The fictional universe depicted in the series is premised on the notion that vampires exist, unbeknownst to the majority of humans until two years before the series premiere, when the creation of synthetic blood ("Tru Blood") by Japanese scientists, which eliminated vampires' need for human blood to survive, allowed vampires to "come out of the coffin" and reveal their existence to the world.E-1 This so-called "Great Revelation" has split vampires into two camps: those who wish to integrate into human society (i.e., "mainstream") by campaigning for citizenship and equal rights,E-1 and those who think human-vampire co-existence is impossible, because it conflicts with the inherently violent nature of vampires. Throughout the series, other supernatural creatures are introduced, among them shapeshifters, werewolves, faeries, witches, and a maenad.
The series revolves around Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a telepathic human-faerie hybrid known as a halfling (not to be confused with similarly named, but unrelated creatures found in other fantasy works). Sookie is a waitress at Merlotte's Bar and Grill, owned by Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) in the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps. Sam is a shapeshifter, though this secret is kept hidden from most of the town. Other characters include Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), a 173-year-old vampire who has returned to Bon Temps to take up residence in his former home following the death of his last remaining relative; Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley), Sookie's tough-talking but insecure best friend; Jason (Ryan Kwanten), Sookie's womanizing brother; Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård), a 1000-year-old vampire and Sheriff of Area 5; and Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis), a short order cook, drug dealer, road crew member, and medium.
The show explores several contemporary issues such as the struggle for equal rights, discrimination and violence against minorities and homosexuals, the problems of drug addiction, the power of faith and religion, the control/influence of the media, the quest for identity, and the importance of family.
Series creator Alan Ball had previously worked with the cable channel HBO on Six Feet Under, which ran for five seasons. In October 2005, after Six Feet Under wrapped, Ball signed a two-year agreement with HBO to develop and produce original programming for the network. True Blood became the first project under the deal, after Ball became acquainted with Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mystery books. One day, while early for a dental appointment, Ball was browsing through a Barnes & Noble bookshop and came across Dead Until Dark (2001), the first installment in Harris' series. He read the entries that followed and became interested in "bringing [Harris'] vision to television". However, Harris already had two other adaptation options for the books. She said she chose to work with him, though, because "[Ball] really 'got' me. That's how he convinced me to go with him. I just felt that he understood what I was doing with the books."
The project's hour-long pilot was ordered concurrently with the finalization of the aforementioned development deal, and was written, directed, and produced by Ball. Cast members Paquin, Kwanten and Trammell were announced in February 2007 and Moyer later on in April. The pilot was shot in the early summer of 2007 and was officially ordered to series in August, at which point Ball had already written several more episodes. Production on the series began later that fall, with Brook Kerr, who portrayed Tara Thornton in the original pilot, replaced by Rutina Wesley. Two more episodes of the series had been filmed before the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike shut down production of the 12-episode first season until 2008. That September, after only the first two episodes of the series had aired, HBO placed an order for a second season of 12 episodes, with production scheduled to commence in January 2009 for a summer premiere.
True Blood's Emmy-nominated title sequence is composed of portrayals of the show's Deep South setting, and runs to "Bad Things" by Jace Everett, although the original featurette was created around the Jennifer Herrema (Royal Trux) song "RadTimesXpress".
Conceptually, the sequence was constructed around the idea of "the whore in the house of prayer" by intermingling contradictory images of sex, violence, and religion and displaying them from the point of view of "a supernatural, predatory creature observing human beings from the shadows ..." Ideas of redemption and forgiveness are also explored, and thus the sequence progresses from morning to night and culminates in a baptism.
The title sequence was created by the independent film company Digital Kitchen. The sequence also features images and themes of death and rebirth; the circle of life. A Venus fly-trap can be seen engulfing a frog, while a rotting fox's head is sped up to reveal maggots feeding off the corpse. Rebirth is also recognized through an image of a woman being "washed clean" from her sins in a lake, as well as a Reverend blessing and possibly performing an exorcism on a member of his congregation.
Some of the footage used in the sequence was filmed on location. Digital Kitchen then took a four-day trip to Louisiana to film as well as shot at a Chicago church, and on a stage and in a bar in Seattle.
In editing the opening, individual frames were splattered with drops of blood. The sequence's transitions were constructed differently, though; they were made with a Polaroid transfer technique. The last frame of one shot and the first frame of another were taken as a single Polaroid photo, which was then divided between emulsion and backing. The emulsion was then filmed being further separated by chemicals, and those shots of this separation were placed back into the final edit.
Eight different typefaces, inspired by Southern road signs, were also created manually for cast and crew credits, as well as the show's title card.
In a 2010 issue of TV Guide, the show's opening title sequence ranked #5 on a list of TV's top 10 credits sequences, as selected by readers.
Gary Calamar, who supervises the series' music, said his goal for the show's soundtrack is to create something "swampy, bluesy and spooky" and to feature local Louisiana musicians. True Blood soundtrack albums have twice earned Grammy Award nominations.
Composer Nathan Barr writes the original score for the series, which features the cello, guitar, prepared piano, and glass harmonica among other instruments, all of which he performs himself. The main theme song is "Bad Things" by country music artist Jace Everett, from his 2005 self-titled debut.
Elektra/Atlantic Records released a True Blood soundtrack on May 19, 2009, the same day as the release of the DVD and Blu-ray of the first season. Nathan Barr's original score for True Blood was released on CD on the Varèse Sarabande label on September 8, 2009. The second True Blood soundtrack was released on May 25, 2010, to coincide with the third season's premiere in June. The third volume was released on September 6, 2011, a few days before the season four finale.
Both Nathan Barr and Jace Everett won 2009 awards from Broadcast Music Incorporated in the BMI Cable Awards category for, respectively, True Blood's original score and theme song.
The show's individual episode titles are named after songs featured in the episodes, usually heard during the closing credits. The title usually indicates something about the events that will unfold throughout the given episode. For example, episode ten of season four is titled "Burning Down the House", and the end credits feature a cover version of the classic Talking Heads song performed by The Used.
The premiere of True Blood was prefaced with a viral marketing/alternate reality game (ARG) campaign, based at BloodCopy.com. This included setting up multiple websites, encoding web address into unmarked envelopes mailed to high-profile blog writers and others, and even performances by a "vampire" who attempted to reach out to others of their kind, to discuss the recent creation of "TrueBlood", a fictional beverage featured in the show. A MySpace account with the username "Blood" had, as of June 19, uploaded two videos; one entitled "Vampire Taste Test – True Blood vs Human", and one called "BloodCopy Exclusive INTERVIEW WITH SAMSON THE VAMPIRE".
A prequel comic was handed out to attendees of the 2008 Comic-Con. The comic centers around an old vampire named Lamar, who tells the reader about how TruBlood surfaced and was discussed between many vampires before going public. At one point, Lamar wonders if TruBlood is making the world safe for vampires or from them. Several commercials featured on HBO and Facebook aired prior to the series premiere, placing vampires in ads similar to those of beer and wine. Some beverage vending machines across the US were also fitted with cards indicating they were "sold out" of TruBlood.
HBO produced and broadcast two documentaries to promote True Blood, entitled "True Bloodlines". The first, Vampire Legends, explored the earliest portrayals of vampires in legend, literature, and cinema. The second, A New Type, discusses vampire culture from Nosferatu to today's sensual, sexual creatures. To that end, the show also covered the modern vampire subculture and real-life vampire clubs. Actors and writers from True Blood appeared in the documentaries. The shows first aired on September 6, 2008, on HBO.
Thousands of DVDs of the first episode were handed out to attendees of Midnight Madness, a special film festival. Blockbuster Video provided free rental of the first episode of True Blood several days before it was broadcast on HBO. The video had a faint promotional watermark throughout the episode.
On April 16, 2009, HBO released the first teaser poster for Season 2. The image uses a perspective technique that shows observers one of two images. A minute-long promotional video advertising season two, which featured Bob Dylan's "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'", was released via Entertainment Tonight in early May.
On September 19, 2009, HBO.com began selling Tru:Blood, a beverage branded to resemble the fictional synthetic blood that appears in the show. The beverage is a carbonated blood orange-flavored drink, developed and manufactured by Omni Consumer Products, a company that specializes in defictionalizing brands from television and movies, and FMCG Manufacturing Company, a specialist manufacturer of licensed entertainment products.
There is also a website for The Fellowship of the Sun, antagonists from the book series, featuring videos about hot-button issues such as becoming a vampire.
FX, available in the UK, launched an extensive promotional website for the series.
On September 15, 2009, HBO filed a trademark registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a possible future electronic game based on True Blood.
On September 18, 2009, HBO launched a True Blood jewelry line in collaboration with New York-based designer Udi Behr. Inspired by the series, the jewelry has a Gothic look and features sterling silver, polished steel, and rubies.
On June 1, 2010, HBO held a special event at a number of movie theaters around the U.S., complete with red carpet, searchlights and swag bags. Contest winners were invited to watch a special live, the Season 2 finale, a preview of Season 3, and a live interview on the set of True Blood with the cast and Alan Ball.
HBO began selling True Blood figural busts featuring Bill, Sookie, and Eric in summer 2010. Busts of other characters will also be available later.
HBO and IDW Publishing announced at the 2010 WonderCon that they would be publishing a comic book based on the series. Alan Ball developed and wrote the comic. The first booklet, with a print run of 53,000, was released in July 2010 and soon sold out. The second issue went on sale August 18, 2010, with a second printing of the first issue going on sale August 25.
Six comics were issued in the series, and they were compiled as the graphic novel All Together Now on February 15, 2011. This was the first in a series of four graphic novels released by HBO under the True Blood franchise and sold in major bookstores. Ensuing titles include Tainted Love, The French Quarter, and Ongoing.
True Blood employs a broad ensemble cast composed of regular, central characters and a rotating group of impermanent supporting characters. Though the series is based in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, a noticeable number of the actors comprising the cast are originally from outside the United States. In an interview, Ball explained that he didn't intentionally seek out "non-American" actors, but was willing to go anywhere he needed to in order "to find the actor who makes the character breathe". Ball went on to explain that, in casting, there was more of a focus on who would portray the character in a compelling way rather than who would physically resemble the characters from the book. Noting that there's a definite difference between the characters and storylines portrayed in True Blood and the ones depicted in The Southern Vampire Mysteries, he described Harris as being very understanding in terms of how her work was being reinterpreted.
The major characters of the first season of True Blood are introduced among various intertwining plot lines that surround the Bon Temps bar "Merlotte's". The show's main protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), is a telepath and waitress at Merlotte's.E-1 In the opening episode she saves Merlotte's first vampire customer, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), when a local couple attempts to drain him of his blood (vampire blood is known on the show as a human narcotic: "V" or "V Juice").E-1 Through the relationship that develops between Sookie and Bill, the viewer progressively learns more about vampire culture and the limitations of vampire physiology (e.g. susceptibility to silver and the sun).
The major plot of the first season revolves around the murder of several women connected to Sookie's older brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten).E-1 The women murdered include sexual partner Maudette Pickens (Danielle Sapia),E-1 on-and-off romantic interest and Merlotte's waitress Dawn Green (Lynn Collins),E-3 grandmother Adele (Lois Smith) or simply "Gran",E-5 and girlfriend Amy Burley (Lizzy Caplan).E-11 Though the viewer is always aware of Jason's innocence in their deaths, Detective Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) targets him as the prime suspect in the investigation he conducts with Sheriff Bud Dearborne (William Sanderson) to identify their killer.E-1 Jason's best friends and co-workers, Hoyt Fortenberry (Jim Parrack) and Rene Lenier (Michael Raymond-James) provide him with support despite the turmoil he encounters.E-1 Rene, who becomes engaged to Merlotte's waitress Arlene Fowler (Carrie Preston),E-8 is eventually exposed as the Bon Temps murderer and is killed in a final confrontation with Sookie.E-12
A secondary plot in the first season (that later develops as the primary storyline in the second) revolves around Sookie's best friend Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley).E-1 In the first episode, Tara is hired as a bartender at Merlotte's by bar owner, shapeshifter,E-11 and admirer of Sookie, Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell),E-1 with whom Tara later has a brief relationship.E-3 Tara's cousin Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis) already works as a cook at Merlotte'sE-1 (in addition to several other jobs that include road crew, prostitute, and drug dealer)E-3 with Andy's cousin and Iraq War veteran, Terry (Todd Lowe).E-2 Tara's story is characterized by her relationship with her alcoholic and abusive mother Lettie Mae (Adina Porter)E-2 and her own inner "demons".E-10 During the season, Lettie Mae achieves sobrietyE-8 but Tara's life begins to spin out of control. Kicked out of her home and totaling her car in a drunk driving accident,E-10 she's taken in by "social worker" Maryann Forrester (Michelle Forbes).E-11 While staying with Maryann, Tara is introduced to "Eggs" Benedict Talley (Mehcad Brooks), to whom she becomes attracted.E-11
The final major plotline of the first season revolves around the elements of vampire society that Sookie and Bill's relationship introduce. While trying to prove her brother's innocence in relation to Maudette and Dawn's murders, Bill takes Sookie to the vampire bar "Fangtasia" to investigate. There, Sookie is introduced to Fangtasia's owner and the vampire sheriff of "Area 5" in Louisiana: Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård).E-4 Eric is immediately interested in Sookie and her strange abilities, but his progeny and assistant Pam (Kristin Bauer) is less impressed.E-4 Eric employs Sookie to find a thief in his bar, but the perpetrator (a vampire named Longshadow) attempts to kill Sookie when she reveals his identity. Bill stakes and kills the thief to save her, but has committed a serious crime in killing another vampire.E-8 When Bill is tried for his crime, his punishment is to transform seventeen-year-old Jessica Hamby (Deborah Ann Woll) into a vampire to replace the one he destroyed.E-10
A secondary plotline introduced in the first season (which later becomes a main plotline in Season 2) is that although many humans are attracted to vampires (referred to as "fang bangers") and flock to establishments like Fangtasia, not all people are accepting of the idea that vampires should be given rights equal to those afforded the mortals of the True Blood universe. During the first season, one of the ways in which anti-vampire sentiment is expressed is through regular televised appearances by the "Fellowship of the Sun",E-2 a Dallas-based church that in Season 2 becomes headed by the Reverend Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian)E-3 after his father and family are killed in a strange "accident".E-2
During the second season of True Blood, the influence of Maryann Forrester and the conflict between vampires and humans is expanded. Most of the cast from the first season returns and several new main characters are introduced. The same style of interconnected story telling used in the first season is repeated, with the foremost plot focusing on Maryann Forrester being revealed as a maenadE-19 with the power to influence humans.E-15 She begins by manipulating Tara and Eggs to achieve her goal of summoning her god to earth,E-20 and eventually takes control of almost the entire population of Bon Temps.E-22
While Maryann begins establishing her hold on Bon Temps, Sookie is recruited by EricE-15 to investigate the disappearance of his two-thousand-year-old maker and the Sheriff of Area 9 in Texas: Godric (Allan Hyde).E-17 While Sookie is absent from Bon Temps, Sam hires Daphne Landry (Ashley Jones) to join Merlotte's staff.E-13 Daphne (who is revealed to also be a shapeshifterE-17) begins a romance with Sam,E-16 but is later exposed as working for Maryann.E-18 Jason also leaves Bon Temps for Dallas to join the Fellowship of the Sun,E-14 which Reverend Newlin has steered in a new militant direction despite the protestations of his wife Sarah (Anna Camp).E-13 Godric is discovered in the custody of the Fellowship,E-17 and one of Godric's lieutenants, Isabel Beaumont (Valerie Cruz),E-17 sends her human boyfriend Hugo (Christopher Gartin)E-18 to assist Sookie in infiltrating the church. Though Eric's primary interest in Dallas is finding Godric, he also attempts to place himself between Sookie and Bill. To accomplish this, he enlists the aid of Bill's maker Lorena (Mariana Klaveno);E-17, who thus becomes a more prominent contribution to the cast after a brief introduction in the first season.E-5 In the penultimate episode of the second season, once the conflict in Texas is concluded, the vampire queen of Louisiana Sophie-Anne Leclerq (Evan Rachel Wood) is introduced.E-23 Both Bill and Eric visit her in an attempt to find out how to defeat Maryann.E-23 Bill uses the information provided by Sophie-Anne to devise a plan involving Sam and Sookie, and the three manage to kill Maryann in the season two finale. Subsequently, Bill takes Sookie out to an exclusive French restaurant to propose to her. However, before she can give her answer, Bill is kidnapped.
Season three picks up straight after the events of season two with Sookie on the hunt to track down Bill and his kidnappers. She turns to Eric for help, who is not interested (seeing this turn of events as a chance to get Sookie for himself), but he ends up sending werewolf Alcide Herveaux (Joe Manganiello) for assistance after it is revealed that Bill was taken by V-addicted werewolves in the employ of the 3000-year-old vampire king of Mississippi, Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare). Meanwhile, back in Bon Temps, Lafayette embarks on a relationship with his mother's care nurse and brujo Jesús Velasquez (Kevin Alejandro) and learns about his own special powers as a medium, while Sam hires a new waitress at Merlotte's, Wiccan Holly Cleary (Lauren Bowles).
In season 4, Jessica Tuck (Nan Flanagan) and Janina Gavankar (Luna) became season regulars. Alexandra Breckenridge (Kate) and Vedette Lim (Naomi) became recurring actresses.
Joining the cast for season five was Christopher Meloni, who previously starred on another of HBO's own original series Oz as well as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for 12 years. Details on his character have yet to be released. Also joining the cast is Scott Foley as Patrick, Terry's old war buddy, Louis Herthum as JD, Kelly Overton as Rikki, a new werewolf curious how Marcus died, Carolyn Hennesy is expected to be Rosalyn Harris, a Texas vampire with twang, and Jacob Hopkins will play child vampire Chancellor Alexander Drew.
For season six, it was announced that Robert Kazinsky would join the principal cast as Ben, a faerie and a potential love interest for Sookie. He will also help Sookie and Jason discover the truth about their parents' murders. Robert Patrick, who guest starred in season five as Jackson Herveaux, was promoted to series regular for season six. Rutger Hauer, who starred in popular films such as Blade Runner and Batman Begins, was announced as a series regular playing "Macklyn", a character with "strong ties to Sookie and Jason".
As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Adina Porter would be returning for the seventh season as a series regular after being credited as a Special Guest Star since season two. Also upgraded to regulars are season six guest stars Amelia Rose Blaire as Willa Burrell, Bailey Noble as Adilyn Bellefleur, Luke Grimes as James and Karolina Wydra as Violet Mazurski.
The main mystery of the first season concerns the murders of women connected to Sookie's brother, Jason. Maudette Pickens and Dawn Green are both strangled shortly after having been alone with him. Though Detective Bellefleur has little doubt that Jason is the killer, the town sheriff does not suspect him. Sookie's grandmother is murdered shortly afterward. After the murders, Jason becomes addicted to vampire blood and has a short relationship with another addict, Amy Burley, which ends when she is murdered as well. The season also focuses on Sookie's relationship with Bill and Sam's relationship with Sookie's friend Tara. Bill explains the rules of being a vampire to Sookie and, after killing a vampire to defend her, is forced to "turn" a young girl named Jessica into a vampire as punishment. The immature Jessica is left under Bill's care and starts to grow up both as a vampire and as a person. In the end it is revealed that Arlene Fowler's fiancé, Rene Lenier, has been killing women who associate with vampires. Further, he is actually a man named Drew Marshall who created a false identity, complete with a fake Cajun accent. The season ends with the discovery of a body in Detective Andy Bellefleur's car in Merlotte's parking lot.
The second season loosely follows the plot of the second novel of The Southern Vampire Mysteries, Living Dead in Dallas. In addition, the character of Sophie-Anne Leclerq, initially introduced in the sixth novel Definitely Dead, was introduced as a major supporting character. The main theme of the season involves the disappearance of Godric, the 2,000-year-old vampire Sheriff of Area 9. Eric enlists Sookie and Bill's aid in finding the ancient vampire in Dallas. Their paths cross Jason's as he seeks to discover meaning in his life with the Fellowship of the Sun, a church dedicated to anti-vampire activities. A second theme concerns a maenad named Maryann who visits Bon Temps after Tara attracts her attention at the end of the first season. Maryann is a figure from Sam's past and knows his true identity as a shapeshifter. Her influence on the town and its residents results in mayhem that grows more destructive as the season progresses. At the end of the season, Bill proposes to Sookie, but is kidnapped by unknown assailants when Sookie retreats to the bathroom to consider his proposal.
Season three loosely follows the plot of the third novel of The Southern Vampire Mysteries, Club Dead, and introduces werewolves to the show's mythology. It also introduces the characters of Russell Edgington, the Vampire King of Mississippi, and his private investigator, Franklin Mott. In addition, some characters from the fourth novel Dead to the World are introduced: Crystal Norris as Jason's love interest, her family of werepanthers from Hotshot, and Sookie's "faerie godmother", Claudine. Sookie's heritage as part faerie is also revealed later in the season, a major plot element from the eighth and ninth novels From Dead to Worse and Dead and Gone. This season ends with Jason left to take care of Hotshot, Tara leaving Bon Temps, Bill fighting the queen, Sam shooting Tommy, and Hoyt and Jessica moving in together. The final cliffhanger involves Claudine taking Sookie away to the land of Faerie.
A coven of witches, led by Marnie, poses a threat to vampires when they discover the witches are working on necromancy. Sookie returns to Bon Temps after a year (even though for her she was away for only a few minutes in Faerie) to find Bill as the new King of Louisiana and that her brother and friends had given up hope of finding her. As the series progresses, a powerful necromancer from the 16th century, Antonia, possesses the body of Marnie in order to exact revenge on all vampires. Sookie starts a romance with Eric who has amnesia due to a spell cast by Antonia/Marnie. The witch Antonia eventually realizes the wrongdoing she's caused to innocent people and decides to stop. Yet Marnie, addicted to Antonia's power, binds her against her will to acquire her powers. Subplots include Lafayette's introduction to the world of magic and his abilities as a medium, Sam's family troubles, Alcide and Debbie's troubled relationship, and Jason, Hoyt and Jessica's love triangle. The finale is a series of cliffhangers, including a warning from the ghost of Rene that Terry will cause Arlene trouble, the escape of Russell Edgington, the reappearance of Steve Newlin as a vampire, and the shooting of Tara.
The season follows Bill and Eric being captured by the Vampire Authority after the disappearance of Nan Flanagan. The two are almost sentenced to death by the Guardian, Roman, before revealing that Russell Edgington is alive and free after being released by a mysterious vampire. With the help of Sookie the team discovers his hiding place and brings him in. Alcide deals with his troubled rise to pack-master, and Terry learns he is death-cursed after committing a terrible crime during the war in Iraq. Meanwhile, Sookie learns that her powers are limited and contemplates having a normal life, just as Tara learns to deal with her newly given life as Pam's progeny. Jason and Sookie discover their parents were murdered by a vampire and vow to find out who is responsible. Hoyt gets involved with a hate group, then decides to leave for Alaska, just as Andy heads towards life as family man, and Lafayette tries to deal with the powers given to him by Jesus. Russell and his new vampire-companion Steve Newlin, along with Salome and Eric's vampire sister Nora, redefine the values of the Authority and view humans as nothing more than food: just as Lilith of the Vampire bible wanted. The season ends with the Authority leadership being wiped out during the True Blood crisis, and Bill drinking all of the sacred vial of Lilith in front of Sookie and Eric. He soon meets the "true death", but shortly after, he "rises from the blood", as an even more powerful vampire reincarnation of Lilith ("Billith").
The sixth season of True Blood premiered on June 16, 2013. After Alan Ball's departure from the series at the end of season 5, Brian Buckner replaced Ball as the show's showrunner. Season six focuses on Billith's growing abilities. Sookie and Jason search for Warlow, the vampire responsible for their parents death. Louisiana governor leads a platform to eradicate the entire vampire race, leaving all fates in the balance.
The seventh and final season premiered on June 22, 2014, and the last episode was aired on August 24, 2014.
The first five seasons of True Blood received critical acclaim, despite the fact that initial impressions were mixed. Linda Stasi of the New York Post wrote of the opening episodes:
"If HBO's new vampire show is any indication, there would still be countless deaths – especially among vampire hunters and the viewers who love them – because everyone would be dying of boredom. And so it is with HBO's new series from death-obsessed Alan Ball, creator of the legendary Six Feet Under, whose new show True Blood, won't so much make your blood run cold as it will leave you cold."
USA Today concluded:
"Sexy, witty and unabashedly peculiar, True Blood is a blood-drenched Southern Gothic romantic parable set in a world where vampires are out and about and campaigning for equal rights. Part mystery, part fantasy, part comedy, and all wildly imaginative exaggeration, [True] Blood proves that there's still vibrant life — or death — left in the 'star-crossed cute lovers' paradigm. You just have to know where to stake your romantic claim."
Season 5 was the final season with Alan Ball as showrunner, after which he was replaced by Brian Buckner. The sixth season was met with generally mixed reviews in contrast to the critical acclaim of the previous five seasons. Many critics noticed the decreasing quality of the scripts, production values, and even the acting, with more of a focus on action and less on character development. Season 7 continued this trend, receiving fewer positive reviews, and the viewing rate also declined considerably compared to previous seasons, with only 3 million tuning in every week, down from the 5 million from the fourth and fifth seasons.
The cast received positive reviews in the early seasons, with praise going to the performances of Nelsan Ellis and Anna Paquin. For the first season, Anna Paquin won the Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama Golden Globe at the 66th Golden Globe Awards; she was also nominated the next year and won Saturn Award at the 13th Satellite Awards, a ceremony in which Nelsan Ellis also won the Saturn Award. Stephen Moyer won the Best Actor in Television award at the 2010 Saturn Awards.
Metacritic, an aggregator of critical responses, found "generally favorable reviews" for the first five seasons, with ratings of 63, 74, 79, 74 and 74, respectively. The sixth season rated 58 and the seventh 54, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
True Blood was the subject of a Sesame Street sketch parody titled "True Mud" (2010), featuring puppet versions of Sookie, Bill, Lafayette, Sam, Tara, and Sheriff Dearborn. In the skit, Muppet Sookie struggles to fulfill Muppet Bill's pleas for a pint of "True Mud", as the other characters speculate whether or not he is a "grouch".
Anna Paquin (Sookie), Stephen Moyer (Bill), and Alexander Skarsgård (Eric) appeared on the August 2010 cover of Rolling Stone covered in blood and completely naked. This cover drew criticism due to the image's supposed promotion of sexuality and violence. The show's creator, Alan Ball, stated in the magazine, "To me, vampires are sex... I don't get a vampire story about abstinence. I'm 53. I don't care about high school students. I find them irritating and uninformed."
The struggle for vampire equality in True Blood has been interpreted as an allegory for the LGBT rights movement. Charlaine Harris, the author of the book series on which the show is based, stated that her initial characterization for the vampires were as "...a minority that was trying to get equal rights". Several phrases in the series are borrowed and adapted from expressions used against and about LGBT people, such as "God Hates Fangs" (God Hates Fags) and "Coming out of the coffin" (coming out of the closet).
Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker wrote that the show is built "around a series of metaphors: Vampire rights stand in for gay rights, and now the clever laughs elicited from this bratty-vampire girl represent an extreme of adolescent rebelliousness". David Bianculli of NPR wrote, "True Blood is big on allegory, and the tension about accepting vampires into society is an obvious play on civil rights in general, and gay rights in particular". However, the series' creator, Alan Ball, who is gay, has stated that such a comparison is lazy and possibly homophobic; and Lauren Gutterman of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies has expressed concerns that the show might perpetuate negative stereotypes of homosexuals as deviants.
The first episode of True Blood debuted at a very modest 1.44 million viewers compared to the network's past drama premiers such as Big Love which premiered at 4.56 million, and John from Cincinnati which debuted at 3.4 million. However, by late November 2008, 6.8 million a week were watching: this figure included repeat and on-demand viewings. The season finale's viewership was 2.4 million.
The second season premiere of the series (June 14, 2009) was viewed by 3.7 million, making it the most watched program on HBO since the series finale of The Sopranos. The total number of viewers for the season premiere, including the late night replay, was 5.1 million. The tenth episode of the second season (August 23, 2009) was seen by 5.3 million viewers, a new record for the series. The second season's finale (September 13, 2009) was seen by 5.1 million viewers. An average of 12.4 million a week watched the second season.
The ninth episode of the fourth season (August 21, 2011) set a new record with 5.53 million viewers, making it the most viewed episode to date.
True Blood is HBO's most watched series since The Sopranos. The show was declared the eighth highest rated show for the first ten years of IMDb.com Pro (2002–2012).
The show won an Outstanding Casting for a Drama at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards; the two lead actors have both been recognized for their performances:Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse, for Best Actress in a Drama at the 13th Satellite Awards
Stephen Moyer as Bill Compton for Best Actor at the 37th Saturn Awards
The show received an American Film Institute Award in 2009 as "One of the 10 Best TV Programs" and was chosen as "Favorite TV Obsession" at the 36th People's Choice Awards. Its stunt performers have been recognized for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble at the 17th Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The True Blood DVDs have been consistent best-sellers in the US. By the end of 2009, the first season DVD had sold over 1.6 million units and taken in over $57 million. It was the only TV show in the 50 top-selling DVDs of 2009. The second season DVD sold a total of 1,159,509 units in 2010, earning over $41 million. The third season DVD was the 61st best-selling DVD of 2011, selling almost 1 million copies and earning over $30 million. It was the best selling TV box set of 2011. In its first week of release—the week ending June 2, 2012—season four debuted at number one on the UK "TV on Video" chart. However, it reached only number six in the combined DVD chart. In its first week of release in North America, it sold over 660,000 units, earning nearly $20 million. In its second week of release in North America, it sold a further 120,000 units (making a combined total of 784,000 units sold), earning another $4 million.