Blu-Ray Review: Take a Bite Out of HBO’s Great ‘True Blood’ in HD

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CHICAGOHBO’s excellent “True Blood” was often dismissed by critics and viewers last season as a “guilty pleasure”. Even the people who loved it felt a little bad about admitting it. I’m here to tell you “True Blood” fans to dismiss your guilt. This is great television. It’s pulpy, sexy, dark, mysterious, and the one trait great shows often share - unlike anything else on TV. Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0

“True Blood” marks the first time that HBO Home Video has released a Blu-Ray season on the same street date as the standard version and the result is expectedly amazing. With crystal clear video, even better audio, and Blu-Ray exclusive special features, “True Blood: Season One” is one of the best TV Blu-Ray releases to date, arguably the best.

True Blood: Season One was released on Blu-Ray on May 19th, 2009.
True Blood: Season One was released on Blu-Ray on May 19th, 2009.
Photo credit: HBO Home Video

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The show itself is still the main draw for a package as expensive as an HD season of an HBO show. I had seen the first few episodes of “True Blood” and thought it merely mediocre to good. I had heard from several people that the show just needed time. Every element - writing, acting, production, pacing - improves greatly with episodes three, four, and five and the second half of the season simply flies by. It’s one of the more entertaining shows on TV and I can’t wait for season two.

True Blood: Season One was released on Blu-Ray on May 19th, 2009.
True Blood: Season One was released on Blu-Ray on May 19th, 2009.
Photo credit: HBO Home Video

“True Blood” stars the excellent (and Golden Globe-winning) Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse, a young lady who can read minds. She lives in Bon Temps, Louisiana and is far from the only unusual character in town. In the universe created by writer Charlaine Harris and adapted by Alan Ball (“American Beauty,” “Six Feet Under”), vampires co-exist with humans but face daily discrimination.

Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), a 173-year-old vampire comes to town and throws Sookie’s life into disarray. While the innocent waitress is falling in love, the world around her is falling apart. Someone is killing the locals. Is it her goofy brother? The boss who secretly loves her? Maybe even her sassy best friend?

“True Blood” works on so many levels. It’s a “Twilight”-esque soap opera, a gothic murder mystery, a social commentary, and often funny as hell. Whatever “True Blood” is for you is unimportant. It’s just unbelievably entertaining and when it embraces that straight-up entertaining side just before the midway point of the season, it will be impossible not to watch the rest.

It’s all there in the brilliant opening credits, one of the best such sequences ever produced. In a matter of minutes, all to Jace Everett (who sounds a lot like Chris Isaak but is not) warbling how he wants to do bad things with you, images of sex, religion, and violence blend together. “True Blood” is about a lot more than vampire romance. It is about the dark, hidden, dangerous side of everyone. And it’s a blast.

True Blood: Season One was released on Blu-Ray on May 19th, 2009.
True Blood: Season One was released on Blu-Ray on May 19th, 2009.
Photo credit: HBO Home Video

HBO had lost a little critical cachet since Tony Soprano and Carrie Bradshaw went off the air, but “True Blood” and “In Treatment” will be a part of the new wave that brings this network back some of the prominence stolen by Showtime, USA, and TNT in recent years when it comes to cable TV acclaim. Don’t jump on the bandwagon too late.

As for the Blu-Ray release of “True Blood,” all of the episodes are presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen and they look amazing. Naturally, a lot of “True Blood” takes place in dark, low-lit locations and the transfer never causes any lack of definition or detail. The sound, mixed in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio is equally remarkable.

As for special features, half of the episodes include audio commentaries by cast and crew including Ball, Paquin, and Moyer. The Blu-Ray release comes with “Enhanced Viewing” on all 12 episodes. Each ep includes picture-in-picture commentary by the colorful Lafayette, Bon Temps history/trivia, helpful hints and FYI’s that help unravel the show’s mysteries, animated maps, and ‘Tru Blood’ commercials and vampire rights PSAs. A bit more behind-the-scenes details would have been nice but it’s a minor complaint and that information is offered in the commentary tracks.

At a list price of $80 (although you’ll find it under $50 at most outlets), “True Blood” on Blu-Ray is definitely an investment but if you’re thinking of branching into HD TV season sets, this is definitely one of the first you should get. It’s worth every dime.

Check out this preview and see for yourself:

‘True Blood: Season One’ is released by HBO Home Video and stars Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Chris Bauer, Nelsan Ellis, Jim Parrack, and William Sanderson. It was created by Alan Ball. The Blu-Ray was released on May 19th, 2009. It is not rated. content director Brian Tallerico

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