Alan Ball on True Blood

July 17, 2010 by  

What makes True Blood so fascinating? Is it the dense plot that has fans and critics glued to the screen every Sunday at 9 on HBO? Or is it the mere fact that the events on the show are so bizarre and complex. Whatever the case, True Blood has gained so many fans that the show had to create its own Wiki in order to keep the audience up to date.

Recently Gina Piccalo from the LA Times got a sneak peek of the Emmy nominated show; she was backstage watching as Stephen Moyer was swinging on wires, baring his fangs as Bill Compton, ready to attack. Meanwhile Evan Rachel Wood was in her trailer perfecting the undead pallor of vampire Queen Sophie-Anne.

True Blood has become HBO’s biggest hit since The Sopranos and has made Alan Ball a creative hero. Stephen Moyer noted,

We do things that you’ve never imagined…The darker, the odder, the weirder, the better for me.

Weird and twisted has become True Blood’s mantra. The show is the grown up answer to the Twilight craze. It’s targeted for adults and not only has brooding vampires, but also a good sense of humor and lots of blood.

It came at the perfect moment. With the fall of 2008, came the series finales of both The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. HBO fumbled when they passed on Mad Men opting for John From Cincinnati, which was not a fan favorite.

During this time, Alan Ball wanted to create a 5 season project with levity. In 2005, he found Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, devouring them quickly. Alan Ball had to wait a whole year to obtain the rights, due to a previous film option for the books. HBO agreed to green light the series based solely on Alan Ball’s creative genius. No one thought that the Southern gothic satire would gain such an audience. However, it popularity surprised HBO executives, but not Alan Ball who has called True Blood “popcorn for smart people.”

The show does not simply target one population of viewers, rather it appeals to everyone: men, women, and all age groups. Every episode is racy and exciting, balancing the idea of danger and comedy with surprising ease. The network’s president of programming, Michael Lombardi feels that if Alan Ball keeps up with the pace of the novels, the show could be on for a decade. However, as of now, no one knows if Alan Ball will continue after his contract expires given that he has been given the green light for his new project a pilot based on Charlie Huston’s novel, “”The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death.”

However, Ball is having too much fun to walk away right away. A simple tour of the True Blood set gives all the reason that he is hesitant to leave. With such a large budget, the set consists of a custom built cemetery in Calabasas as well as shooting on location in Mississippi and Louisiana.

The show has also taken over all but two of the seven soundstages on The Lot, a historic compound off Formosa Ave. Production designer Suzuki Ingerslev has meticulously created the world of True Blood from the fully functional kitchen in Merlotte’s pub to the hot rollers in Sookie’s bathroom counter.

Behind the scenes, in between shoots, Moyer and Wood chat; she shows him her engagement ring from fiance Marilyn Manson. This seems appropriate as the show revolves around the love of a telepathic waitress and a Civil War era vampire. Though love isn’t the only important thing on True Blood. Horror is key to any vampire tale; True Blood is no exception. There is a large body count and lots of blood.

None of the violence and outrageous sex is simply gratuitous. The writers try to use these scenes to push the story forward and create moments that are both deeply disturbing and extremely poignant. It is apparent that Alan Ball has used vampires as stand in for every genre of the disenfranchised. People struggle with shame and desire.

This season each character is struggling with an identity crisis. Sookie will also learn shocking details about her powers. As the show goes deeper into vampire politics, viewers will find a reflection of the American political system, which will give rise to many questions about government and power.

With politics as well as sex, the third season will question power and where it is concentrated. Viewers will be faced with shocking scenes, such as the vampire hate sex between Bill and Lorena.

Some viewers can view True Blood as pure entertainment, but the more aware viewers will be able to see the underlining meanings and the deeper intentions that Alan Ball wants to draw out. The show will leave many with thought provoking questions, which makes True Blood so much better than a simple television show.


(Photo Credit: HBO, Inc)