Least Worst: True Blood

a poster about a show about blood

Sometimes things are terrible. In Least Worst, we take one of those terrible things and try to break down the handful of elements that aren’t empirically horrible. Really, it’s just an excuse to justify our shitty taste in ... pretty much everything. Enjoy!

Remember when True Blood was good? Like, remember when it was nominated for awards? And you didn’t have to qualify watching it with, "I know it’s bad, but IT ISN’T TRYING TO BE GOOD"? And you didn’t feel weird every time you sister tried to talk to you about it with your dad within earshot? Remember those days? Guys?

It seems strange now to think we ever had such high hopes for something based on a series of books referred to as "The Southern Vampire Mysteries." Like ... that’s a thing? That we’re doing? "Southern Vampire Mysteries"? This is acceptable? Sure, sure. I can’t wait to make eleventy billion dollars off my series of novels about time-travelling elves from American Samoa. Anyway ... since its overly auspicious beginnings, True Blood has rightly morphed into a cornucopia of tits and nonsense. It isn’t good, really, but it remains compulsively watchable. Here are some of the reasons why.


Bad Things

Praising a television show for its opening credits is kind of bullshit. I admit this. It’s like when that show Prime Suspect debuted, and nobody watched it but everyone was like, "wow those sure are some hats she’s wearing." That being said, the True Blood title sequence remains pretty bad ass. It starts with that awesome Jace Everett song that makes you feel like the hottest stripper in Clearwater, Florida. Then there are the images, a didactic montage about capital-S Southerness full of sex and sweat and dirt and religion that the show itself rarely captures. True Blood too often feels like a show about the South made by people who’ve never been there; the opening credits get closer to some kind of (relative) truth.

Poor, Sweet, Dumb Jason Stackhouse

Ryan Kwanten is like the vestigial tail of this show. He seems like a leftover from a show that doesn’t need him anymore. Though he continues to flit around the outer edges of the plot, he hasn’t really been relevant since the first season. Any task given to Jason (which basically boils down to: "have sex with someone" or "do cop stuff") could easily be fulfilled by any of other half dozen extraneous characters the show insists on toting around. Truly, Jason is so irrelevant a character that last season saw him CHAINED TO A BED AND REPEATEDLY DICK-RAPED BY A COTERIE OF HILLBILLY WOMEN. Then, when he escaped, the show just said, "HMMMNOPE, NOT IMPORTANT" and never mentioned it again. That being said, Jason remains an engaging character. Kwanten always makes the best of what he’s given, and consistently nails the mix of sweet, well-intentioned idiocy that makes fans want to keep poor, useless Jason around. And, as a bonus, he is one of, if not the only actor on the show who manages a southern accent that doesn’t sound straight out of a community theatre production of, Oh, Streetcar!

Gay Vampire American Rev. Steve Newlin

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I think Steve Newlin might be the most awesome character on the show right now. If Jason seems like what the show could have been, he is the perfect example of what it is: a cheesy, ridiculous, overwrought, endlessly entertaining mess. Once upon a time, True Blood could be read as a (fairly strained) metaphor for the increased visability of the LGBTQ community in 21st Century America, and the increasingly creative bigotry they encounter. To that end, Rev. Newlin was introduced as an ice cream suited figurehead of the far right, a religious wackadoo crowing about "traditional" American values.

At some point, however, the show went completely off the rails and Alan Ball just started running naked through his writer’s room yelling, "HAHA FUCK IT FAIRY CABARET!" It was around this time, one assumes, that someone decided the good Reverend should come back. Only now he’s a vampire. And a massive queen, because of course he is. So far this development has worked, mostly because Michael McMillian plays the character with a dead-eyed glee that’s hard not to like. He’s like a cross between your youth pastor and Beverly Leslie. But the crazier/stupider the show gets, the more enjoyable an overtly kitschy character like Steve Newlin becomes.

There is no real reason for him to still be on the show, because there is no reason for ANY of the characters to still be on the show. It’s basically just like watching a petri dish full of sexy rednecks at this point. Which brings me to my next point . . .

Sexy Rednecks

Let’s call a spade a spade. One of my all-time favorite movie quotes is Shirley MacLaine in Steel Magnolias stating that she doesn’t go to the movies because, "they’re trash, and they’ve got nothin’ but naked people in ‘em!" Luckily, we’re living in a golden age where, if one wishes to watch trash with nothing but naked people in it, they don’t even have to leave the house. True Blood is often referred to as "lady porn," which is pretty accurate, though I’m sure Anna Paquin’s willingness to get repeatedly naked was a huge win for certain members of our staff. I’m not saying that Brandon Stroud made a pre-internet 18th birthday countdown clock out of gym class flip-top scoreboards for her, but I’m not saying he didn’t, either.

That said, True Blood’s naked man appeal is strong. Nobody is tuning in to the show to hear what witty and insightful thing is going to come out of god damn Alcide’s mouth. Most people don’t care that Alcide even has a mouth. Joe Manganiello could walk onto set with a bag over his head like the fucking Unknown Comic and he would be 0% more or less popular. We watch for the man-ass. And the abs. And the hope, however faint, that this will be the week that Eric the Viking finally decides to hang dong.

And really . . . has ever a TV show existed for a better reason than that?

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