Don’t ever let anyone tell you that there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. And if they try, point them toward last night’s season premiere of TRUE BLOOD as evidence of just how wrong they are.
I feel sorry for anyone who walked into this episode with no history of the show, perhaps tuning in thanks to the relentless ads promoting the arrival of Christopher Meloni… who wasn’t in the episode at all. Imagine trying to jump into not one or two but at least six different storylines, all plowing forward at full speed. I’ve seen every episode of the show, and there were points where I struggled to keep up with the constant onslaught of faces, both familiar and new.
At heart, TRUE BLOOD is a soap opera, but it fails to follow one of the most basic tenants necessary to tell a continuing story, which says that you can’t have everybody in big storylines at all times. The traditional recipe for this kind of storytelling involves thinking of your canvas as a stove with three different burners. On the front burner is your big story, which is most prominently featured and at its boiling point. On one of the rear burners is the story you’re finishing, which is wrapping up its loose ends. And on the final burner is a story which is just beginning to gently simmer, preparing to move to the front burner when the time is right.
TRUE BLOOD is all front, no rear… except of course for the butt shots of Eric and Sam. Last night, it felt as if the citizens of Bon Temps were fighting for airtime, and the loser was viewers. Sure, sitting down for an episode of Short Attention-Span Theater means you won’t be bored, but it also means you won’t be satisfied. It’s like going to a Las Vegas buffet… you’ll walk away full, but you won’t have eaten anything particularly memorable.
On the other hand, you probably did get at least a taste of whoever you happen to favor. For me, there was a generous helping of Pam, the vamp whose biting sarcasm is so sharp it draws blood. Seeing the fashion plate don a Walmart sweatsuit was worth the price of admission. But watching Eric and his “sister” — a newbie in whom I have no investment — tearing one another’s clothes off makes me wonder why I bothered to invest in his relationship with Sookie.
And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with TRUE BLOOD. While its early seasons focused on relationships and had an overall arc to them, the show is now so busy rushing from plot point to plot point that there’s no time for little things like emotional involvement or character development. Here’s hoping that as the season moves on, the mad pace is slowed down and someone behind the scenes remembers that sometimes, less truly is more.
Richard M. Simms is the executive editor of Soaps In Depth magazine and the author of Crimes Against Civility who wouldn’t be caught dead in a sweatsuit from Walmart. Target, on the other hand, is a completely different story.