Based on Charlaine Harris's brilliant 8-book Sookie Stackhouse series, True Blood is a series full of surprises. It's not your typical vampire story; it's about Sookie, a mind-reader, and her efforts to uncover the murders plaguing the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. She has quite the motivation, too; both her brother and her new vamp-boyfriend Bill are under suspicion, especially since Vampires have just "come out" and not everyone in Bon Temps is happy about it. Think you know how this story goes? You don't. Sookie never becomes a vampire. The most lovable character is a black effeminate gay drug dealer/cook at Merlotte's, where Sookie works. The most intriguing is Tara, her best friend: a girl who nursed her mother (briefly) out of alcoholism, all the while building a tough-girl veneer so she could cope. And just when you think you've figured out the key paranormals in the series, Harris introduces shapeshifters, blood drainers, and, in the next few series, will coax out the witches, fairies, werewolves, werepanthers, and whatever other army of strange she can come up with.
The story is enough to make it worth your while, but it's the attention to detail that highlights its excellence. Sookie's grandmother drinks Community Coffee, the only coffee any sensible Louisianan (and east Texan!) will have as a wake-up call. Rene speaks perfect Cajun -- none of this ridiculous fake Hollywood BS -- although that turns out to be a bit ironic later in the story. And Sookie's coworkers and boss speak like East Texans, which they basically are, rather than Georgian Southern belles. Hollywood always confuses the two, but finally, and perhaps strangely, we get verisimilitude in the most unlikely place. Many of the characters are faithful friends and closet racists, diligent workers but close-minded cops, devoted family men and murderers. Everybody has a twist.
Look, if it's escapism you want, walk away from Paris Hilton's My New BFF. Run screaming from Heidi & Spencer's wedding in The Hills. And pick up True Blood (and the Sookie Stackhouse series of course). Then recommend something for me to watch or read; I'm in full and utter Sookie Stackhouse withdrawal.