‘Game of Thrones’ might be the bigger name of the two in HBO’s list of most successful shows, but ‘True Blood’ paved the way for its success.
When HBO’s ‘True Blood’ premiered 12 years ago, a new age of vampires dawned on television. It was unlike anything that came before and after, even when compared to ‘Buffy: The Vampire Slayer’ and ‘The Vampire Diaries’. The series aired in 2008 when the supernatural vampire genre had a massive cultural impact, with ‘Twilight’ spearheading the revolution. ‘True Blood’ was based on Charlaine Harris‘ best-selling novels titled “The Southern Vampire Mysteries”. Most of the show’s source material was taken from the books, but Alan Ball, the showrunner, added his personal touch wherever necessary. The show was a breakout-hit, although its soap opera tones and the last few seasons made it a convoluted, chaotic mess.
- ‘True Blood’ paved the way for ‘Game Of Thrones’ to become a reality
- Why ‘True Blood’ wasn’t able to keep up with its premise
- ‘True Blood’ was cancelled despite high ratings
Its premise initially was simple. The story followed vampires, faeries, and other supernatural creatures who lived in Bon Temps, a small town in Louisiana. Starring Anna Paquin (Sookie Stackhouse), Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton), and Alexander Skarsgård (Eric Northman), the series presented more than just a vampire-human love story. And it was rooted in a solid foundation for a triumph that continued to make genre television a resounding success.
‘True Blood’ paved the way for ‘Game Of Thrones’ to become a reality
What made ‘True Blood’ particularly special was how it transformed genre television for its network. True Blood mutated the landscape, paving the way for modern television so shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ could take shape. The characters faced dramatic situations, unexpected deaths, murder mysteries, and metaphors representing bigotry against minorities.
Before ‘True Blood’, HBO was well-known for a handful of its shows like ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘The Sopranos’. Most of the shows the network created were often embedded in realism and didn’t delve into the supernatural and fantasy genres.
‘True Blood’ was one of the first genre-based shows at HBO that became a commercial success. It had a slow start, but it grew popular overnight, with its camp horror theme intriguing adults. It didn’t associate itself with teenage drama and was certainly not PG-13, and featured gore, nudity, and scenes of intimacy.
The show had major plot holes later on, but it managed to maintain an impressive rating until the end. It crucially opened the door for ‘Game Of Thrones’ and helped HBO gain an optimistic perspective towards genre TV. Like ‘True Blood’, ‘Game of Thrones’ was adapted from a popular book series and drew in an existing community of fans. It became so popular that HBO didn’t hesitate to give the showrunners staggering budgets so they could improve on their CGI and create dragons!
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Why ‘True Blood’ wasn’t able to keep up with its premise
Initially, the series posed an idea for humans and vampires to co-exist, but soon turned into a frenzy to eradicate them. Most of the show’s flaws started to appear after the sixth season when original showrunner Alan Ball stepped down. He was replaced by Mark Hudis, who was then replaced by Brian Buckner.
The series was never afraid to take risks. For instance, they employed an analogy where vampires “coming out of the coffin” were meant to represent the LGBTQ community. For the first few seasons, they managed to keep its meaning intact. Vampires were depicted as a minority group in the country and were struggling to be accepted. But, in the last few seasons, the writers were the ones who struggled to keep this metaphor in place. Finding ways to make it meaningful became a side-hustle for the show and there were far too many stereotypes.
The lack of steady leadership also created a web of plot changes, especially with vampire Bill Compton becoming an antagonist. He was a kind vampire who cared for and loved Sookie, but in the finale, resorted to selfish decisions. Now, there’s nothing wrong with altering a characters’ traits, but it was too much, too soon.
‘True Blood’ was cancelled despite high ratings
The show had a steady viewership to the end, but the decision to end the show was the right one. The creators seemed to have realised that the storytelling was hitting a wall and there weren’t many ideas to share. Before the series finale premiered, HBO’s programming director Michael Lombardo shared with “The Hollywood Reporter”, the reason behind the cancellation. He said, “Every season we sit down with the creator and say ‘Tell us what the next year will be like.’”
“And if there aren’t exciting, unbelievable, undeniable ideas in the coming season, we’re questioning. And I think in the case of True Blood, it just felt like we had reached a place where the storytelling was hitting a wall. And to stay just because the ratings were strong felt not who we are and we needed, quite honestly, the money and Sunday night space for new shows”.
Ending ‘True Blood’ was the right decision because at least the show’s legacy will go on. And later, ‘Game of Thrones’ bagged the Sunday night timeslot and went on to become a global phenomenon for HBO. All good things come to an end, and that’s what happened with ‘True Blood’. We just wish there was an alternate ending to the series that included a happy ever after for Bill and Sookie.
What is your favourite thing about the ‘True Blood’ series? Tell us in the comments!