As "True Blood" (HBO, Sunday, 9 p.m.) heads into the latter half of its season, a thought continues to pop up in my head each week:
What the heck happened to this show?
Except for the Russell Edgington storyline, I'm really not enjoying this season at all. "True Blood" used to be fun, with a wicked dark sense of humor. These days, it's a lot of characters yelling their lines in shrill voices at the camera.
It's become en vogue with TV these days to have large, ensemble shows. The trick is, make at least most of the characters compelling, a' la "Lost." One cared what happened to Hurley, Jin, Sun, Frank, Miles, et. al. as much as they did the main trio of Jack, Kate and Sawyer.
"True Blood" used to be like that. But look what at what's happened to the characters this season:
--Tara used to be a strong, sassy woman. Now she's become a hyper, shrill crybaby. Yes, a lot of bad stuff happened to her in a short span of time, but the way it's been written and acted, it's hard to feel any sympathy even when Tara does have a vampire stalker.
--Sam has always been a nice guy, but him trying to take care of his white trash family has really stretched things to the limit. His family is so unredeemable, one wonders why he is bothering.
--Jason has always been a likeable fool, but again, he's fallen for a girl who has almost no redeemable features that we've seen.
--Sookie is an absolute moron. OK, that's actually been demonstrated since the series began, so no change there. But she's fallen for the world's most boring vampire.
Of all the main characters on the show, only two remain interesting: Eric, and his dangerous game against Russell, and Jessica, the vampire in training who often isn't given enough to do in a particular episode, lest we see Tara whine some more.
I'm hoping the game-changing ending from last week, in which Russell dramatically up the stakes (no pun intended) for humans and vamps, means that we'll be seeing this main storyline emerge over the remaining episodes and all of this other boring, distracting crap goes by the wayside.
It's ironic that "True Blood" is more popular than ever, in the ratings and among the critics (and has a shot of winning an Emmy next weekend), but the show has alienated much of its original, loyal audience by becoming a boring soap opera with fangs.
WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Not much new stuff on tonight. "Flashpoint" (CBS, 10 p.m.) is new, as is SyFy's combo of "Eureka" at 9 p.m. and "Haven" at 10 p.m.
On Saturday, if you want to see a fun show about vampires and werewolves, check out the infinitely superior "Being Human" (BBC America, 9 p.m.)
On Sunday, "True Blood" is followed by new episodes of "Hung" and "Entourage." Please, please let us have another "Hung" hummus debate. I can't remember when I've laughed so hard.
Also on cable is "Rubicon," (AMC, 9 p.m.) followed by a new "Mad Men" at 10 p.m.
Discovery has a new series in which actor Morgan Freeman examines the mysteries of the universe with top scientists on subjects ranging from time travel to wormholes. There are three episodes in a row, beginning at 8 p.m.
"Leverage" (TNT, 9 p.m.) takes on the classic movie "Rashomon," while "My Boys" (TBS, 10 p.m.) is new.
Finally, on the networks, "Scoundrels" seems to have disappeared, but "The Gates" (ABC, 10 p.m.) is listed as new.