Sep 10, 2008

Alan Ball, I Wanna Do Bad Things…

What a sucky True Blood. (Premiered Sept. 7 on HBO)

Let me preface by saying that if you (you, as in reader, not Alan Ball) don't know how a review of what is good and bad differs from what someone does or doesn't like, then stop a moment to reflect on that before reading further. I've read all of the Southern Vampire/Sookie Stackhouse books, which doesn't make me an expert on Alan Ball's vision for HBO's "True Blood," but it has prepared me for Charlaine Harris's conception of the Sookie Universe, which was somehow spewed all to Hades in the pilot episode. I was born right smack in the middle of where the fictional Bon Temps, Louisiana, is located, and again, this doesn't give me any say into what Alan Ball wants to sermonize, but I can still have an opinion on it. And I know what I like. And I can say so on this here interwebby thang.

Scene before the opening theme: Useless spoon feeding. Who are these people and what do I care if Miss Blond girlfriend is bored with driving and starts a hand job on Mr. Hick boyfriend, which he apparently finds uninteresting enough to yell at her to stop at the Grab It Quick store to go in and chat about the product, Tru-Blood. The store clerk did rather interest me until he opened his mouth to speak. And the Billy Bob Vampire? Will we ever see him again, or was he our gratuitous red neck good ol' boy beer belly camouflage wearing Louisiana vamp? Doesn't matter, didn't care. All of the information presented in this prelude to the opening credits was repeated in the actual show, by Universe characters.

Opening Credits: Oh my effing jebus, what is with this seizure-inducing crap load of imagery? I should have turned this off right then, because one thing I don't need is to be preached at, Father Ball. My conscious is open and clear, thank you sooooooo much. That was entirely beaucoup presumptious ne croyez-vous pas? shoving that in-your-face message down our throats before we ever got around to seeing who Sookie, Sam, Bill, Jason, Gran, or even Tina the cat, or basically anyone who matters was. I had an opportunity to see this first episode in the preview version, and the opening visual was so much better, even if it did look like it was a homemade place holder. I actually liked the single images, some stylized and some photographs, pictured behind the titles. It was dark and mysterious, not the revolting here's how Southerners are and how they think and oh do we ever need to reform them from their evil church revival meeting, police riots, and child KKK rearing ways. We'll teach them who can't deal with vampires by sending a message! Show those gun totin' holy rollers.

You know, at least once a month I go to the midnight baptism at Black Water Lake located next door to the Saint Let's Shove Stereotypes Down Your Throat Church. Of course this is after watching the faith healer smack someone in the forehead, usually resulting in a visit to the local [witch] doctor, and before dressing my five year old in sheets and then dressing myself in my Daisy Dukes before going down to the local dive to have sex on the pool table. (Although no cellulite for me baby—I drinks me beer and does me leg lifts!) I do have a hard time fitting in all the revival meetings and, oh lordy the riots. Are they gonna take away my Right to Riot membership for absenteeism?

I did have to laugh at the armadillo road kill—been there done that. The "God Hates Fangs" sign cracked me up, but not for reasons you might think. Does God hate morons too? Does God hate sluts who video-tape having sex with vampires? Does God hate me for watching "True Blood"? Am I gonna have to be re-baptized in the Black Lake at midnight?

All righty then, I hated the opening. Additionally, the song seems to have been adjusted (sorry, I'm not musical, so do not know all of the technical terms used for musical production). The original sounds deeper, throaty, sexier, which is how "Bad Things" should sound. The aired version sounds like it was geared up for choir boys. I don't know how I missed this song, since it is two years old. Oh yeah, it is in the Country genre, which you might think, since I am born and raised in Louisiana, the only genre for me, but let me burst your cotton-pickin' bubble. If and when I'm screwing on the pool table, it will probably be to "Pink Cadillac" or "Lust for Life.*"

Tara: This Tara is so beyond the Sookie-verse Tara. Tell me, what purpose did she serve? None! First of all, Tara in the book was nothing like this, and before you go getting your boy shorts twisted around your "this is fiction and things can be changed from the book and don't you know it is just a book and a TV show you moron" mind-set, let me tell you how very flexible I am. In the preview episode, a different actress played Tara, and even though the Original Tara character was more than a hoot and holler from the book, I decided to go with the flow and accept that. The first Tara didn't serve much of a purpose either, but she was funny. Quite in-your-face funny, even if she was portrayed as a black woman with an attitude (insert gasp here). Yeah, I'm from the South, I'm politically incorrect (isn't that what you're preaching), so sue me. She was funny as hell and I laughed each time she was on screen. The Replacement Tara however, had an even bigger chip on her shoulder and wasn't funny, and served even less of a purpose (didn't make me laugh at all, just made me wonder WTF?). I'll play along with Tara working at the bar, when all of us readers know that she owned her own clothing store in town and was a nice gal, and not as misdirected and Alan's Tara is. Although she did not make an appearance this early in the book, putting her at the bar could work, but it just didn't.

The Accents: All in all, I thought the accents weren't so bad, but my expectations were not high. I expected worse. The only thing I questioned were the Cajun/Creole accent of Rene Lanier. Since that accent is from around New Iberia and thereabouts, I just told myself he moved there from South La. There are not many Cajun accents in that part of Louisiana. But I'm okay with that.

Jason: I'm still getting over seeing so much man-flank on Jason very early on. Not that I don't think man-flank is a good thing, it just kind of threw me for a loop because I am used to only hearing about Jason's sexcapades, not seeing them. We get to see stuff from other POV's, not only from Sookie's first person point of view as in the books. This is a license that ostensibly should be used to keep some of the mystery even a mystery to Sookie.

Sam: Ah, Sam…was it scrumptious licking Sookie's neck like that?…you're so cute.

Lafayette: The chief stereotype in True Blood is the opening credits, not Lafayette Reynolds. I've never seen a black gay cross dressing homosexual male in any Louisiana bar, and I was 18 in Louisiana when the drinking age was still 18. Hey, it's Louisiana, we could handle it. You know we had to get all riled up for the riots and baptisms and such.

Rene Lanier: Didn't care.

Dawn, Arlene, the Rattrays: Conduits for the sermon.

Gran: Wish I had me a granny.

Sookie: Well. Well. I can say I liked the way that Sookie's thought reading ability was presented. I was wondering how they were going to do that, and while I always thought that this would be a great ability to have, this made me almost change my mind. The conglomeration of thoughts coming out of all the heads around Sookie would probably make me crazy too. Of course, if you have read the books, you know that she appears stupid sometimes just to work around all of the thoughts bombarding her from every direction. But she wasn't presented this stupid in the book, so I think we have to hang around so she can let us know how country road smart she really is. I say this, knowing from experience, that being smart doesn't mean you don't do stupid things at times.

The suspension of disbelief moment came not when we landed in a world of vampires out of the coffins, but when Sookie, who we all know is a telepath, didn't hear the minds of her attackers at the very end. They were the Rattrays, not vampires, so she should have heard them. Why do things like this bother me? Because inconsistencies like this can suck me right out of the moment so fast that…HA HA I made a funny. Even in a paranormal read or show, the normal things should have some normalcy, and the abnormal things (telepathy) should have some consistency.

My favorite scene, even though I don't remember Sookie acting this way in the book, was when Sam, Tara and Sookie were in Sam's office, and she was hearing their thoughts as they were chastising her for talking with Bill. I was kinda loving' the way she told them to stay out of her business and stomped off. Put your food down Sookie, girl!

I wanted to like, really like this series. I have put time and $ into the books (and audio books), and I cared about these people. And I don't mean I loved all the characters, because Charlaine Harris made me not like Jason, and it's a good writer who can make you not like somebody, instead of tell you to not like them. When you don't care about a character at all, that is the fault of the writer. If the show lasts, there are some characters coming up that I like and care about, Vampire Eric and Vampire Pam (she is a hoot, btw), and some that I could just slap silly each time they appear on a page. CH did a good job in bringing these characters to life and making a reader love them or hate them. Although she had a few flubs along the way during the series, these are her characters and I liked them her way.

Am I naïve to think that developers who base a series on an authors work should actually remain true to the work? Obviously it had something going for it. Is manipulating the original work to bend another way creative? Why direct an author's work into a stereotypical conglomeration of preachiness, when Charlain did it just perfectly to begin with. Hmmm…..Does Alan Ball think that the people insulted in this show can't afford HBO. By golly, my kids are going without supper and shoes, but I'm gonna have my HBO!

Summary: Princess thinks pilot episode is crap, not bloody crap, just crap. You can have your own opinion. I'll watch the next episode, second chances and all that shit. I've been known not to be able to tear my eyes away from worse things.

I just love these covers, very much reflective of the spirit of the books with the child-like drawings. Wonderful art. Let's hear a big Hallelujah--no decapitation in these covers; keep up the good work Southern Vampire Cover Illustrator. You can find her link on CH's page, I'm just too lazy to go look it up right now.

*Derail: I just love it when the family cruise ship commercial comes on and they use "Lust forLife" as their theme song. Me and Cap'n Roughnight leer at each other with the "yeah, I've had it in the ear before" look.

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