True Blood was one of the best shows to arrive on television in quite awhile. With it's return to HBO on June 14th, it's now time to release the series to DVD to allow fans, new and old, to experience and catch up with the series. I normally don't buy television series on DVD, mainly due to the expense, but after loving the series so much I broke down and bought it. While the show is excellent as is, the special features on this DVD also give a ton of bang for your buck.
Based on the series of novels by Charlaine Harris, True Blood follows Louisiana cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) along with her friends and family. Sookie has the unique ability of being telepathic and being in love with the vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer). Vampires are now a way of life in Sookie's town, recently “coming out of the coffin” and being subject to intolerance and discrimination. In the first season Sookie and Bill's relationship begins and develops amongst a serial killer who has been murdering women who have slept with vampires, Sookie's brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) being the prime suspect.
Having read the Harris novels, creator Alan Ball has crafted a rich and luxurious world that goes well with the novels so fans of the book should be more than happy. Vampires have always been a hot commodity in Hollywood but the recent success of things like Twilight have ramped that up and people a bit older than that film's demographic will adore True Blood with it's copious amounts of adult content. A lot of what makes the show such a joy comes from the large cast. Anna Paquin won an Emmy for her role as Sookie Stackhouse and she is the highlight of the show. Paquin has always delivered strong performances but here she dominates, whether she's playing the cute Southern belle or the strong sex kitten, it never feels fake. British actor Stephen Moyer is brilliant as the vampire Bill, exuding all the classic vampire traits, while Alexander Skarsgard is wonderful in his smaller role as Eric. Ryan Kwanten as Sookie's horndog brother Jason leads as the comic relief while Rutina Wesley and Nelsan Ellis also have some great scenstealing moments and dialogue.
In my episode reviews of season one I loved almost every episode. The few that fell flat were the ones that didn't further the story or had complete shifts in tone. I believe the episode “Burning House of Love” was the episode I enjoyed the least due to the tone shifts.
The DVD is perfect as is, the episodes are more than enough of a reason to buy but the special features here are more than worthy of your time as well. The box is pretty sturdy and looks beautiful for a series like this, something I noticed right off the bat. There are a ton of vampire PSA's and advertisements that were used in the promotion of the show that are included on the DVD. They do a great job of setting up the world that True Blood is set in and highlight some of the discrimination seen in the series, something that mirrors our own world today. They're short and fun to watch. The six audio commentaries are the main reason to buy this also a few fall flat and are pretty boring. The pilot episode has commentary from director and creator Alan Ball and is the strongest in the bunch. Ball has such a love and passion for the series and really feels like an old friend in talking about the locations and the actors. The episode “First Taste” has commentary with director Scott Winant and actress Anna Paquin. Paquin has a tendency to giggle a lot and say “um” which got annoying but she's a really sweet girl and provides a lot of interesting perspective from actually acting in the show. Winant is interesting but spends a lot of time making bad jokes. “Escape from Dragon House” has commentary from director Michael Lehmann and writer Brian Buckner. This is the best episode of the bunch and the commentary is sharp. The two seem to have a good rapport and it's the second best of the commentaries next to Ball's. After that the last two are really boring. Director Marcos Siega goes solo to talk about “Burning House of Love,” one of the weakest episodes and he comes off as really bored. “To Love is to Bury” is narrated by director Nancy Oliver and she hardly talks throughout hers.
Overall if you're a fan of vampires or the series in general you definitely need to pick up the first season of True Blood. If you're a new fan you'll love the series and the DVD commentaries will provide a lot of useful backstory and insider information you won't get anywhere else. Skip the solo commentaries though because they're pretty dull. Overall the series and DVD get a 5/5.