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TRUE BLOOD: SEASON ONE
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Nelsan Ellis
Creator:  Alan Ball
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio:  HBO
Features:  See Review
Length:  720 Minutes
Release Date:  May 19, 2009

“You’re alive?”

“Technically…no.”

Shows ***1/2

Vampires are quite ‘in’ these days in all forms of entertainment, so it wasn’t a bit surprise that HBO would find success turning a series of novels into a hit new series.  True Blood is quite an engrossing endeavor, with a good cast and a terrific spin on the age old premise of the blood sucking undead.

That spin is simply that vampires have begun to OPENLY walk among us.  In the world of True Blood, a synthetic blood substitute has been marketed, meaning that vampires no longer have to hunt and kill for their sustenance.  But naturally, the emergence of vampires into our culture leads to political and social turmoil…do human rights exist when we’re talking about beings that are no longer human?

That’s the larger scope.  The main focus of the story takes place in Louisiana (perfect backdrop) and a small town called Bon Temps.  There, we meet Sookie Stackhouse (Paquin), a waitress with an unusual talent:  she can hear the thoughts of others.  It’s less blessing and more curse, because hearing everyone’s thoughts makes dating almost impossible.  But her brother (Kwanten) starts off the series with even worse relationship luck…for some reason, the girls he sleeps with are ending up dead.

She works for Sam Merlotte (Trammell), who runs a small bar and eatery and has a curious sense of protection over Sookie, and has a best friend in Tara (Wesley), a young woman with mother problems and a huge chip on her shoulder.  And then, there are…others.

Being that vampires can’t eat or drink regular food, anytime one buys a bottle of Tru Blood, his secret is out.  One such man is Bill Compton (Moyer), who has been around for more than a century and also begins to feel protective over Sookie.  And Sookie can’t hear the thoughts of Bill…hmm…

Not everything is what it seems in this strange, wonderful series, but tying it all together is the constant sense of political and religious upheaval.  Some vampire groups clamor for rights, while some churches see nothing in vampires that equate to children of God.  Being vampire and being gay gets clumsily entangled by the notoriously liberal HBO network, including presenting a politician whose only platform is denying rights to gays and vampires.  It’s a bit ludicrous, as are the depictions of the religious as hateful and murderous hypocrites.

That aside, there is so much meat coming from the premise of vampires “out of the coffin” that it can be forgiven if some of the many available avenues don’t lead to satisfactory results.  The fact is, most of the routes are well-explored and filled with dramatic possibilities and personal repercussions for these terrific characters.  And yes, I’m being a little vague, but there are many twists and turns that I wouldn’t dream of divulging, even under the threat of wooden stakes and silver chains.

For the astute watcher, there are clues along the way, and it’s quite rewarding to see those clues as they pay off in later episodes.  This is the kind of series that easily supports multiple viewings…you’ll see a little more each time through, and feel more satisfied as a result.

Bon Temps doesn’t feel like a safe place to live, but this tremendous series will at least make you want to visit at least one night a week.

Video ***1/2

The high definition transfers are well-presented…there are many darker scenes in the show, and occasionally, you can’t help but notice a bit of grain or texture here and there, but there is still an impressive amount of detail and clarity in the images throughout, with good color and contrast and nicely rendered forward and background compositions.

Audio ****

This is by far the best sounding audio presentation I’ve heard for a television show on disc.  For starters, the song soundtrack for the series is phenomenal, ranging all the way from classic gospel and blues to modern rock, and every song not only supports or lends irony to the episodes, but sounds as full and potent as you’ve ever heard.  Being oriented toward a bit of horror, the DTS HD offering boasts plenty of powerful dynamic range, but with dialogue always clearly heard against it all (a good thing, since HBO rarely offers subtitles for their discs).  Top notch all around.

Features ***1/2

You can watch each episode with ‘enhanced viewing’, which utilizes Blu-ray’s pop-up capabilities to bring you access to extra behind the scenes footage, clues, extra clips such as newscasts and faux documentaries, and more…some right on your screen, some a simple remote click away.  You can learn the history of how the main vampires came into being, explore interactive maps, see public service announcements and advertisements for “Tru Blood” and more.  There are also six audio commentaries for specific episodes throughout the disc that feature the likes of creator Alan Ball, stars Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer, and various writers and directors for the series.

One complaint, and I’m not sure this is where to address it, but…did this season need to be spread out over five discs?  This is Blu-ray…you could have fit it all on two or three.  And be careful as you reach the end of each disc, because you’ll get stuck reading warning screens in EVERY language known on the face of the earth.  I could have sworn I even saw one in Klingon…

Summary:

Now that season two is underway, this is a perfect time to go back and revisit the complete first season of True Blood.  Just be careful who you invite into your home…especially after dark.

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