Blu-Ray Review: TRUE BLOOD THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON is Bloody Tasty

Whoever manages to predict and pre-empt the next major cultural obsession is going to make a lot of money - just look at how Hollywood and TV commissioners went insane for vampires in the past few years after the Twilight series took over from Harry Potter as the essential book purchase among the buyers with the most say on what trends gain real legs - teens with disposable income. Back in 2008, buoyed by the success of vampire projects, but clearly more interested in making a show for adults than tweens, HBO released True Blood to the world, a show quick to establish a strong mythology, irresistible characters and a sense of grown-up humour that was a million miles away from the sparkly neck-biters of Twilight. Flash forward to 2011 and the fourth season is just beginning to air, with the third now available to buy on Blu-ray and DVD, and in a contextual environment in which shows are cancelled as quickly as they are optioned, four years is a lifetime. Even when you're dealing with immortals... Three seasons in and the coolest vampire property currently screening on TVs across the globe shows no signs of slowing up. There are enough narrative deviations, and the great addition of Denis O'Hare's Mississippi vampire king Russell Edgington and his pack of werewolves in particular stands out, while the overall roaming quest feel of this season works well for me without distraction from the show's original spirit. And reiterating slightly, it is True Blood's sense of humour, its devilish wit and its obviously joyous willingness to have fun that sets it apart from Twilight and those other TV blood-drinkers on The Vampire Diaries. The show has long positioned itself as for adults, with sexual material and spicy language adding a rawer edge to the show, and making it infinitely cooler than its on-genre competitors, including former great Buffy. But then, if you're here at season three, you probably already know all of this, and fans will continue to love the show well into and beyond this season. It's more of a difficult sale to not-yet-fans as an entry point, since there's a lot here that has been fleshed out and characterised in the first two seasons, but there is still enough for it to be enjoyed in its own right. The focus here has definitely shifted even more towards Sookie (Anna Pacquin), since her quest to find the kidnapped Bill (Stephen Moyer) plays a major part in things during the twelve episode run, though this necessarily comes at a cost, with both Jason and Lafayette taking on comparatively more minor roles than fans will have become accustomed to. But there is a very obvious plus point: more Alexander Skarsgard can only spell success in my book. As with the earlier two seasons, there is a self-conscious trashiness beneath the glossy exterior, and it does occasionally begin to feel like an exploitation/soap opera mix. And that spirit is incredibly infectious, even if the scripts aren't as tight here, and certain scenes miss their potential, and in conjunction with a heady blend of established characters and thirst-quenching new blood its a damn fine experience all round. Quality Come on, it's an HBO HD production. That's like the shiniest and glossiest of all things created ever, so it wasn't particularly likely that this was going to look and sound anything but stunning on blu-ray. Put it this way, it has extreme bite: everything looks and sounds like the high-end HD TV production that it is, with sumptuous colours and textures, and incredible levels of detail. HBO are still the kings of TV HD for me, and long may it continue on the strength of this exceptional release. Extras Again we see how well the Picture-in-Picture viewing Experience can enhance the original material, if handled properly. True Blood's version includes exclusive flashback and flash-forward bonus footage, as well as in-character interviews as well as a string of trivia and bio features. It is a shame there isn't another P-in-P experience, in which we could have met the actors, producers and technical wizards behind the scenes, but it does look like they're trying to keep a lot of the magic of the series alive with this approach, so fans will love it. I originally enjoyed the Post-Mortem segments when they aired immediately after their corresponding episode, so to see them reproduced here is definitely a plus. Personal highlights within include the Hitler's hell-hounds mockumentary, a faked vampire interrogation, Alan Ball's teaser-heavy "Thank You," all of which either flesh out the mythology of the series through cleverly staged, and often humorous back- or side-stories, or in the case of Ball's featurette offer the perfect taster for what we can expect from Season Four. Sadly, there isn't a great deal of behind-the-scenes material for fans to get their teeth into, and even though the supplementary features will be met with squeals of delight from true fans for their spirit, it is a shame there isn't more that really breaks the surface. Enhanced Viewing Experiences (HD): Picture-in-Picture Audio Commentaries (Discs 1-5): Six audio commentaries are available, and paint a rather all-encompassing overview of the season and its production. The actors are always paired with the series' episode-makers and the discussions are more focused, detail-oriented and informative for it. Commentaries include "Beautiful Broken" with actor Alexander Skarsgård (Eric) and director Scott Winant, "It Hurts Me Too" with writer Alexander Woo and director Michael Lehmann, "9 Crimes" with actress Kristin Bauer Van Straten (Pam) and director David Petrarca, "I Got a Right to Sing the Blues" with creator Alan Ball and actor Denis O'Hare (Russell), "Hitting the Ground" with actors Anna Paquin (Sookie) and Joe Manganiello (Alcide) and writer Brian Buckner, and "Evil is Going On" with actor Stephen Moyer (Bill) and director Anthony Hemingway. Post Mortems (HD, 22 minutes) Character Perspectives (HD, 153 mins): Full actor interviews Anatomy of a Scene: Episode 2 (HD, 11 mins) True Blood Lines (HD): Interactive character guide Previews and Recaps Music Video (HD, 3 mins): "Oh Sookie" - Snoop Dog

True Blood: The Complete Third Season is available to buy on Blu-ray and DVD now.

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