon the residents of Bon Temps. There was heavy romance, lots of nudity, and more blood than you could ask for. The characters – based on their counterparts from Charlaine Harris’ novels – were being incredibly well-developed for future arcs.
Flash forward to 2010, show creator Alan Ball and HBO decided to push the envelope with the third season. Nearly every episode ended with a violent, tense, and engaging cliffhanger that made the weeklong wait practically unbearable. We saw Tara bash in Franklin’s head and a twisted sex sequence between Bill and Lorean, among other absolutely horrific moments. It was a horror fan’s wet dream.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.
What’s more shocking than the various “holy sh*t moments” of 2010 is how quickly HBO is tanking the beloved franchise. Actually, I think tanking might even be an understatement. Five episodes into season four and I’m tearing my hair out in frustration. I originally planned on writing a brief article detailing just how HBO could save “True Blood” from being drained of all of its lifeforce, but after going over my mental bullet points, I decided that it’s already too late — “True Blood” is DEAD.
They say history repeats itself, so why not learn from it?
It only took five episodes – five long, grueling, boring and idiotic episodes – for HBO to drain the life out of what they built over the previous three years. It’s undoubtedly one of the most popular shows on television (so popular that it took over the San Diego Comic-Con right alongside major properties like Spider-Man and Batman), and also something I guarantee will be DEAD by the end of season five.
So what happened? How did we get here? How did this celebrated adaptation become the pit stain of television in such a flash?
Let’s begin back in September of 2008 where I declared “Heroes” a polished turd. My article pre-dated Entertainment Weekly‘s huge feature piece that oddly detailed all of my points. I have since gone on to refer to it as “Heroes Syndrome,” a coined term that sidesteps “jumping the shark” and references the inherent mistakes made by NBC and the writer’s of the superhero series.
“True Blood” now suffers from “Heroes Syndrome” – and it’s too late to fix it, so I believe.
Filibustering long enough, let’s get to the key points (in no particular order):
1: Everyone on the show is a creature of sorts. In “Heroes” there were a few mutants with superpowers walking among regular humans, until everyone on the show turned into a hero. “True Blood” also began with a few vampires and shape shifters walking among humans, that is until every single person on the show is now somehow connected to the supernatural. This immediately removes the “awe” and “spectacle” that was so strongly emitted in the first three seasons.
2: Nobody dies other than the main arc villains, whom even return in cameo roles (so they’re not quite dead). The best way to keep the audience on their toes is to kill off a main character every once in awhile. NO character should be safe, ever. When Godric was killed, it was one of the biggest WTF’s of the show’s history, until he started appearing again…
3: Much like “Heroes”, good guys become bad guys, and vice versa. The most infuriating flip-flop is between Bill and Eric. The way they change their hair styles and clothing to represent good and bad is nauseating; Eric is now wearing swimming trunks and Bill dressed to the nines. One of the main problems with having every character flip-flop between good and bad is that the audience doesn’t know whom to root for anymore. There’s no underdog, no fear for the characters and no suspense as a result. It’s also a cheap way of attempting to rebuild a romantic connection between characters that’s already run its course (watch, they’ll soon reconnect Sookie and Bill…BARF!). This leads right into…
4: Everyone on the show is in love with everyone. I nearly threw my remote right through the screen when Jason and Jessica almost locked lips in episode S4.E5. One of the best parts of any series is the romantic tension between various characters that’s driven all the way to the series finale (see “Cheers,” “Frasier,” “Entourage,” “House,” “Mad Men,” “Bones,” “X-Files,” “30 Rock,” etc etc etc). The way “True Blood” just drops one arc and inserts a new one is such a slap in the face to the viewer. It shows no respect for the audience and instead puts on display their selfish attempt to create new sexual tension in a fresh form.
5: Much like “Heroes,” adding more and more supernatural characters only means a handful of fresh rules. With all the new rules comes a heft of lazy, lethargic and boring exposition. Season 4 is all talk and no do, completely abandoning everything delivered in the third season.
6: I truly loved how the first three seasons didn’t side with any gender – the show was for BOTH males and females. The new season CLEARLY is focusing on the female demographic overdosing the show with man-pubes, shirtless men and unnecessary romances. Females only make up half of the population. “Hello? Hello? Anybody home? Huh? Think, McFly.”
These six points are just a taste of where HBO has gone wrong with “True Blood” and how it’s completely reminiscent of “Heroes”. These two shows share the exact same path and make the exact same mistakes, which is why I declare “True Blood” DEAD.
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