Archive for Exposition

The Only Good Part of “True Blood” is the Title Sequence

Posted in Horror, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2008 by gothicusmaximus

As a function the aggressive viral marketing campaign that surrounds it, I can declare with reasonable confidence that most denizens of the civilized world are not only privy to the recent premiere of HBO’s newest drama True Blood, but have some familiarity with its premise, which involves a substantial population of vampires revealing itself to society at large and struggling for acceptance therein. As I do not presently have a subscription to the network on which this program airs, I was unable to view its first episode upon its initial airing September 7th, and thus was at a loss to answer the veritable maelstrom of inquires as to my opinion on regarding the show with which I was met the following day. I scarcely exaggerate in saying that anyone even vaguely aware that I exist approached me at some point in the past week and put forth a challenge to the effect of “Hey Gothicus Maximus, what’d ya think of True Blood?”, all, perhaps unconsciously, resolving to forgo the logically precedent question as to whether I’d even watched it. My 19th Century English Novel professor put forth a pronounced effort, after I had slept through his class, to engage me in conversation in order to solicit my thoughts. 

Were my reaction to such a circumstance equivalent to that of the average individual, I would likely pause for a period of no more than three seconds to lament that, at this time, when my professors have assigned to me more reading than I can complete while maintaining even the most piteous excuse for a social life, I am unable to devote any time to watching a vampire-themed soap opera, then forget the matter entirely, but, of course, I am, in all that I do, hideously far removed from the average individual. The petitions of my close friends, sworn foes, and vague acquaintances had engendered in me a twisted sensation that I had shirked some responsibility– people depended upon me to be ‘that vampire guy’, to have an excessively well-formed opinion on any media peripherally related to the un-dead on the day that media became available to the public, if not earlier, and in that capacity I disappointed them. Driven to amend my entirely chimerical failure, I eschewed my homework in order to undertake the considerable task of locating a recording of True Blood’s pilot in the annals of cyberspace, and, having done so, I am now able to articulate my thoughts: this show, if its general quality can be inferred based on its first episode, is pretty fucking bad.

In authoring drama, a playwright or screenwriter must choose between two means of delivering exposition regarding the present circumstances, personalities, pasts, and guarded secrets of his characters. The first, most commonly favored option is the use of compelling dialogue and dynamic action to introduce plot points and develop dramatis personae. The inexplicably less popular alternative, to which the minds behind True Blood have evidently committed themselves, is to make the protagonist telepathic.

True Blood is the story of Sookie Stackhouse, waitress in a sleazy bar and resident of a fictional Louisiana town, cursed to be constantly besieged by the thoughts of those around her. This is a particular burden because, as she lives below the Mason-Dixon line, everyone she encounters thinks in a thick southern drawl. The shameless caricatures of African Americans she counts among her friends even make a point to avoid proper grammar in their interior monologues, and to punctuate important cogitations with a ‘dayum’. Relief from the agony of ceaseless assault by relevant details regarding her supporting cast comes to Sookie in the form of a vampire named Bill, whose undead mind is inscrutable even to so titantically stupid a plot device as the waitress’ gift. Although the thoughts of every other man with whom she’s acquainted are limited to such musings as “God she’s so hot, god I want to touch her”, or “I need to protect her,” she decides to give the Nosferatu the benefit of the doubt, becoming attracted to him. I suppose her assumption that there’s more to Bill than there is to most men is a reasonable one, as we know that, in addition to sexual objects and the protection thereof, he also thinks about blood.

The vampire as a metaphor for mundane minorities is a mildly interesting proposition, and, surely, HBO realized this, but, somehow, from that realization the network drew the hideously malformed conclusion that a mildly interesting concept with some explicit sex scenes sprinkled over it was enough to constitute good television. I know not why, but for some reason beyond my grasp, I expected something of more merit from a program adapted from a series of romance novels whose protagonist’s name is Sookie Stackhouse. I expected more from my fellow television owners than to be contented with another entry in the virtually endless library of poorly realized romances that use supernatural motifs as a substitute for real depth. 

To afford some attention to a redeeming facet of the wholly disappointing experience that was the hour of time I dedicated to watching True Blood, I will note that the show has a theme song. This in itself pleases me, as I am vehemently opposed to the recent trend of hour dramas briefly flashing a title card in the viewer’s face before cutting to the first commercial break. I require a pastiche of stirring clips set to a rousing score if I’m to be rendered excited for the adventure that lies ahead, and True Blood satisfies this criteria marvelously, as its main titles are not only extant, but awesome. 

Tits! Snakes! Time-lapses of decaying wolf carcasses! I feel compelled to watch the show these precede. Hopefully that footage of roadkill will be reused for a more worthy series at some point within my lifetime. 

-Gothicus Maximus

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