THERE'S something reassuring about the black-and-white glow, the dissonant static hum of the HBO logo. It mostly heralds great things, or at least bold things. Sadly, that buzzing logo appears less on free-to-air television than it did in the early days of Sex And The City, The Sopranos and Six Feet Under.
So non-payers may wince at the mention of Alan Ball's (SFU) recent thrilling offering to the pigs who devour Showcase. True Blood is a witty, sexy, smartly written vampire show for people who really don't like vampire shows.
Set in Louisiana, in the modern parallel universe where Japanese synthetic blood has made it possible for vamps to "come out of the coffin", we are asked to see them as just another misunderstood, much-maligned minority. In this post-September 11, fear-fuelled society, True Blood's vampires are Muslims, homosexuals wanting to marry, or women running for president. They are a curiosity likely to divide a community.
This is yet another wonderful US production peopled by foreigners, including New Zealand's Anna Paquin (Golden Globe winner this year for her role here as Sookie Stackhouse), Britain's Stephen Moyer (hot as Bill Compton, with or without the fangs) and our very own Ryan Kwanten, a long way from Summer Bay, with a torso cut like GI Joe's.
There's plenty of sex and humour to break up the blood and, well, blood. Tiny details are perfection: we only glimpse in a wide shot a newspaper headline reading "Angelina Adopts Baby Vampire". Mostly we have the taut, believable sexual tension between telepathic Sookie and dead-since-the-Civil War Bill. Sookie finds Bill sexy, not just because he prowls like an alley cat but because he is the one person upon whose thoughts she cannot eavesdrop. I get that we all know what men are thinking all the time but to actively seek out the company of one who cannot be understood … well, that probably is fairly sexy.
I presumed this was teen fodder and then sat through four episodes in one session. True Blood is nearly as unpredictable as it is entertaining.