what i watched last week
by request: lawrence of arabia (david lean, 1962)

true blood, series finale

There are plenty of good reviews of the series finale that you can find with a brief Google session. Suffice to say, it wasn’t very popular. My question is, why did we expect any differently? Partly, we hope for some justification for spending time watching seven seasons of a TV series. For the most part, we give up when a show gets too bad, but I stuck with True Blood to the bitter end. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason was simply that I liked counting on a show with lots of sex and violence.

As is usual for a show that lasts too long, I don’t have anything new to say. I’ll just direct you to my post about the Season Six finale, where I walked through the various seasons to see if there was a progression. That post quoted earlier posts, so here I am, quoting myself quoting myself.

First, I gave the first two seasons a grade of B+, which fell to a B for the next few seasons (with a B- thrown in for good measure). Quoting from my post on Season Two, I described its good points as “Anna Paquin takes off her clothes at the drop of an Oscar, vampires like blood, some humans like vampire blood and others like vampire sex (and some like both), the sex and violence are surrounded by the kind of hilarious dialogue you might get from a road-company version of Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte, and everyone’s accent is different.” By Season Three, the problems with True Blood were taking over, although the sex and violence were still there: “True Blood is a show that lazily allows the context of vampire mythology to create the illusion of depth in a series that is about titillation above all else. It’s a highly-entertaining show, one of my favorites. But it’s entertaining because of the shock value and violence-instilled titillation, not in spite of it.” For Season Four, I said “True Blood gets stupider every season”, and got off a good line about Season Five: “It will always be worth watching, even or perhaps especially because in the end, it’s not worth watching.” (I also called it “enjoyable junk”.) Season Six was “same old, same old”. By the time of the Season Seven Premiere, the grade was down to a C+.

Baseball players are often given very large contracts based on their past performances, which turn bad because those performances came when the players were at their peak, while the contract covers the years of the players’ decline. This is especially noticeable when the player is very good but not great, for the fall off from very good to average to mediocre is bad for the team. However, if you offer one of those contracts to a great player, it won’t hurt the team as much, because the fall off will look more like excellent to very good to average. Some people think the final season of The Wire wasn’t up to the other four, but even if they are right, it’s still worth watching because it’s The Wire, and the worst season of The Wire is still better than just about anything else you could watch. But even at its best, in those first couple of seasons, True Blood was only a B+ show. When it fell off, which usually happens with shows that run seven seasons, we were left with mediocrity. Compare it to another vampire show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The first three seasons were essential, the next three seasons hit the highest peaks even if the seasons as a whole weren’t quite a good as what came before, and Season Seven, while the least of the seasons, felt necessary to the character of Buffy. And the final scene gave good closure. Buffy went from excellent to very good to average … at best, True Blood’s first two seasons were close to being as good as Season Seven of Buffy, and it was downhill from there.

So, why did we think True Blood would go out with a classic episode? Hell if I know. A better question is, why didn’t I bail on it a few years ago, the way I did with shows like Dexter. You still had one the finest-looking ensemble casts of men and women, running around naked and drinking blood, and that probably is the reason for hanging on. Even there, though, the finale let us down. Alison Herman astutely caught the early clue: “I knew True Blood‘s series finale was bound to be terrible when there was no nudity warning on HBO Go.”

Grade for series finale: D. Grade for Season Seven: C+. Grade for series: B.