Fervent fans want `Blood'

The bomb that shattered the living room left carnage in its wake.

The floor is slick with blood, tattered bodies litter the room, and an unrecognisable goo stuck to the wall spurts mauve blood.

"I'm gonna ask everyone to clear the set who is not actually dying on it," yells Scottie Gissel, a first assistant director for the hit vampire series True Blood.

True Blood is based on the Southern Vampire books by Charlaine Harris.

Alan Ball, who created Six Feet Under and wrote American Beauty, brought True Blood to TV in 2008, where it emerged as the most popular show in the United States.

An average of 7.8 million US viewers were watching by the end of the first season.

With a fervent fan base, including nearly a half-dozen fan-run websites, True Blood is hoping to prove in its sophomore season that even in the Twilight age of vampire overkill, it can maintain its success.

True Blood takes place in a world where vampires have come out of the coffin, so to speak, aided by the invention of a synthetic blood substitute called "Tru Blood" that keeps their primal appetites at bay.

Still, prejudice against the undead abounds, with many of the show's human characters motivated by a hate and fear that is as destructive as even the most unrepentant bloodsucker.

Season one established the main action: True Blood is set in the fictional backwater town of Bon Temps, where a telepathic good girl named Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) works as a waitress in a raucous bar called Merlotte's.

When a mysterious vampire named Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) comes to town, Sookie falls in love with him.

A high body count and muddy graveside sex ensue.

Ball initially read Dead Until Dark, the first in Harris' Southern Vampire series, five years ago.

By the time Six Feet Under was filming its final season, he was interested in bringing the books to television.

Ball says the cultural clout of his broodingly dark funeral-parlour drama left critics and the public unsure what to think of the zany, Saturday-matinee movie serial that is True Blood.

"When people approach me about Six Feet Under, they say, `Oh my God, that show meant so much to me, I lost my mother last year'," says Ball.

"With True Blood, it's more like, `Dude, I love your show. It rocks!"

'Moyer says that he and Paquin were in England when season one aired, so they never got the chance to watch it.

In the real world, the pair live together.

They kept their romance a secret for 10 months before coming out with it on set; its inception was aided by the fact that during filming for the pilot they were "very stupidly put in the same hotel," says Moyer.

He knew that True Blood was building a fan base but didn't realise the scope of it until someone sent Paquin a shirt emblazoned with the words, "Bill's Babes".

"She was like, `I'm the original Bill's babe,' and she would occasionally wear the shirt around the house," says Moyer.

Clans of character-obsessed viewers aren't the only windows into the restless soul of eternal vampire love.

Chat rooms, forums, podcasts, Twitter feeds created by fanatics masquerading as "personalities" from the show, Facebook pages, show recaps, detailed factoids and shared-interest camaraderie are all part of the parallel universe that breathes life into True Blood.

What fans are responding to, says Paquin, is the fact that True Blood is an "exciting, big-concept, plot-driven, really high-class soap opera".

And like any good soap opera, Moyer says, no matter how you look at it, it all really comes back to sex. - Los Angeles Times The second season of True Blood premieres on Wednesday at 9.30pm on Prime.

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