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True Blood - The Complete First Season - HBO television series DVD / drama DVD / sci-fi and horror DVD review
Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 5 stars
Actors: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Jim Parrack
Creator: Alan Ball   Studio: HBO Home Video
DVD release: 19 May 2009   Runtime: 720 minutes (5 discs)
Format: Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Features: Aspect ratio 1.78:1, Audio (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English, French; Dobly Digital 2.0 Stereo - Spanish), Subtitles (English, French, Spanish, Portugese), "In Focus: Vampires in America," "Tru Blood" beverage ads (French, English), Ads for (vampire dating, vampire hotels, lawyers that service vampires, Pro- and anti- vampire-rights public service announcements, Six audio commentaries with cast and crew (inc. exec. prod./creator Alan Ball, Ann Paquin and Stephen Moyer)

Like anyone with an ounce of common sense, I tried to resist HBO's latest imaginative series, created by Six Feet Under's Alan Ball. Who in their right mind would fall for such an outrageous mix of humans, vampires, civil rights, murders, and a titillating romance between a human girl, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and the pale, intense vampire attempting to mainstream into Bon Temps, Louisiana, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer)?

The series is fueled by the slow seduction of the virgin by the vampire, but other events capture the attention of local residents: a series of unsolved murders that may or may not be the result of vampire activity. Most likely the vampires are innocent, at least in this case, but the locals are loathe to suspect one of their own.

Sookie is uniquely vulnerable. Plagued all her life by the ability to hear the thoughts of others, time spent with Bill offers a respite - she cannot hear his thoughts. Yet Sookie is a small-town, God-fearing young woman, both enticed by and suspicious of the vampire world. And she is right: like any group, the undead are subject to behavioral aberrations, in most cases quite violent. Attracted to Bill's inherent goodness (he has only been a vampire for 173 years), Sookie is intimidated by his potential dark side.

Paquin is luminous as Sookie, playing her character's innocence and curiosity with understated charm. Bill is the perfect foil, Moyer vacillating between soft-spoken suitor and the natural inclinations of the netherworld. Sadly, they will never share breakfast together as a normal couple, the rays of the morning sun a death knell to Bill's sensitive flesh.

The supporting cast is a happy mélange of the eccentric and sensational, finely balanced, each a charming piece of this surprisingly sophisticated puzzle: Sookie's sex addict brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten), as hopeless a roué as ever played by an actor; Sookie's best friend, Tara (Rutina Wesley), who pays hundreds of dollars to cast out an inner demon only to find her impetuous temper as uncontrollable as ever; and Tara's cousin, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), a blatantly gay cook-cum-local-purveyor of "V" (potent vampire blood), a master of overstatement with flashing eyes and barely coiled energy.

There is a pair of law enforcement buffoons (Chris Bauer and William Sanderson) plucked straight from Mayberry USA, humorously bickering over the clues at each murder scene. Most folks come together at the local gathering place, Merlotte's, where owner Sam (Sam Trammell) carries a torch for Sookie, substitutes with Tara, and struggles with his own demons in the small hours of the night.

The more adventurous can visit the local vampire bar, where blood lust simmers just below the surface and fangs are de rigueur. The murders add excitement to the blooming romance between the human and the undead, the residents on edge with each new outrage. I had no intention of succumbing to this bizarre assortment of weirdos and fanged creatures in True Blood, but unlike Sookie, I have been bitten. Like others before me, one taste of "V" isn't nearly enough. I want more.
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reviewed by Luan Gaines
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