TVision: HBO’s ‘True Blood’ will sink its teeth in you

Monday, July 20, 2009 at 12:00am

Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyers star in the HBO hit series, 'True Blood.'

It’s taken them a while to shake the post-Sopranos and Wire blues, but it looks like HBO may have finally discovered the next generation vehicles to put them back on equal footing with TNT, USA Network and Showtime.

Once again it’s vampires to the rescue, as True Blood, in year number two, has become a certified hit. Not only has the show retained its core audience from season one, but its steadily picking up new viewers from across the demographic spectrum.

While the love affair between telepathic Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) remains the show’s central focus, some big developments are about to happen regarding bar owner Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell), who’s a shape-shifter in his spare time. According to TV Guide, big happenings are in store the next two weeks for Sam in both the physical and emotional departments. His budding relationship with Daphne (Ashley Jones) is also part of this equation.

Between True Blood, which airs at 8 p.m. Sundays and the resurgence of Entourage, now in its sixth season on Sundays at 9:30 p.m., HBO is once more getting big numbers on Sunday nights. In addition, sales of Entourage fifth season on DVD are also quite impressive.

Bravo changes

When Bravo began in 1980, it was an arts channel devoted to independent films, live theater, and classical music. They also occasionally aired reruns of classic shows, but the programming focus was very similar then to what airs on networks like Ovation today.

Then the 21st century rolled in, NBC purchased it and quickly discovered they could make lots more money with low-end unscripted shows than highbrow fare. Now, with the exception of the wonderful Inside the Actors Workshop with James Lipton, Bravo is dominated by the identical type of show responsible for record low network viewing levels this summer. They did develop one above-average production in this vein Project Runway, which even won a Peabody, but that’s now airing on Lifetime.

Still, there’s plenty of reality material left for Bravo to tap. Their newest offering Miami Social on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. focuses on a series of upscale types, among them former The Apprentice cast member Katrina Campins. Others in the photogenic crew include Ariel Stein, Maria Linkina, Hardy Hell (previously seen in Big Brother 2), Michael Cohen, Sorah Daiha and George French. Their occupations range from real estate to photographer, journalism, mortgage banking, even event planning.

Fans of Bravo’s The Real Housewives series (which also returns July 30 at 9 p.m.) will find Miami Social a good match, since both shows follow the misadventures and exploits (if you could call what these people do that) on a daily basis, catching the various triumphs, failures and confrontations. Reportedly this year’s edition of The Real Housewives will head for the nation’s capital. After being in Orange County, Atlanta, New York City and New Jersey, Washington, D.C. will surely prove just as colorful.

‘Kitchen’ returns

Why anyone would want to endure the rants of supposed “super chef” Gordon Ramsey is beyond me, but there’s a sizable viewership out there that enjoy the appropriately named Hell's Kitchen, which returns Tuesday night at 7 p.m. on WZTV-17.

A sixth crew of aspiring chefs have signed on to endure insults and tirades from Ramsey, who hasn’t yet gone so far he’s provoked any reaction beyond angry looks and frustrated grunts from those he verbally assaults.