The Witching Hour: HBO, 9 p.m., Sunday

Marnie’s got that crazy look in her eye. I like it.

After a year of waiting, True Blood fans got their first episode of season four on Sunday.  Beginning with Sookie’s journey to the fairy world, the episode started off with a distinctly different feel from previous seasons. And while this may have seemed disjointed to some fans, die-hard Trubies who have read all of Charlaine Harris’s books probably weren’t too surprised by the show’s new dimension (although book purists probably noted many differences).

Here are my two cents on the premiere. I liked the opening. I think it was an abrupt start to the new season, but it also allowed the story to move forward one year in time. While this jump did not make much of a difference in the Bill-Sookie-Eric love triangle, the year seemed monumental in the character development of Jason, who is noticeably more mature; Andy, who is a V addict; Tara, who is having a lesbian relationship; and Bill, who seems to have taken on a high-profile role in local vampire politics. Of all of these developments, I was the most pleased to see the growth in Jason’s character. To be honest, his ditsy routine was getting a bit old by the end of last season. And he looks gorgeous in that uniform.

Many loyal fans of the books rate the fourth in the series as their favorite (myself included). There are a few reasons for this in my case. First, I’m Team Eric. And if the show follows the books (and Alan Ball’s allusions) this is going to be a good summer for Eric fans. Second, the witches are cool, and introduce yet another interesting supernatural element to the mythology. Third, Sookie really comes into her own as she explores her options post-Bill.

If the first episode is any indication, all of these elements are going to come into play. And while I’m not going to count down my favorite moments, I will say that the witches’ coven left quite an impression on me. The lead witch Marnie, played by Harry Potter’s Fiona Shaw, is a frightening, intimidating and wild presence. As she was chanting to resurrect her bird, I had the distinct feeling that she is completely unstable – and there’s nothing more dangerous and interesting than an unstable, morally dubious, brilliant purveyor of the mystic arts.

Did anyone else tune in? If so, I’d love to hear your two cents.

Waiting sucks

Last week was an especially lame week for TV. It seemed like just about every show on every network took a break. And while FOX can blame it all on American Idol, there is just no excuse for the other networks.

At least Big Love was on. And boy was it good. I’m not sure how the writers are going to wrap all of the drama in just a few more episodes, but I’m excited to see them try. It’s nice to know that when the other networks are off, HBO is on.

Thinking about the end of Big Love, and anticipating Game of Thrones (more on that later), makes me even more excited for True Blood in June. And to be quite honest, the shirtless Eric promo that HBO posted this week doesn’t hurt either. Very nice. You’re welcome.

The fourth book in Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series has always been my favorite (a consensus among fans). Without spoiling anything, let me just say that everything changes. The storylines that began at the end of last year (Sookie’s troubles with Bill, witches in Bon Temps, werewolf politics, Jason’s relationship with Crystal, werepanthers in Hotshot, and more) will likely all be important plots in season four. 

The anticipation is killing me. Perhaps a True Blood seasons past marathon is in order. With HBO Go, a new service for  cable subscribers, you can watch any episode of any HBO show online. It’s not available for Time Warner yet, but if you have another cable provider, you should look into it. It sounds pretty cool. For my part, I think I’ll queue up the DVDs on Netflix old school style, and try to ease my True Blood withdrawal symptoms.

Top 10 moments from True Blood season 3 season finale

We’ll miss you until next season, Sook.

Even with a full line-up of fall TV shows about to start, I am mourning the passing of True Blood season three. Unlike past top 10 lists, I have left my comments brief, as I have a few concluding remarks on this season. As I move on to Vampire Diaries (what a great first episode that was last week!), here’s what I’ll remember from the True Blood finale.

  1. Maniacal laughter from Sookie as she disposed of Talbot’s remains
  2. Russell Edgington, extra crispy recipe – Kudos to the makeup team.
  3. Russell Edgington, encased in cement for at least 100 years
  4. Bill vs. Sophie Ann – She’s old, but he has nothing to lose.
  5. Bill vs. Eric – I didn’t see that one coming.
  6. Sookie vs. Bill – Invitation revoked.
  7. Jesus is a man-witch.
  8. Tara’s new haircut is super cute, even if she is still annoying.
  9. Sookie’s close encounters of the Fae kind
  10. Alcide is still gorgeous, dreams of Sookie, and is quite eligible now that Debbie is missing.

Before I move on to other remotely entertaining shows, I have a few thoughts on season three. Even for devoted Truebies such as myself, there were times during last season when my interest in Marianne waned. And, truth be told, the season finale was lacking – it felt more like a prelude to season three than a wrap up of season two.

Despite some less than thrilling sub-plots (ahem, Sam’s dog-fighting biological family), this year’s story arc was awesome, and Russell stole the show as the primary villain. A quick look back at my top 10 lists reveals so many great moments that it’s hard to believe this wasn’t a network show with 22 episodes.

What’s a girl to do over the next few months without True Blood? Well, there should be a new book in Charlaine Harris’s series. And there is no shortage of good TV – I’ll be watching Vampire Diaries, Boardwalk Empire, Eastbound and Down, Big Love, Dexter, Fringe, 30 Rock, The Office, as well as trying a few other shows including Detroit 1-8-7, Blue Bloods, and The Walking Dead. So stay tuned, dear readers, as we deal with this nine-month fangover.

Top 10 moments from True Blood season 3, episode 11

Let’s hope Eric finds a way out of the trap he set for Russell and makes it back to Sookie and Pam.

Only one episode left to go, and here’s your weekly countdown of the best moments from True Blood.

  1. What a cliffhanger! Eric’s plan to kill Russell includes sacrificing himself to save Sookie. The final scene left us with the two vampires, handcuffed together, smoking in the sun. How will Eric escape? Will Russell finally meet the true death? The anticipation over the next two weeks is going to kill me.
  2. Last night’s was a somewhat Eric-centric episode in that we saw his walls come down, twice. First, his touching goodbye with Pam. “I love you more when you are cold and heartless.”
  3. Then, I found Eric’s hesitation in biting Sookie to be tender, in spite of the circumstances. It is pretty clear that he is in love with her for reasons no one; including myself, my co-blogger Mark, Sookie, Bill and Eric himself, fully understands.
  4. I have lauded Denis O’Hare a couple times for his ability to convey real emotion in the extraordinary True Blood universe. He deserves kudos yet again for his reaction to seeing the sunlight for the first time in millennia. His blood tears of joy made me realize that hidden deep underneath the monster is a man.
  5. Remember when Alice drank the potion labeled “Drink me”? That’s what I thought of when Hoyt and Jessica took their relationship to the next level. He can’t possibly understand the consequences of the blood bond. Will it bring them closer or pull them apart?
  6. Something Wiccan this way comes. Arlene’s attempt at aborting Rene’s baby by drinking a potion and invoking the mother goddess has me so intrigued for next season. Merlotte’s newest waitress will surely play a pivotal role in season four.
  7. Cheers for the In Memoriam segment that came before the episode. It was not only funny, it refreshed my memory on some of the True Blood characters who have come and gone. R.I.P. Tina and Gran.
  8. Anyone who has experienced a relationship rough patch knows what it’s like to want to start over. That’s why the conversation between Sookie and Bill on the way home from Fangtasia was so memorable, haunting and realistic.
  9. Doctor by day, dancer by night. Yvetta is not just sexy, she’s smart and pretty sassy, if you ask me. And not one to be scorned – she even got the best of Pam in last night’s episode.
  10. Pam versus Bill. Round one. Fight! I love it when the vampires fight amongst themselves. You always know someone is going to play dirty, as was the case with Pam’s pocket size silver spray.

Top 10 moments from True Blood season 3 episode 10

The biggest revelation of the night was that Sookie is a fairy.

Only two episodes left and then we have to wait months for season 4. If it’s anything like the books, it will be the best season yet, and last night we got a glimpse into the new waitress at Merlotte’s whose Wiccan beliefs will likely play a role in next year’s storyline. Before I give too much away, here’s your weekly True Blood top 10.

  1. Sookie’s a fairy! OK, I already knew that, but it was still a landmark moment. Going forward, if the show follows the books, this will shape the course of events to come.
  2. I’ve been waiting a long time for a real-life, non-dreaming kiss between Sookie and Eric. Last night’s quick smooch in Eric’s office delivered, and it’s clear that even though Sookie is in love with Bill, her feelings for Eric aren’t exactly platonic.
  3. Crystal is a werepanther! OK, I knew that too (sorry if that’s annoying to those of you who haven’t read Charlaine Harris). As a side note, props to Alan Ball for using live animals instead of ridiculous computer-generated imagery (CGI). It’s just another reason why this show is in a class of its own, and it will ensure that it stands the test of time. If you aren’t sure what I mean, watch a movie or show with CGI from the ‘90s (say Charmed or Lawnmower Man, for example). Looks pretty silly right? 
  4. Sam has a past, and what a past it is. A stint as a slick con artist? Although Sam’s story lines have seemed somewhat random this season, this one has more potential than his annoying biological family members being involved in a dog fighting ring.
  5. Russell’s prime time debut last week left no doubt as to his mental state. However, we did get to see the depth of his pain over the loss of Talbot in last night’s episode. As brutal as it was, the scene in which he killed the Talbot look-alike was a glimpse into how powerless someone can feel over the sudden loss of a loved one.
  6. Jessica shared blood with Hoyt for the first time, after Tommy (in the form of a pit bull) gave him a good chomp on the arm. This moment was almost easy to miss in this jam-packed episode, but I think it’s significant. I’m not sure how sweet, down-home Hoyt will like the experience or the resulting bond.
  7. Speaking of Jessica, I think I speak for all Truebies when I say that Arlene had it coming, and Jessica’s little spat with her was long overdue. My only question is, will Arlene heed her advice and keep her mouth shut, or will she continue to poke the bear?
  8. Terry has got to be the kindest, gentlest guy in the world to take so well the news that Arlene’s baby was fathered by René. I expected him to go nuts when she blurted out the truth, but instead he gives her a big hug and plenty of reassurance. Apparently, his kind words fell on deaf ears as Arlene is still exploring her options, but it was touching nonetheless.
  9. Jason let the cat out of the bag, in a big way. Now that Tara knows he shot Eggs, and Andy Bellefleur covered up the incident, there’s going to be hell to pay.
  10. The most bizarre moment of the night was probably the trippy V-induced delirium experienced by Lafayette and Jesus. I’m not sure where the writers are going with this storyline, as it is not one from the books, so at this point it just seems like True Blood with a side of weirdo Voodoo.

Top 10 moments from True Blood season 3, episode 9

Russell is the best True Blood villain yet, and quite the news anchor, if you ask me.

                My summer seems to be flying by, and I can’t believe there are only three True Blood episodes left. In what has been an outstanding season (the best of the three in my opinion) it’s never hard to recall 10 moments from any given episode. As a matter of fact, it is often more difficult for me to rank them, with the exception of last night’s ending.

  1. “Do not turn off the camera!” The most memorable moment of the night was, of course, the ending sequence in which Nan Flanagan incredulously watched Russell de-spine (to coin a phrase) Anchorman Jerry McCafferty. Gross, scary, ironic, humorous – it was a classic True Blood moment.
  2. The second most memorable moment was a toss up, but in the end it goes to Franklin, Tara and Jason. I have to say, I thought Franklin was going to be around for the rest of the season, so I was pretty surprised when Jason showed him the true death via a wooden bullet. And again, I can’t say enough about how much I love those goopy True Blood vampire deaths.
  3. Speaking of surprises, I was shocked at Sam’s reaction to Crystal’s father. Typically mild-mannered (as evidenced by his animal of choice, a collie), I was taken aback as Sam pummeled Calvin.
  4. Kudos to Denis O’Hare (who plays Russell), who gave his finest performance of the night at the beginning of the episode. Sure, it was gross when he grabbed a handful of Talbot, but it was also heart-wrenching. While his TV appearance was the most memorable, this moment showed his acting chops and conveyed his devastation over the loss of his lover.  
  5. You may have noticed, from these True Blood lists as well as other posts, that I love love. Therefore, I appreciated the steamy shower scene with Sookie and Bill. He’s a jerk, but (sigh) she loves him and he’s quite charming at times. The bloody water circling the drain reminded me of Psycho, and that all is not wine and roses in this relationship. It is passionate, but people get hurt.
  6. “Stop being a whiny bitch.” I never thought I’d hear Eric be called a bitch, and I had to laugh at this line. I enjoy Jessica Tuck’s deadpan delivery. Although a minor character, her portrayal of the public face of vampires is essential to the True Blood universe, and she is the perfect opposition to Russell.
  7. “Talk to the hand” took on a new meaning last night when Claudine used the magic fingers of light on Bill. Another beautifully shot scene in this golden, dream-like world brought us one step closer to find out what Sookie is. But can Bill be trusted?
  8. What a touching moment between maker and progeny. Pam’s heartache for Eric’s loss of his family was palpable. These two characters have had a few important, revealing moments this season that allow fans to see the softer side of Fangtasia’s usually tough management.
  9. I thought Bill’s line held a tinge of irony when he asked Sookie, “Would you rather be sitting on the couch watching TV?” If it’s HBO, count me in.
  10. The forward motion of True Blood is due in large part to the awesome cliffhangers in every episode. Case in point, Bill: “I know what you are.” Tell us already! Okay, I already know (I read the books), but I am still on the edge of my seat.

Top 10 moments from True Blood season 3 episode 7

More than a waitress, she’s super Sookie.

Thrills! Chills! Mind reading skills! What a great hour of True Blood, hot on the heels of last week’s excellent installment – let’s hope my heart can take the momentum as we march onward to the season finale. Here’s your weekly top 10, from yours truly.

  1. The best moment of the night, hands down, was when Sookie staked Lorena. I’ve spoken of my sincere love (or blood lust?) for the vampire deaths in this show, and Lorena’s curtain call did not disappoint. I also loved the Bill and Lorena tribute after the credits.
  2. Second best moment of the night goes to Russell, who kindly showed the Magister the true death. I enjoy a good beheading as much as the next Truebie, but this one got bonus points for the wicked splat his head made upon hitting the floor.
  3. Sookie’s coma-induced vision takes the third spot, for its sheer beauty. I often marvel at the quality of HBO programming. The cinematography in this scene, the lovely gold tones and dreamlike quality of the segment, really stood out.
  4. Speaking of lovely, that poem recited by Lafeyette was poignant and moving. Although he often serves as comic relief, Lafeyette is all heart. What more proof do you need than this? “I think over again my small adventures, my fears; Those small ones that seem so big; The vital things I had to get and reach…And yet there is only one great thing, the only thing…To live to see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world.”
  5. Hey, she bitch. That’s right, I’m talking about you Debbie Pelt. She’s really got that crazy, foaming-at-the-mouth mad cow thing down, and when she told Alcide she would hunt him down, I believed her. We haven’t seen the last of this sweaty, slutty V addict. I don’t know about you but I’m pretty happy about that.
  6. “I really want you to eat my biscuits.” So that’s what they’re calling it now. “Biscuits.” Right.
  7. Stand by your man, Sookie. The seventh most memorable moment was Sookie’s cringe-inducing, vein saw to bring Bill back.
  8. Bit by bit, we are learning more about Sookie’s special powers. This episode had a few interesting, memorable revelations, the first being that Sookie has no blood type. And she’s never been ill. Interesting.
  9. So, it seems that Sookie’s blood offers some protective powers to vamps in the sun. After Tara gave him the best friend boot from the back of the truck, Bill had a few moments in the sun without the tell tale smoke. Even more interesting.
  10. For fans of the books by Charlaine Harris, there’s nothing better than seeing a character brought to life. So my final memorable moment goes to Claudine, a much loved character from the series with a truly magical role in the Sookie-verse.

Top 10 moments from True Blood season 3, episode 6

True Blood episodes are sometimes so action-packed that it’s hard to know where to begin with my weekly top 10. Things are getting interesting in Bon Temps with Jason and Crystal, as well as Sam and his biological family. This week, I’m less interested in the storyline with Lafeyette and Jesus, which seems a little soft for a show where romance usually involves vampires, werewolves, V, or some other supernatural element.

  1. What a bloody good episode it was. The number one most memorable moment for me has to be Tara biting off a solid chunk of Franklin’s throat, more zombie-esque than vampiric.
  2. In other blood and guts True Blood news, how about Tara bashing Franklin’s head in with a mace? Tara reclaimed her tough-girl reputation and it looks like she will live to see another day. But what about Franklin? Even though his head was smashed, he wasn’t staked or burned. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him.
  3. Death by banister. I’ve seen dozens of vampire films and TV shows, but True Blood’s vampire death scenes always take the cake. Whenever a vampire gets staked and collapses into a bloody, chunky puddle I always cheer.
  4. In spite of all the blood and gore, the scene between Bill and Lorena was sad and haunting. At this point I would not have anticipated feeling sympathy for Lorena, but as Bill described her savage maker and lonely, unhappy existence, I could feel the emptiness in her. Kudos to Mariana Klaveno, who plays Lorena, and Stephen Moyer, who plays Bill, for conveying so much emotion in this scene.
  5. I loved it when Tara and Sookie beat the crap out of Don Swayze. Way to go, girls!
  6. Sophie Ann, Queen of Louisiana, apparently has a gambling addiction of sorts – I had to laugh at her sitting in a pile of scratch-off lottery tickets, rejoicing over a $100 instant win.  
  7. Bad baby vamp Jessica is learning to control her feedings, and taking care of bad customers in the process. I wasn’t sure if that woman in the curlers was ever coming out of the ladies’ room, but she emerged, probably a pint or so lighter, but alive nonetheless.
  8. Speaking of Jessica, have you Truebies been following her at http://babyvamp-jessica.com? This is Jessica’s video blog, complete with a super-cute post on the aforementioned moment of newfound control from last night’s episode. I love all the great HBO extras – from Jessica’s blog to the Postmortems to the Inside the Episode features to the Truebies and Newbies interviews. Waiting still sucks, but these really take the edge off of a hardcore fangover.
  9. Initially, I wasn’t too interested in the situation with Sam and his family. This week, we got a few more details on their situation, and it’s clear that they are more than just interlopers. A supernatural dog fight could be pretty interesting.
  10. It’s apparent that Jason and Crystal have some issues to work out, but I stand by last week’s blog post in my assertion that they are the cutest thing since Sookie and Bill in season one. I thought it was sweet as pie when Jason asked her not to hurt him. Even if it was a line, it was a good one. Aw.

Did I mention I like lists? Most disturbing TV scenes by EW

Last week’s episode of True Blood was the inspiration for Entertainment Weekly’s list.

Entertainment Weekly published a list of the top 20 most disturbing scenes on TV. I haven’t seen a lot of the shows that made the list, but here’s what I thought of the ones I do know about.

First up is the scene from last week’s episode of True Blood, in which Bill and his maker, Lorena, have some really bizarre and violent sex that involves her head being twisted 180 degrees, as she chokes out “I still love you” whilst coughing up blood and smiling sickly. That was weird, and disturbing, and surprising. Definitely not for the kiddos. I think most True Blood fans would agree that Bill has usually been portrayed in a more gentlemanly fashion than, say, Eric. So this behavior was shocking coming from him, but also shocking behavior in general.

The next scene I recognized was from The X-Files episode “Home.” This scene, in which Mulder and Scully find the mother of a family of imbreds hiding under a bed, is a classic moment in a show with a lot of creepy, memorable scenes. I’m glad this made the list, as “Home” was truly a great hour in TV history, and is almost universally recognized as the best episode of The X-Files.

Also on the list is a scene from Dexter. The last season of this show brought us many jarring scenes, thanks to the expert portrayal of the Trinity Killer by John Lithgow. Entertainment Weekly points out the Thanksgiving scene, where Dexter snapped and nearly killed Trinity in front of his family, as the most disturbing. To be sure, this was memorable, but for me, the most disturbing scene of this season (aside from the shocking ending, which is the obvious choice) was the first time we saw Trinity kill in the bathtub. Who will ever forget those dead eyes, staring into the eyes of his victim, as the water turned crimson from her blood?

 I also took issue with the scene EW picked from Deadwood. If I had to pick a most disturbing scene from this HBO drama, I would not have picked this one. To me, the most disturbing scene came when Al Swearengen (expertly portrayed by Ian McShane) was taken ill with kidney stones. You could literally feel the agony as he tried to pass them, having stroke in the process. I think it’s safe to say there was a universal wince when he squeezed out a few, bloody, foamy drops of urine. I just winced again as I wrote that.

From the Twilight Zone, EW chose one of the most classic episodes, and one that is oft-quoted in jest in the Rogers Household. Have you ever wished your spouse into the cornfield? I have.

EW also picked the scene from Lost where the guy gets sucked into the plane during the pilot. However, to me this really wasn’t very disturbing. Truthfully, while there were many crazy twists and turns in Lost, I didn’t find any of them to be as disturbing as some of the other items on the EW list. It seems like they just wanted to include something from Lost.

A few things I thought should have made the list:

  • A scene from The Sopranos. There were a lot of disturbing moments in this show (which I have only watched two seasons of) that could have been mentioned.
  • Spike’s attempted rape of Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season six, episode 19, “Seeing Red.”
  • Any one of the cruel and unusual punishments doled out by Henry VIII on The Tudors. Probably the most disturbing for me was the execution of Katherine Howard.

Top 10 moments from True Blood season 3, episode 3

Alcide (played by Joe Manganiello) arrives at Lou Pine’s with Sookie (played by Anna Paquin).

The two-week wait for a new episode of True Blood is going to be agonizing. From the last episode, here are ten moments that left me wanting more.

1. The buzz from last night’s episode is all about the twisted sex scene between Lorena and Bill. And I have to agree, it was certainly the most memorable moment of the hour, hands down. I mentioned before that we are seeing a new, vicious side of Bill this season, and my how far we have come in just three episodes.

2. The second most memorable moment was the entrance of the fine Mr. Alcide Herveaux. He stole this Trubie’s heart with ten little words, “My name’s Alcide Herveaux. I’m here to look after you,” and those gorgeous eyes.

3. How awesome was Franklin’s visit to Jessica? First, the hilarious moment when he flashed fang at her door, then his reveal of the dead trucker’s head in the shopping bag. “Has someone gone missing?” Poor Jessica, she was taken quite aback.

4. “I got your rug all wet.” Sookie seemed a bit revolted when Eric bit the neck of that lupine intruder, but in the eyes of this Trubie, Eric can do no wrong. How he manages to be gross and sexy at the same time, I’ll never fully understand.

5. Pam and Yvetta. To quote Paris Hilton (not usually my first pick for quotations, but quite fitting in this case), “That’s hot.”

6. Lou Pine’s Bar was full of biker werewolves (awesome), most notably one played by Don Swayze. Perhaps my favorite of all celebrity brothers (a close second is Clint Howard), The Other Swayze accosted Sookie, got a beat down from Alcide, and set the stage for some more wild nights under the full moon this season.

7. A recap of last night’s episode wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the flashbacks to Bill’s early years as a vampire. The scene in which he reunites with his wife, only to realize his son is dead of smallpox, was heartbreaking. Whenever the vamps on this show weep tears of blood, I always get a little choked up myself.

8. Ugh, poor Sam. His family is just plain awful – from his pathetic mother, to his idiotic, thieving brother to his alcoholic father. I just wanted to scream when his father started mooching shots.

9. Dirty move, Arlene. Pregnant by Rene (serial killer of fang-bangers from season one), she went for the ultimate deception by leading Terry to believe the baby is his.

10. BFFs Tara and Sookie reunited at the funeral for Eggs. Tara gets on my nerves from time to time, but I was happy to see these two make up. 

I noticed as I was writing this, last night’s episode was a very sexy one indeed. What did you think?