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Can vampire drama 'True Blood' put the bite back into HBO's Emmy chances?

September 10, 2008 |  1:27 pm

HBO is missing from the Emmy race for best drama series for the first time in a decade, but does it have a potential entry for next year with the new series "True Blood"? Sunday night's launch attracted 1.4 million viewers which, as Denise Martin on Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker blog reports, "The 'True Blood' audience was lower than even the last new episode of HBO's 'Big Love,' which delivered 2.88 million in August 2007. And it pales overall when compared with the network's past drama premieres such as 'Big Love' (4.56 million in March 2006), 'Rome' (3.8 'illion in August 2005) and 'Deadwood' (5.79 million in March 2004)."


The series stars Oscar winner Anna Paquin ("The Piano") as a telepathic waitress who falls for a vampire (Stephen Moyer). Oscar winning scripter Alan Ball ("American Beauty") adapted a bestselling series of books by Charlaine Harris to create the show.

The last time Ball handled a series for HBO, the result was "Six Feet Under," which ran for five seasons and was a three-time Emmy nominee for best drama series. While that show was a critical darling, this one drew divided opinions. Over at Meta Critic, the aggregate score from 27 reviews is only 62, but that's somewhat misleading, because it includes many raves and enough pans to drag the final number down.

Matt Roush of TV Guide thought the show, "graphically sexy and scary, and often wildly funny" and judged it to be "a broadly entertaining, deliciously twisted slice of modern Southern Gothic." Misha Davenport of the Chicago Sun-Times found it to be, "bloody, sexy and violent" and said, "the show is also both occasionally funny and frightening." And Robert Bianco of USA Today saw it as, "part mystery, part fantasy, part comedy, and all wildly imaginative exaggeration" and  thought it, "proves that there's still vibrant life or death left in the 'star-crossed lovers' paradigm."

Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times was on the fence: "Vampire fantasy, murder mystery, star-crossed love story, political satire, 'True Blood' is all and none of the above. Not quite funny, not quite scary, not quite thought-provoking, the show's attempt to question the roots of prejudice is continually undermined by its own stereotyping."

Then there were those critics who loathed the show. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly found the TV adaptation paled next to the original books: "I'd say that the author is more vivid, subtle, and funny in her portrayal of Southern life; I'll be surprised if her fans aren't disappointed by this adaptation. The best thing about Ball's shows is their opening credits." Ouch! And for Linda Stassi of the New York Post: "'True Blood' won't so much make your blood run cold as it will leave you cold."