While network-TV audiences are eroding this summer at a clip so fast it’s made Ben Silverman too depressed to even muster up the energy to pop his top and sing the blues, the execs over at HBO are probably sitting around the office this afternoon poppin’ Cris and ritually high-fiving each other. For their network is the home to what has quickly — and largely unexpectedly — become the most buzzed-about show on television this summer, True Blood. Each of the first three episodes that aired during this, the show’s second season, has been viewed by over 10 million people, a number that looks even more impressive when you consider that the network’s subscriber base is only 30 million people. So how did this show, which wasn’t exactly well received by critics when it launched last fall, turn into such a big hit?
The success of True Blood (as well as HBO’s newest series, Hung) comes much to the chagrin of HBO’s rivals over at Showtime, who reportedly had been calling the network “HB-Over” for some time. However, for all of Showtime’s recent success, they don’t have a show about vampires on their network. Anyone who has been paying attention to the pop-culture universe over the last year and change recognizes that vampires are all the rage, which isn’t something that show creator Alan Ball, or even the executives at HBO, realized when the show started being developed back in late 2005. The show’s first season began slowly, but momentum built up over time, culminating in DVDs of the show’s first season flying off store shelves faster than you can say “Edward Cullen.” Ball is careful to point out that a lot of the show’s summertime success is due to the fact it’s “popcorn television,” but also acknowledges that the show is certainly benefitting from the current trendiness of bloodsuckers. “It is sort of vampire time,” he confessed. And indeed, it is.