Let me start by making one thing clear: I didn’t watch True Blood—HBO’s infamous fanged fantasia—when it premiered 15 years ago. I wasn’t allowed to. I was 13 at the time, and my mom immediately determined that the series, which was marketed as a no-holds-barred, blood-soaked sex romp, would be a little out of my newly teenage comfort zone. (She was right, of course, though I railed against her ruling at the time.) The long stares, breathless love triangles, and chaste sparkle of Twilight—which debuted just two months later—were safer, if slightly less seductive, pastures. Then the show supposedly “got bad” in its later seasons (more on that later), the vampire boom came and went, and I, like the rest of the world, happily traded stakes for swords and dragons thinking I’d never look back.
All of this is to say that I didn’t take my first steps into the steamy backwater of Bon Temps, Louisiana, until December 2020, when the fog of pandemic isolation (and one too many seasons of Love Island) forced my roommate and I to plumb what we then considered to be the absolute basement of scripted programming for a little glimmer of something close to joy. Boy, did we underestimate the journey on which we were about to embark.
First, a little refresher for any former fang bangers (a real phrase in the show that gets tossed about not infrequently) or vampire-blood virgins out there. True Blood—created by Six Feet Under’s Alan Ball and adapted from Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries novels—centered on a version of our world in which vampires had “come out of the coffin” (also a real, in-universe phrase, as well as a ham-fisted allegory) and assimilated into human society.
This is all thanks to the advent of a synthetic blood substitute called Tru Blood that, at least in theory, replaced the need to go Nosferatu on every poor soul that happened to wander into the vamp’s path. Our protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse (a wide-eyed and mediocre-accented Anna Paquin), starts the series as a telepathic waitress who can’t seem to escape the grotesque thoughts of her coworkers and customers … except one. He’s a vampire. And his name is … Bill. (Or “Vampire Bill,” as my roommate and I exclusively and gleefully referred to him.)
That’s kind of all you need to know to dive into the gift that is True Blood. A lot more happens. Like, an unbelievable amount of a lot, all of which is pure, glorious nonsense. But while legacy conversations about the show often hold that it devolved in later seasons into an over-saturated mess of werewolves, faeries, Starlight-esque energy magic, and nude shots of Alexander Skarsgård, the truth is that it was always kind of an unmitigated, Riverdale-esque disaster.
People just took the series way, way too seriously for some reason—even our own site’s gradings of season one’s episodes averaged out at a “C” back in the day. Now, though, divorced from the sheen and standard of a Sunday HBO time slot, we can peel back the curtain and see the show for what it truly is: an utterly insane, unthinkably funny snapshot of life in the late-2000s, unrivaled even by shows like Pen15, for which this is the entire raison d’être in the first place.
Other than watching in 2020 (and thinking about it at least once a month since then), I did about six minutes of research to find examples for this article. This isn’t because I was trying to get out of doing my job or didn’t want to bask in the chaos of revisiting Fangtasia (the vampire bar) or Merlotte’s (the human bar)—I very much did. It’s because True Blood is so chock-full of scream-laugh-inducing gags that something worth noting presented itself in just about every video on even just the first page of a YouTube search for “True Blood scenes.” Seriously. Here’s a list of some personal favorites from that very short odyssey, presented in no particular order:
-In Fangtasia, a patron gets her hot pink Razr flip-phone smashed for deigning to take a photo of vampire king Eric Northman (Skarsgård) and his fuck-ass bob.
-That very same ancient killing machine is later deemed “Mr. Rude” by newly minted teen vamp Jessica, as she pouts against a door adorned with a poster that just says “Techno Blast Music.”
-Vampire Bill listens to “Tuvan throat singing” on his sedan stereo and offers curious cops cans of Original Citrus Fresca when they enter his home. (The guy really just loves to give people Fresca for some reason.)
-A season-long mystery is solved in incredibly dramatic fashion by finding a suspicious cassette case hidden amongst a box of VHS tapes.
-Everyone’s attempt at a Southern accent is god-awful throughout the show’s entire seven-season run.
-Two vampires size each other up over a game of Wii golf! Seriously! (See the video above.)
That’s just a taste. And it all rules, plain and simple.
Sure, this isn’t Succession. It may not even hold up to modern supernatural bonanzas like Riverdale or vampiric shows of either the silly (What We Do In The Shadows) or sexy (Interview With The Vampire) variety in the future. But if you’re in search of sheer, unbridled entertainment? True Blood still delivers a nasty bite.