Kiss of the vamp ire

Two 16-year-olds were talking about how much they were enjoying the third season of “True Blood.” I’d heard about HBO’s hit show. But what’s so special about vampires? As if we don’t have enough scary stuff going on in the world: wars, floods, famine, the economy, oil spills, Bristol Palin dancing and hurricanes. We need vampires to scare us?

I have nothing against vampires, zombies, werewolves and shape-shifters, (I do, however, have a serious beef with wood sprites), but the success of the unreadable and unwatchable “Twilight” books and movies made the prospect of sitting through a TV show based on another series of bloodsucker books very low on my list.

But “True Blood” turned out to be a different kettle of blood. I am addicted to it. First of all, this is not a show about vampires. This is a show about hot, sweaty, high-definition sex. And lots of it. I cannot name an X-rated film with as much skin as the average episode of this toothy wonder. The fangs and the bloodsucking are just there to keep small children from getting bored. This show is doing for sex what “The Sopranos” did for whacking, what “Deadwood” did for swearing and what “Dexter” is doing for serial killing. It’s brought TV sex out of the closet and into the family room where it belongs. Who doesn’t want to sit in front of the 44-inch LED TV and explain what priapism is to the grandkids and why it’s so funny/sad/terrifying and age-inappropriate?

“Granddad, what are washboard abs?”

“Granddad, why are they wrestling naked?”

Of course, like everything else on TV, it’s fake sex. It’s fake in the same TV way that everyone who works in a TV hospital could also be a runway model and every coffee shop waitress can live in a $4,000-a-month apartment. It makes you wonder if anyone who writes for the boob tube has ever been to a hospital or a coffee shop. Still, the fake sex on “True Blood” is blisteringly hot. The lead characters, who have been wrestling naked on the show for two seasons, have just gotten married in real life. I can imagine the first night of their honeymoon.

“Let’s do something wild tonight, honey. Let’s play Scrabble.”

The 16-year-olds I’d heard talking about the show before I saw it never mentioned the sex. They talked about the vampires and the violence and murders in front of their parents who, like me, were probably thinking, “Kid stuff, I’ve got more important things to watch.” No, you do not. If your kids or grandkids are talking about “True Blood,” I suggest you watch an episode with them. See how fast they put the kibosh on that idea.

Some might say, “Big deal, kids are more sophisticated now than we were at that age.” What would make anyone think that? The smart way teens budget their money? Their sophisticated musical choices? Sexting? Their Facebook taunting? I’m barely sophisticated enough to watch this show, and I saw the U.S. land a man on the moon – supposedly. Ten years ago the only place you could have seen this show was at a porno theater in the run-down part of town. And you’d have paid extra.

“True Blood” is truly sophisticated and borderline brilliant – top-notch film work, stunning set decoration, clever cinematography, quicksilver editing, moody music, smart acting, surprising scripts – it is not shabby, under-the-counter, over-lit porno. Wait. What’s the difference?

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2010, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.

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