Season four begins June 26 and HBO Video is releasing the season three DVD today so that you have plenty of time to catch up before the new episodes start unspooling.
Sexy vampires are nothing new, of course.
Baby boomers grew up watching the afternoon TV soap “Dark Shadows” on which Jonathan Frid became an unlikely heartthrob as the undead Barnabus Collins (a movie remake is being filmed in England right now by — you guessed it! — Tim Burton, with Johnny Depp in the Frid role).
20 years ago, the Canadian TV series “Forever, Knight” mixed laughs and chills with the rather preposterous set-up of a sexy vampire working the night shift for the Toronto police. (Somebody must be working on a remake of that one!)
Now we’re in the middle of a new wave of romantic bloodsuckers inspired by the “Twlight” books and movies, and the rather irresistible HBO series.
Alan Ball, who created “Six Feet Under,” has taken novels written by Charlaine Harris and come up with what is reportedly the most watched series in the cable network’s history.
The kick of the show starts with the setting, a backwoods town in Louisiana where a lively roadhouse called Merlotte’s is popular with humans and vampires alike. Harris created an alternative American vampire world where the invention of synthetic blood — “Tru Blood” — has allowed the undead to come out of their crypts and mix with humans.
The heroine, Sookie Stackhouse (Oscar winner Anna Paquin), is a waitress at Merlotte’s who was born with the gift of reading minds. She finds herself in the middle of a bizarre love triangle with two very attractive vampires — Bill (Stephen Moyer, bottom) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard, below).
Ball and Harris cook up all sorts of supernatural shenanigans to fill out the updated vampire mythology, including shape shifters, werewolves and fairies.
The material gets a lurid, premium-cable charge through copious nudity — female and male — and torrents of blood and gore.
“True Blood” often suffers from anything-for-a-shock syndrome but the casting is terrific from top to bottom, with lots of New York stage talent filling key roles. Sam Trammell is the shape-shfting owner of Merlotte’s and in season three his poor white trash mom is played by off Broadway great J. Smith Cameron.
“Take Me Out” Tony winner Denis O’Hare also turns up as the leader of the Mississippi vampire clan and quickly becomes the most memorable character in the bunch.
I missed seasons one and two, but the season three DVD comes with a helpful synposis of what went on before, bringing us completely up to speed.
“True Blood” is not in the same class as the shows that have defined HBO — “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City,” among them — but it is a guilty pleasure of the highest order.