Now at five seasons and counting, HBO's vampire series, True Blood, shows no signs of slowing down, and the network sees no reason to start thinking about when the last nail will be driven into that particular coffin.
Recently, the network's head honchos Richard Pleper and Michael Lombardo spoke at the Television Critics Association's summer tour on a wide range of topics, including its plans to move Girls and Enlightened into the timeslot previously held by Luck and the various issues surrounding Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom. On the topic of True Blood, however, only positive things came up, and it was implied that the series would be around for a few more seasons at least.
"The show’s obviously doing well; as long as it continues to be performing with the consumer, and more importantly exciting the storytellers, I think we’re there.”
Given the uneven storytelling of the past few seasons, that statement could probably stand to be flipped. But, as far as straightforward answers go, Lombardo's response leaves little for anyone to misinterpret. His remarks are surprisingly similar to the network's response to the question of when Game of Thrones will end. HBO essentially said they'd keep doing the show as long as George R.R. Martin keeps writing the books. And it's no wonder, as the adaptation of Martin's novels have not only approached the numbers True Blood puts up in terms of ratings, but it also does something that the vampires of Bon Temps do not: it is generally heaped with critical praise.
Quality issues aside, the fact remains that True Blood is one of HBO's highest rated series ever. In fact, it is the network's most watched program since The Sopranos, averaging nearly 5 million viewers per episode in seasons 3 and 4. That's an impressive feat for a series seemingly hell bent on outdoing its own campiness year in and year out. It may be even more impressive considering seasons 3 and 4 - regarded as something of a critical low point for the series - raked in more than double what the show was able to muster up in season 1.
Whatever your thoughts on the current state of True Blood, it certainly hasn't let HBO down yet. Which is why it was surprising to hear the network unsure of whether or not season 6 would happen when it was announced that showrunner Alan Ball was bowing out to work on the Cinemax series Banshee. In fact, Ball's replacement, television writer and producer Mark Hudis, was likely targeted to step in before a decision had even been made on whether or not season 6 would actually happen.
The statement read:
"When we extended our multi-year overall deal with Alan Ball in July 2011, we always intended that if we proceeded to True Blood’s sixth season that Alan would take a supervisory role on the series and not be the day-to-day showrunner. If we proceed to season six, the show will remain in the very capable hands of the talented team of writers and producers who have been with the show for a number of years. This is the best possible world for both HBO and Alan Ball."
What a difference a few months and some solid ratings make. After the season 5 premiere put up nearly the same ratings as the two previous seasons, HBO has gone from questioning the continuation of the series to being unsure of when it will end.
True Blood airs Sunday nights @9pm on HBO.