If uh had'n glamahhd dem widdinn an inch ah dey sanntee, den blah blah blah vampire stuff blah blah.Regrettably, I must part ways with Dear Leader, with whom I share many cultural affinities, and declare True Blood, even more so than its predecessor/rough draft/plaster mold, Six Feet Under, to be dispositive on the question: is Alan Ball worse than Hitler, Stalin, and Mao combined, times one million, to the infinity power?
-Vampire Bill, True Blood
It is Ball's life's work to take a simple dramatic setup, tie it face down to a dirty, semen-crusted mattress, and continually rape its tender ass with a monstrous array of spiked, flanged, barbed symbolic dildos until the poor thing is so traumatized, so utterly dehumanized, beaten, and destroyed that it confuses the pain for pleasure and the criminal abuse for a kind of love, at last offering itself up to the Satanic Ball with a frightful willingness, allowing itself to be sacrificed in a ritual sexual murder to the horrible demonic gods to whom Ball long ago devoted the last black ounce of his sanguinary, bestial soul. Around his artistic charnel house, he has erected a Busby Berkly set of high-kicking, homosexual glamour-gays whose pastiche of a parody of camp distracts the audience from the screams within.
True Blood begins with a beach-book setup. There are vampires, and a very special, sexy young lady who can hear people's thoughts, except for the thoughts of her soon-to-be-beloved vampire, Bill. There is a lot of heavy-handed paralleling of the vampire quest to "come out of the coffin" and gay liberation, which like every other point of plot and character in the show is dispensed with for thousands of episodes at a time before resurfacing without explanation as the central driving force of a new plot line, which will moan its way to a fizzling orgasm like a sixteen-year-old getting a hand job before going home to do its homework, or whatever. I should take pains to say that I have no problem with vampires in pop culture, and if Anna Paquin and her heaving bosoms wish to badly impersonate the phonetic transcriptions of Remy LeBeau's cajun accent from the X-Men comix of my adolescence for a television show that continually forgets that, oh yeah, she is totally, like, also a psychic, then that, by god, is her right as a Canadian-born New Zealander living and working in these United States. If we as a country and I as a man are able to accord millions of dollars in box office revenue to the spectacle of Wesley Snipes and Kris fucking Kristofferson duking it out with Stephen Dorff and Udo holyshit Kier while house music from the worst fucking rave in the history of the reunified Germany hoots on like a bad car alarm in the background, then we can hardly bemoan the desecration of Nosferatu at the hands of Alan Ball.
In other words, it is not for reverence of the source material that we should hate this show, but for its total indifference to its own ridiculousness. From time to time, the show is aware of its own absurdity and seems about to make something of it, but then it forgets, just as it forgets that Sookie is a psychic until it . . . remembers. Sort of. The show now features no less than ten million vampires--they outnumber the actual townspeople of Bon Temps Looooooseeeeeeaaaaannna a billion to three, but also a man who can turn into a dog, a minotaur, and, I am not fucking kidding, Circe. Yes, that Circe. Also there is a sort of Fred Phelps Church of the NoMoreVampires, drug dealing, drug addiction . . . and a treasury of accents stolen from Robin Williams, locked in a cage, fed cocaine for twelve hours, and poked with a stick through the bars. HBO's vaunted production values are nowhere to be seen. An algal lagoon looks like a dirty Koi pond, and the poor film crew has been forced to light the sets with a table lamp and a pen-sized maglite.
But all of this . . . all of it would be forgivable were it not for the singular, cardinal failure at the center of this show, the great, monstrous dynamo of FAIL that powers its every creak and strain, heave and howl, and that is its utter insistence that given any situation in which even a hint of a choice exists, the character must behave in the most bone-headed, incorrect, foolish, transparently ex machina manner possible. Every single development of plot and character is arrived at by forcing a character to behave erroneously. The open-minded become suddenly suspicious; the suspicious become suddenly accepting; characters who know each other's most intimate secrets speak in obfuscatory riddles rather than giving each other plain information, even when the lives of their friends are obviously at stake! Of course, if everyone behaved rationally all the time there would be no show, no conflict, but since no one ever behaves rationally ever, there is simply an unending skein of narrative pratfalls, a string of Wile E. Coyote moments, an insane and incoherent series of set-piece scenes between which the Molechian Alan Ball and his writer-minions insert nonsensical dialogue that does nothing to further our understanding of characters because at long last, this show does not have any characters. It is the most titanically incompetent and god-awful television show ever created, and three million people watch it every week. I'll be tuning in. Will you?