Here’s the thing about leading off your new TV series with vampires: you will have to continually find some way to top yourself year after year without your head crowning your own ass! This is Alan Ball and HBO’s ongoing dilemma with the hip series True Blood, now in the middle of its fourth season.
The series started off four years ago interestingly enough with vampires becoming part of mainstream society thanks to the engineering of synthetic blood aptly called ‘true blood’, which allows vampires to feed without real bloodshed. From there we met some suspiciously beautiful people in Bon Temps, Louisiana where the show takes place, who all seem pretty normal…at first. As the show progresses more supernatural elements are introduced. Shape shifters to start, maenads from Greek mythology, werewolves, faeries, and now we have witches, oh my, which leaves us with just a few regular Joe’s left in Bon Temps.
Given this, the show is holding up pretty well. The Sookie-Bill-Eric love triangle and an odd season finale- for several key characters- dragged down the third season, but they opened up the fourth season with a shake-up that has given fresh blood and renewed interest to familiar faces. That said, HBO does have a history of letting their shows grow stale after a few seasons. The tradition is to desperately steep in a bit too much overwrought melodrama, like the gunshot suicide in Six Feet Under or Luke Perry’s ghost coming back to haunt the inmates of Oz.
True Blood is currently tiptoeing that line. The fact that they already end every episode on a cliffhanger (and have since the beginning) means the audience is expecting the histrionics. Still, I believe that the show has done enough to let the worn out plot-lines die off, while breeding new ones that can hopefully stay fresh enough to last this season and beyond. HBO usually has about a six-year ceiling on shows, which means True Blood may be setting itself up for the beginning of the end. So far the witches this season have delivered, and Alan Ball will not have to hold his breath.