Alan Ball's vampire series True Blood has almost single-handedly pulled the premium US cable channel HBO out of a slump.
The network was having a fallow period after its glory days when The Sopranos and Sex and the City regularly reaped Emmys and pulled viewers in their millions. Then along came Ball, who had won an Oscar for his script for the film American Beauty and created another Emmy-winning series for HBO, Six Feet Under, with the idea of a series based on Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels.
''When I read the books I got sort of addicted to the story,'' he says. ''Charlaine created this world that is constantly surprising and funny and terrifying and sometimes really heartbreaking, and I thought it would be a television show I would watch - that's really all I can do.''