Alan Ball does for vampires what he did for funeral homes in True Blood (Prime, Wednesday, 9.30pm), the “new Southern Gothic” series based on Charlaine Harris’ novels. Where Ball’s previous series, Six Feet Under, was set among the world of the dead, True Blood brings the undead out into the light to explore themes of homo-phobia, drug addiction, racial prejudice and love in the face of society’s disapproval.
It’s also sexy, dangerous, bloody and way more grown-up than Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Kiwi Anna Paquin plays Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress in a bar in the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps. Into her life walks 173-year-old Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), a vampire who has rejoined the world of the living due to the invention of Tru Blood,a synthetic sustenance for the fanged.
Her association with Bill is frowned upon. There is deep suspicion of vampires (“God Hates Fangs” says a sign outside a church, in a reference to another hateful slogan), but, of course, there are lots of other monsters to worry about, such as the meth-heads who are addicted to “V” – vampire blood – and the murderer preying on women in Bon Temps.
There are fabulous performances from Ryan Kwanten (Sookie’s skirt-chasing brother, Jason), Rutina Wesley (Sookie’s best friend, Tara) and especially Nelsan Ellis (Tara’s cousin, Lafayette). But the series hangs on the performance of Paquin, whose pretty, unusual face can express every emotion with the merest of movements. It’s little wonder she won the Golden Globe this year or that the series has been renewed for a second season.