I've said it many times before, but network television is, aside from a couple of bright spots ("Lost", which is no longer) continuing to decline. Each year gets a bit worse, with reality shows like "America's Got Talent" (which is 99.9% people willing to embarass themselves to get on TV and .1% people with actual talent), "Dancing With the Stars" (whose major success still puzzles me) taking up more places on the schedule because they're cheaply made and can more easily turn a profit. Yet, while there's a few success stories, networks find that more and more people are tuning out.
On the other hand, Yet, all hope is not lost for those people actually seeking out quality scripted television, as cable TV still continues to take risks, with shows like "True Blood" (of course, there's now a couple of new vampire-related shows on network TV), "The Tudors", "Californication" and others. "True Blood" is the latest effort from "Six Degrees Under" creator Alan Ball. The series is based upon the "Sookie Stackhouse" novels by Charlaine Harris and stars Anna Paquin as Stackhouse, a sweet, innocent waitress working in a backwoods bar in Louisiana. Unfortunately and fortunately, Sookie can read people's minds, which often leads to her hearing the unpleasant thoughts of the patrons.
Early in season 1, in walks William Compton (Stephen Moyer), a brooding vampire who surprises Sookie because she can't read his thoughts. In the world of the series, a form of synthetic blood has been created, and as a result, the vampire society has made themselves known to the world. Although some vampires continue to attack humans, most sustain themselves on the synthetic blood and try to push for further rights for their people. On the other side, some humans try to get vampire blood for the rush it gives them, or to sell it on the black market.
After saving William from a couple of humans, he and Sookie take a bit of a liking to one another. However, when a series of murders happen in the local area. Sookie's wild brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) is the initial suspect, but did he do it? Sookie finds herself drawn into the investigation and tries to find the one behind the murders. Meanwhile, her boss, Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell), tries to both protect Sookie (as well as his own secret) and keep his feelings for her to himself (all of which don't prove to be easy.) Also looking out for Sookie is her best friend, Tara (Rutina Wesley) and, at least initially, her grandmother (Lois Smith).
The second season picks up where the first season left off, with the suspect having been found and dealt with and Sookie and William growing closer together. The series certainly became a hit in the first season, but the second season manages to expand the series in a controlled, careful way that's ultimately satisfying and entertaining.
The second season follows Jason as he heads to Dallas to join the Fellowship of the Sun, the cult-like organization headed by Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian) and his wife, Sarah (Anna Camp). While Jason starts to rise in the ranks of the group, Sookie soon finds out from a local lawman, Eric Northam (Alexander Skarsgard), that his creator, the ancient Godric (Allan Hyde), has gone missing in Dallas. It's not long before Sookie has to face the conflicts within her search and the path her brother has chosen.
Additionally, the series takes an interesting turn as the second season progresses, as newcomer Maryann (Michelle Forbes) reveals her true intentions, and the fallout eventually has an effect on the entire town. Overall, the series continues to offer solid writing and confident direction - the second season develops the storylines further and introduces new characters without going overboard.
The series continues to be an interesting blend of gothic horror, occasional dark comedy, drama, mystery and other genres, but Ball manages to balance all the elements surprisingly well. Additionally, the show's slow-boil tension is maintained nicely, as the show has a moody, steamy atmosphere that's often engaging. The show does have quite a bit of sex and nudity, which some may find offensive. I didn't find it offensive, but I thought it did become a bit much/unnecessary at times.
The performances are mostly excellent, although Paquin's lead effort carries the show quite nicely, with the actress delivering a fascinating performance that mixes vulnerability and sass quite well. Moyer, Wesley and Tramell deliver enjoyable supporting performances, as well. The series isn't going to be everyone's cup-of-tea, but I found it a compelling, interesting drama and another solid effort from creator Alan Ball.
13. 2- 1 14 Jun 09 Nothing But the Blood
14. 2- 2 21 Jun 09 Keep This Party Going
15. 2- 3 28 Jun 09 Scratches
16. 2- 4 12 Jul 09 Shake and Fingerpop
17. 2- 5 19 Jul 09 Never Let Me Go
18. 2- 6 26 Jul 09 Hard-Hearted Hannah
19. 2- 7 2 Aug 09 Release Me
20. 2- 8 9 Aug 09 Timebomb
21. 2- 9 16 Aug 09 I Will Rise Up
22. 2-10 23 Aug 09 New World In My View
23. 2-11 30 Aug 09 Frenzy
24. 2-12 13 Sep 09 Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
VIDEO: The second season shows are presented on Blu-Ray in 1.78:1 (1080p/AVC). The presentation isn't outstanding, but it's mildly above-average. Sharpness and detail are terrific, as while the show has a slightly soft look, definition was still very pleasing and the transfer handled dark scenes (which the series has plenty of, not surprisingly) well. Although a touch of grain is seen at times (likely an intentional element of the cinematography), the picture otherwise seemed clean and clear, with no edge enhancement or pixelation. Colors did seem subdued at times, but other scenes showed deep, bold hues.
SOUND: The show's DTS-HD 5.1 presentation delivers a reasonably enjoyable experience. This isn't a particularly aggressive soundtrack, nor did I expect it to be, given the dialogue-driven material. Still, the rear speakers are brought into play at times, delivering a pleasing amount of ambience and the occasional sound effect. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue and a full, rich score.
EXTRAS: Seven (up from six in the prior season) commentaries are included with the set, featuring members of the cast and crew (such Alan Ball, Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Michelle Forbes, Alexander Skarsgard and others.) Overall, the tracks are quite informative and entertaining - the participants seem to have a great time chatting about the series and share quite a bit of behind-the-scenes tidbits, including casting, story issues, how they approached the sophmore season and more. We also get a picture-in-picture feature that offers in-character interviews, "Vampire Report" faux news and "Fellowship of the Sun" piece.
Final Thoughts: "True Blood" continues to improve in season 2, with a plot that continues to progress enjoyably and fine performances from the cast. The Blu-Ray edition boasts very nice audio/video quality, as well as a set of insightful and entertaining extras. The Blu-Ray presentation offers excellent audio/video quality, as well as a very nice set of supplements. Recommended.