Alan Ball’s vampire drama, adapted from the Sookie Stackhouse book series by Charlaine Harris, has steadily gained momentum on the pay-cable service. Viewership for Sunday premiere episodes, now at 2.7 million, has nearly doubled since the show’s debut Sept. 7. All told, 6.8 million are watching each episode each week.
Seven of the Harris titles are on USA TODAY’s 150 Best-Selling Books list. And though still far from the heights achieved by The Sopranos and Sex and the City, Blood has eclipsed a string of recent HBO failures, along with the once more-popular Entourage. Both end their seasons Sunday (9 and 10 p.m. ET/PT).
“It’s an old-fashioned Saturday-matinee-movie kind of serial,” says Ball, who tackled death, if not the undead, in the network’s Six Feet Under. “People are having fun in this world.”
The world centers on Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a waitress in small-town Bon Temps, La., who has a thing for 170-year-old vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). But she’s also smitten with her boss Sam (Sam Trammell), lately revealed as a shape-shifter. In the world of True Blood, vampires have been begrudgingly accepted in society, and some quaff a synthetic drink (from which the show gets its title) to satisfy their bloodlust.
Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight, another book series due today as a feature film, are obvious targets, others less so. “It’s not really my go-to genre,” Moyer says, “but I was absolutely captivated by it. Once you start watching it, it’s not just a vampire show; it’s sort of a high-class soap.”
Compton “is trying desperately to hold onto some semblance of humanity and conscience,” Moyer says. “There’s some kind of idealistic streak in him where he isn’t just a warm-blooded killer. And it has the obvious metaphors of the South, and sexuality and any outsider group in a society; I love that idea of (viewers) bringing their own metaphor to the table.”
HBO programming chief Michael Lombardo says Blood has performed well for a new series against tough competition, though it has not been aggressively promoted since its opener.
“Normally the first episode is your high-water mark, but to see this (audience) build is satisfying,” Lombardo says. “It’s very nice to have a show on the air that our subscribers are clearly enjoying. It’s funny and dark and sexy and scary, and it’s smart.”
In Sunday’s finale (9 ET/PT), Ball says “Sookie makes a choice” between Sam and Bill, one character dies, and the ongoing murders, blamed on Sookie’s oversexed brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten), will be solved after hints were dropped last week.
This season was based on Dead Until Dark, Harris’ first book in the series and the best-selling title. The next is based on the second, Living Dead in Dallas, which finds Sookie spending time in that city. Several characters “get involved in what they think is a legitimate church,” Ball says. And a new creature “will create much havoc and chaos.”
Production will resume in January in Los Angeles and Louisiana, and the show will return with 12 new episodes next summer, an unusually short break.