Well that was fast — only two outings and HBO renews True Blood lickety-split even though reviews were generally marginal, vampires are a tired premise, and the show is nothing more than a contemporary version of Interview With The Vampire with rough sex and dopey romance thrown in. So here’s what HBO brass Richard Plepler and Mike Lombardo won’t tell you but my research sources will: the pay channel is desperate. Sundays have been so decimated that the key adult 18-to-49 demo is down an average 60% from last year to this year. Eyeballs have sank as well. Sundays in 2003-2004 averaged 2.2 million households, then in 2006-2007 plunged to 1 million, then in 2007-2008 bottomed to just 343,000.
Now comes this salacious drivel based on Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series of books. And its pisspoor writing demonstrates that either Oscar and Emmy winner Alan Ball (American Beauty and Six Feet Under) is phoning it in or else he’s got a talent-less nephew with the same name. (What he does have is his UTA agent Sue Naegle now prez of HBO Entertainment.) So HBO gives it a decent launch with all the usual hype and glory so audiences are fooled into thinking there’s finally something good on. And the first Sunday night airing attracts 899,000 viewers, which is way better than any other series on the channel recently. And then the second Sunday night jumps 37% to 1.2 million plus substantial gains across all demos. And the series winds up ranked #9 among all cable shows with adults 18-49 and #8 with women 18-49 its second week out, which is meaningful since HBO only has 32% penetration nationwide.
So Plepler and Lombardo now think they’re heroes. I’m here to tell them they’re not. True Blood is the definition of craptastic. When Alan Ball was first pitching it, he told HBO, ”This is popcorn TV for smart people.” But I felt like a dumbass for watching all four advance episodes expecting some kind of intelligent life to emerge on the small screen. And if the pay channel bosses had half a brain between them, and taste that wasn’t in their mouths, they’d feel ashamed to feed this junky show to HBO’s already malnourished viewers.