True Blood: Season 1 – Blu-Ray Review

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Since the series finale of The Sopranos, some have said that HBO had gone a little soft with shows such as Big Love, John From Cincinnati, and the new No. #1 Ladies Detective Agency. But you can always count on Alan Ball, who created Six Feet Under (R.I.P), to provide scandalous, controversial material to the table. He hasnt let us down with his newest show for the premium cable network, the dirty Southern vampire show, True Blood.

In the True Blood world, vampires exist and have recently revealed themselves to humans in the hopes to have some semblance of co-existence. There are humans however who frown upon the “blood-suckers” and who want them dead. But vampires persist, even forming Vampire Rights Organizations and lobbying politicians for their rights. You see, the Japanese have perfected a synthetic blood, cleverly called True Blood, that will allow vampires to quench their thirst for blood without having to kill a human.

Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) is a telepathic waitress at the only restaurant in the small (fictional) Louisiana town of Bon Temps. The restaurant is named Merlottes after the owner/bartender Sam Merlotte, who lives in a trailer with his dog next to the restaurant. Sookies best friend Tara comes to work as a bartender at Merlottes, although she doesnt give Sam much of a choice in the matter. Taras cousin, the scene-stealing homosexual African American drug dealing Lafayette works in the kitchen, dishing out advice just as filling as the food. Sookie lives with her Gran, with whom she has lived since her parents died. Sookies brother Jason is a good-looking, womanizing, self-obsessed-but-charming guy who lives in their parents old house.

The little town of Bon Temps is about to get their first vampire. A Southern gentleman named Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) who makes his way into Merlottes one evening. Sookie seems to be the only one in town who is excited about his arrival, as she witnesses by hearing all of their thoughts. The two develop a relationship that quickly turns serious. Bills arrival also just happens to coincide with a string of murders in town, and everyone seems to want to blame him for them.

If youve watched an HBO original series, youll know that they excel at assembling phenomenal ensemble casts, where each character is crucial to the storyline. The varying main and sub-plots are all woven together to create a show that is more complex and more in depth than your average primetime TV series. True Blood is no different. The show constantly pushes the envelope, being one of the most involved shows on TV and, in true Alan Ball style, the most sexually explicit. This is not a family show. The first season includes more nudity and sex, more bloodshed and gore, and more controversial issues such as religion and bigotry against gender, race, sexual preference, and vampire than I think Ive ever seen on TV. Its brilliant. I would love to watch Stephanie Meyers face as she watches this show. Its everything that she wishes Twilight could be.

Anna Paquin won a Golden Globe this past year for her performance on the show, which made me want to watch it even more. But when I finally got around to it, I wasnt as impressed with her as I was with some of the other acting on the show. Maybe its because I didnt like her character most of the time, but I found Sookie to be really whiny and selfish. Being a Southern girl, I also wasnt all that impressed with her exaggerated Southern accent. Some of the other accents are exaggerated as well, such as Taras, but since this is my only complaint, its easy to overlook when you begin to get into the show.

True Bloods Louisiana is gritty, disturbing, sleazy, and extremely addicting. Unlike Twilight, True Blood will have you questioning whether or not vampires actually do exist, and hoping that they do. Alan Ball has taken a tired horror genre and skillfully crafted it into a TV show that leaves fans (blood) thirsty for more.

The picture is presented in full 1080p HD with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It is beautiful. The sound is HD DTS Surround and rivals any film of exceptional sound quality. This is the first show I’ve ever watched on BD, and I was quite impressed.

Let me warn you, the extras are extensive. You pretty much have to watch the entire season over again to view any of the literally thousands of snippets included. It would have been beneficial to include them as menu options instead of having to view them as a picture in picture or as pop-ups during each episode. But if you do watch them (listed as Enhanced Viewing in the menu screen), you’ll be treated to hints about the show, various political campaign ads, fictional commercials for True Blood the drink, fictional news footage, and many many more, along with Lafayette popping in every once in awhile to give his own commentary on the people and situations in Bon Temps.

Also included are various commentaries:

Episode 1 – Alan Ball (Creator/Writer/Director)
Episode 2 – Anna Paquin (Sookie) and Scott Winant (Director)
Episode 4 – Brian Buckner (Writer) and Michael Lehmann (Director)
Episode 5 – Stephen Moyer (Bill) and Dan Minahan (Director)
Episode 7 – Marcos Siega (Director)
Episode 11 – Nancy Oliver (Writer/Director)

While I enjoyed every one for different reasons, and because I can’t get enough of this show, I enjoyed Alan Ball’s commentary the most. He’s much livelier here than he was on any of the extras on the Towelhead DVD, and the commentary reminded me why I like him so much.

My only complaint is that I would rather have watched some of the extras separate from having to watch them in the Enhanced Viewing mode. Other than that, this show is well written and very addicting. The extras are exhaustively extensive, but excellent as well. The True Blood: Season 1 Blu-Ray set is a worthy addition to your collection. And it’s release comes just in time for the start of Season 2.

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Warner Home Video presents True Blood: Season 1. Directed by: various, including Alan Ball. Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley. Written by: various, including Alan Ball. Running time: 720 minutes. Rating: TV-M. Released on DVD: May 19, 2009. Available at Amazon.com

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