Credit: Jaimie Trueblood

As a huge fan of Six Feet Under, there was no way I was going to miss creator Alan Ball’s return to TV (and specifically, HBO) with last night’s premiere of True Blood. (Read Ken Tucker’s official EW review of the show here; for the record, he gives it a C.) And that “God Hates Fangs” billboard in the opening credits gave me hope that the show might be able to mix a little of that patented SFU-style humor into the vampires-among-us plotline (taken from Charlaine Harris’s series of novels). Alas, however, while the pilot episode did a decent job of holding my attention — and while I’ll definitely tune in again next week to see if the show improves — True Blood succeeded only intermittently in providing biting laughs while still going for the dramatic jugular.

(I now take a brief pause to apologize for my overzealous vampire jokes. I totally suck.)

On the plus side, Anna Paquin (pictured, left), looking like a Vargas Waitress in her tight white t-shirt, clingy black short-shorts, and magnificent ponytail, succeeded in making Sookie Stackhouse a thing of wide-eyed sass. I chuckled heartily when she batted down her Grandmother’s request to ask her new vampire acquaintance to give a presentation about his Civil War experiences by explaining: “I think he might have a hard time showing up to the public library at noon on a Thursday.” I also liked her bitchin’ use of a tire chain to take down that unsuspecting goon who attacked her would-be paramour.

addCredit(“True Blood: Jaimie Trueblood”)

But other parts of the hour played more like a broad CBS sitcom,especially when Sookie got into a shouting match with lovestruckemployer Sam and best pal Tara (a hammy Rutina Wesley), whilesimultaneously reading their minds. Part of the problem is theabundance of stock characters, a jarring and disappointing change fromSFU‘s rich band of eccentrics. There’s the slacker best friend whodelights in refusing to take her job seriously (how Reaper!). There’sthe kindly grandma who serves buttery meals with a side of batty.There’s the stoic, pale blood-sucker (Stephen Moyer, pictured, right) who, despite having apparentlylived through the disco era, the Reagan years, and the fabulous ’90s,still utters groaners like, “May I call on you sometime?” Come on!

Still, that brief footage of a vampire-sex video was genuinely chilling. And while I saw the episode’s climactic (and vicious) assault coming from the minute Sookie shooed away Sam and insisted she’d wait in the darkened parking lot by herself, the end result was still deeply upsetting.

What did you all think of the True Blood premiere? Will you be back for a second helping? And should Ryan Kwanten (as Sookie’s buff brother Jason) get some kind of special award for most gratuitous exposing of the male torso* in a single hour of television?

*Non-Dancing With the Stars Division