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True Blood: The Complete Third Season / Being Human: Season Three


Sink your teeth into two great sets

Rod Lott July 11th, 2011

Season three of HBO's wildly popular "True Blood" started off fine with a first episode that firmly introduced werewolves into the vampire series.

truebloodseasonthree

And then it nearly derailed creatively, introducing too many new characters in too many new storylines in too short amount of time. (Don't believe me? Click your way through the interactive family tree on the Blu-ray set's bonus disc.)

With a cast seemingly doubled, the hours grow so complex that keeping up is frustrating; even watching back-to-back, your mind may be like mine, wondering, "Wait, just what is going on? And who is that again? And how are they connected?" For a while, so much happens that nothing happens to move the narrative forward. Unlike season two, you may not be antsy to head right on into the next episode.

Six episodes in, my wife — a hard-core fan since its debut — gave up on it entirely, vowing never to watch again, having all her interest bored right out of her. While I felt her pain, I continued. Glad I did, because the second half is a vast improvement, as if creator Alan Ball knew things weren't quite clicking like they used to. Crawling out of the rut, the back half leaves precog waitress Sookie (Anna Paquin) — and the show overall — in better shape than it found it, setting up a more magical year four.



A more consistently wonderful horror show can be had in BBC's "Being Human," whose own junior year is newly available on Blu-ray and DVD, too. Where "True Blood" is complex, "Being Human" is simple. Where "True Blood" stretches its stories over the entire season, "Being Human"'s are more episodic, over and done with in 60 minutes or less. And where "True Blood" has dozens and dozens of core characters, "Being Human" arguably makes do with four: a vampire, a ghost and two werewolves, who live together in flesh-and-blood form in the UK — about as far from Bon Temps, La., as one can get without spacecraft.


In its season opener, "Being Human" resolves the previous year's cliffhanger with ridiculous ease, but introduces a sly new guest character (for two episodes, at least) in purgatory guide Lia (Lacey Turner). Then the gang transplants itself from their flat to a new, hopefully safer home at an old bed-and-breakfast. The season arc that comes into play finds Nina (Sinead Keenan) predictably pregnant with an assumed were-baby, while various hours weave in one-and-done players like a teenage vampire virgin and a clubbing zombie.


The reduced scale and hesitation to dip too far into the chain of vampire authority does a world of good for "Human," with a tone that's a little lighter (but still dark) and a lot less soapy. Its season-ender is a real shake-up that once more demonstrates how hard this little show plays.

While I have a clear favorite among the two vampire-oriented series (and you don't even chart, "The Vampire Diaries"), both deserve shelf space in your collection. Not only are the contents solid, but the packaging of each begs for collectibility. —Rod Lott


 
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