Friday, May 23, 2008

FRINGE AND PURGE - PART II

A TV Pilot Double Feature Recap + Commentary

Last night Robert and I screened 2 pilots for upcoming shows, Fringe and True Blood. There was some smoking out, a six pack of Mike's Hard Lemonade (it was a weeknight, gimme a break), and a Digiorno Garlic Bread Pepperoni Pizza. Here's what we got out of the evening.




Up front I have to admit - I don't much care for Anna Paquin. Aside from looking like a goblin, her acting skills seemed to have shut down after she won her Academy Award. When she was like, 2 years old or something. And then she was hideously mis-cast as Rogue in the X-Men films. This is where she earned most of my disrespect. That ACCENT! Seriously, I could do a better southern accent, and I'm a yankee who grew up in the Northeast. So when Robert told me she had a new series that was going to be on HBO, there was a lot of hesitation on my part. Then he told me it was about vampires. As a die-hard Buffy fan, I'm very critical about series that deal in any way, shape or form with vampires (Angel notwithstanding). But again, I heard how good it was. That, and I was just fucked up enough to watch at this point, after Fringe.

CAUTION! SPOILERS AHEAD!

The plot is pretty easy to understand from the get-go. We're in the sweaty, drawling, backwoods country of Louisiana. 2 years prior to what we're watching, vampires have "come out of the coffin" as a race of beings that just want to be accepted in the world. As a white pantsuited blonde vamp lady discusses on a bar television set, they "just want equal rights". Oh, and she berates the human race for exploitation of...honestly, I'm not sure what. The Japanese (who else?) have created synthetic blood that is sold in beer-like bottles. Guess what it's called? I'll give you a hint - it's the name of the series.

The fake beginning starts with a twenty-something guy and gal driving down the road. The girl decides that driving down a darkened unpaved road in the South is too easy, so she decides to up the ante a bit by giving the guy a handjob. One assumes it's her boyfriend, but it's HBO so it could basically be ANYONE as long as it shocks at least one viewer in the Midwest somewhere. They see a sign for True Blood at a convenience store, and decide to pull over. The guy, having not gotten enough satisfaction, wants to get some "V-Juice" which he heard makes you feel "really good". They enter the store. It's like this: the guy you think is the vamp actually isn't, and the one you wouldn't expect threatens to eat the impostor after he scares the meddling kids away. Riveting.

So our real tale begins at Merlotte's Bar & Grill, a down home watering hole seemingly in the middle of the woods. And here comes Anna Paquin, bleach-blonde ponytail, short shorts and a tray in her hand. Before we even have a moment to catch our breath from that travesty onscreen, we learn that Anna - err, "Sookie Stackhouse" - can hear people's thoughts. As she's meandering around the bar we hear all the nasty things that the patrons are saying about her. Most of them think she's half-retarded, which gave me more of a laugh than I think it should have.

All of your favorite television characters are here and ready to work. Sam the bar owner is a "nice guy" who's clearly in love with Sookie. Faggy black cook Lafayette just LOVES to shock those skinny white girls he works with! Sassy black best friend Tara shows up to the bar shortly after being fired from her Wal-Mart-esque job for bitching out a customer (she's TROUBLE!). Then there's wise old grandma, with whom Sookie lives, along with her ne'er-do-well brother Jason. Wait, how did we meet Jason?

Oh, right - we first see Jason completely ass-naked (don't get excited, there's no sausage) with his face buried in some tramp's lady business. While he's going down on her, he notices that she has two tiny bite marks on her inner thigh. He asks what they're from, and she admits that she's such an enormous whore that she let some vamp pay to fuck and bite her. This is practically a postcard - visit Louisiana!

Back at the bar, Sookie is overcome with joy and excitement - Anna read a book on how to display those emotions on her face - because Merlotte's first vampire just sat down! Apparently it's her real-life boyfriend, and they met while filming. He kinda looks like a weird version of Stephen Dorff, which is certainly no compliment. Although I think the Dorff once played a vampire too, so maybe it's what they were going for. Sookie strikes up a conversation with the vampire named Bill, where he flat out asks her, "What are you?" Oh, Bill. You and so many casting directors would love to know the answer to that mystery.

After work she can't wait to run home and tell Grandma, who is just tickled pink and would love to interview him at the library in front of an audience. The next morning Grandma gets a phone call to inform her that Mawdette (sp?) was strangled the night before. Is there like a Local Death Phone Tree? Mawdette is of course the tramp that Naked Jason was pounding when last we saw him. Turns out that she liked the rough sex from the vamp, so Naked Jason decides that he's just as good as any member of the Undead and gives it to her good. And by "good" I mean that he choked a bitch. How could you, Naked Jason? The blonde guys are never the villains. Jason makes a hasty exit from Grandma's so he can go perform completely unexplained community service, when the cops come and take him in. Just don't tell Sookie!

That night Bill the vampire comes back in the bar, but it seems that a redneck couple have taken an unusual liking to him. Before long the 3 of them disappear outside. When Sookie goes to investigate (a blonde girl leaving a bar to find a vampire...this seems familiar somehow), she finds Mr. and Mrs. Redneck draining all of the blood from Bill the vampire, who is restrained by a silver jewelry chain sizzling on his chest and arms. It turns out that vampire blood is the aforementioned "V-Juice", and it apparently fetches a pretty penny on the secondary market. Sookie fights them off with a giant chain, naturally. She flirts with Bill the vampire more, and he responds by once again asking, "What ARE you?"

Back inside, it's just what you'd expect. Sam the bar owner is pissed that she would put herself in a dangerous situation. You know, because he's in love with her. Tara is sassy and an over-acting nightmare...who's also in love with Naked Jason. Speaking of, the truth finally comes out that the entire fucking state knew about Naked Jason being arrested for murder, but no one told Sookie. They figured she just "already knew". And now for the Emmy-winning line from Anna Paquin - "I'm not psychic!" Keep in mind that this is SCREAMED at the top of her lungs with the worst Southern accent imaginable.

There were some scenes missing from this screener, but they mostly involved Sookie in bed, so I don't really feel that I missed much.

The screener basically ends on what I can imagine is the following night after the bar closes. Sookie asked Bill to meet her so they could hang out and compare fangs. But who's there instead? It's Mr. and Mrs. Redneck! What follows is one of the most realistic beatings of a female actress I have seen in quite some time. Quentin Tarantino: take notes. At one point I actually felt that she would no longer be able to have children, they were kicking her so hard.

Fade to black.

Yup, that's the end. The pilot finishes up with Anna Paquin getting the shit beat out of her. But HBO scores some points here, because if the next episode picks up where this one left off, I'll be sure to tune in. I've heard that the next couple episodes are 100 times better than this, and I certainly hope it's true. Sadly, this was one messy pilot. Does it have eye candy? Sure. But it also has some of the hardest working actors from regional theater around the country, and a monster for its star. And no, I'm not talking about Bill the vampire.

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