Produced by: HBO

Starring:  Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer and others. Many many others.

Summary Judgement:  After a strong second season, season three seems to have lost everything that made True Blood a guilty pleasure.

Mild spoilers ahead, but nothing serious.

Strip away the vampires and other sundry super natural mumbo jumbo and True Blood is nothing more than an ultra-violent soap opera featuring lots of full frontal nudity.  For its first two years, I was okay with that.  The unrepentant blood, gore, sex and occasional allegory to the gay rights movement ameliorated the otherwise unremarkable scripts and average acting.  I’ll even go so far as to say that the show improved in its second season with the introduction of Maryann (Michelle Forbes) and Godric (Allan Hyde) into the ensemble.  Without ever taking her clothes off, Forbes’ character gave a very, very shallow show an opportunity for some narrative depth.  Kudos to you, Michelle Forbes.  Likewise, the conflict between Godric and the vampire hating fundamentalist church let the writers add a little vampire politics and social strife into the mix.  I had high-hopes that season three would continue in this fashion.  Sadly, it has not.

The first half dozen episodes of season three make me think, “This is what a Stephanie Meyer novel must feel like, only with more hillbillies.”  There’s absolutely no reason that the story lines of Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten), Hoyt Fortenberry (Jim Parrack) and Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell), all of which prominently feature rednecks, should be garnering more screen time than the more interesting vampire politics.  At least when Jason Stackhouse was suffering through some PTSD he was interesting, perhaps even more funny than usual in a tragic sort of way.  Instead of letting him work through a debilitating mental disability, the writers have him playing Dirty Harry in a possibly incestuous send up of Misery.

Baby vampire Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), one-time paramour of reformed redneck Hoyt Fortenberry, would have been a lot more fun to watch if she had continued her dark side of the force feeding frenzy.  I mean why not?  Shouldn’t a young vampire without her maker run amok?  Once again, the writers set aside that which would make sense in favour of having Jessica rediscover her boring human ethics.  I’m sure many people think, “If I ever become a vampire I’ll become a hostess at a pub”.  Snore.

Then there’s Sam Merlotte’s quest to find his real family.    Honestly, the less said about shape shifting rednecks, the better.  Dog fights? Seriously? Of all the ways to make money as a shape shifter they go with dog fights?  Not morph into a fly, collect corporate insider information and make a killing on the stock market?  Nope.  Sam’s family uses their abilities to fix bets on canine fight clubs.  Frak me.

At least last week’s episode gave the audience a glimmer of hope for better things to come.  Yet, short of a full-on vampire civil war, I don’t know why anybody should bother watching the rest of the season.  Even the main storyline has been tediously slow and fraught with redneck werewolves jonesing for vampire blood.  Barring bad hair emo vampire from the Tudors (James Frain) turning Tara (Rutina Wesley) into a vampire, or Sookie (Anna Paquin) using her Jedi powers to do more than act as a human polygraph, I’ll thank the TV gods that Pillars of the Earth came along when it did.

Overall Score thus far:  I’m going to grade this one in picture form.