A few seconds of True Blood’s opening credits (set to Jace Everett’s “Bad Things”) are all it takes to set the mood and excite audiences of the intoxicating vampire drama, which returns for a fifth season Sunday (9 p.m., HBO). With flashes of alternating sexual and religious, gritty, Southern-fried, swampy images, this intro perfectly encapsulates what fans love about the show without even mentioning vampires.
Oh, but there are vampires. And werewolves, fairies and shape-shifters — more supernatural creatures than Grimm brothers’ book. Somehow, despite the over-the-top characters and storylines, the show is believable — and addicting. Based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, True Blood takes place in a small Louisiana town just after the invention of synthetic blood has brought vampires out of hiding — and a ton of other creatures come with ’em. Sookie (Anna Paquin), an innocent Southern waitress with telepathic abilities, seems to attract all kinds of supernatural cray.
The season opener picks up right where the finale left us: Sookie and Lafayette pick up the pieces following the Debbie-Tara shooting. Steve Newlin, former Reverend and leader of anti-vampire televangelist organization Fellowship of the Sun, shows up at Jason’s home after having gone missing last season. Ironically, Steve has been turned into a vampire. One of True Blood’s most twisted villains ever, Russell Edgington, is back in the game again as well. And there’s new vamps, too: Eric’s “sister,” also turned by Godric, comes to Bon Temps and The Authority is finally revealed. Christopher Meloni (known to many as dreamy detective Elliot Stabler from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) portrays the mysterious fanged powerhouse. With rumors of a full-frontal male nude scene, SVU fans everywhere might finally get to see some naked Stabler.
True Blood is all about feeding into guilty pleasures, and Sunday’s premiere promises crazy plot twists with all the sex and gore you won’t find in network knock-offs.
Premiere Party Suggestions: Transform your home into Merlotte’s with dive bar décor, plenty of booze and creole snacks.
Give each guest a character or supernatural persona to take on and let the True Blood flow! (An actual True Blood fruit drink in bottles identical to those in the show is available at HBO.com and Hot Topic.)
WEDNESDAY JUNE 6
Around the World in 80 Plates (10 p.m., Bravo) – Next stop: Italy! The remaining chefs must complete a scavenger hunt in Florence before cooking local dishes in Tuscan villas.
FRIDAY JUNE 8
The Ricky Gervais Show (9 p.m., HBO) – The trio discusses medicine and health: thoughts on medical advances, how sickness can make you feel better and doctors truly feeling patients’ pain.
Comedy Bang! Bang! (Series Premiere, 10 p.m., IFC) – This new riff on late-night talks shows features host Scott Aukerman (Between Two Ferns, Mr. Show) and afro’ed music man/side-kick Reggie Watts. Zach Galifianakis is the inaugural guest: Expect quirky humor, sketches and film shorts from comedy faves.
Bunk (Series Premiere, 10:30 p.m., IFC) – A panel of comedians compete each week in this new over-the-top game show hosted by Kurt Braunohler. This week features Kumail Nanjiani, Ethan T. Berlin and Ben Garant.
SUNDAY JUNE 10
Tony Awards (8 p.m., CBS) – Neil Patrick Harris hosts this 66th annual Broadway celebration.
Nurse Jackie (9 p.m., Showtime) – With the firing of staff and rush of patients sent from another hospital, All Saints Hospital is out of control. Cruz suffers a pulmonary episode, forcing Jackie to take charge.
Veep (Season Finale, 10 p.m., HBO) – An Ohio candidate for governor cuts Selena down when she offers her endorsement because of her public unpopularity. When she reacts with tears, Mike and Amy must play up her sensitivity.
Mad Men (Season Finale, 10 p.m., AMC) – Following such an emotional episode, opportunity is in the air for the company. Pete meets an interesting stranger on the train. Hopefully we won’t lose another character!
Girls (10:30 p.m., HBO) – Hannah attends a reading of her successful literary rival and reconnects with an old professor as her rift with Marnie continues. Katherine asks Jessa return to her nanny job; Shoshanna meets a potential suitor online.
MONDAY JUNE 11
Hell’s Kitchen (8 p.m., FOX) – Sixteen chefs throw down in Hell’s Kitchen, cooking all-American grub for special guests.
MasterChef (9 p.m., FOX) – In the second hour of Gordon Ramsay Night, the top 36 contestants compete in the final found of auditions, vying for a spot in the final 18.
TUESDAY JUNE 12
Workaholics (10:30 p.m., Comedy
Central) – The gang takes advantage of Adam’s obese cousin to use his handicap parking pass.
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