Tonight I watched the first episode of HBO’s True Blood, a vampire series starring Anna Paquin as a waitress in a small Louisiana town who meets and becomes enamored with a vampire, Bill, played by Stephen Moyer. Here’s the trailer:

Based on a series of novels by Charlaine Harris, True Blood imagines that vampires have “come out of the coffin” and live among us. This has been made possible by the invention of a blood substitute, Tru Blood, which has rendered vampires’ need for human blood obsolete. I’ve never heard of, much less read, the novels upon which this series is based, but I like vampire series in general, so I thought I’d give it a look.

Overall, I like this first episode. It’s not great or anything close to great. It’s derivative. And many of the characters seem like caricatures rather than developed entities. But even so, I enjoyed this first episode. It seems to have promise as an enjoyable bit of fluff.

The series was created by Alan Ball, who also created the HBO series Six Feet Under, a series that I loved. This series is clearly striving for the same quirky sense of dark humor. It’s not really all that original — Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer pioneered the genre — but I liked the combination of humor and darkness.

Anna Paquin, whose character is named Sookie, is good in this first episode. Her Louisiana accent is great, and she imbues her character with a lot of spunk and self-assuredness. Early in the episode, her character totally seems like a rip off of Buffy, but ultimately she doesn’t seem to be a vampire slayer or even much of a superhero so I don’t think that’s the direction the series is going. But even if it does, who cares … couldn’t we all use a Buffy knock off since we can’t have any actual Buffy?!

Moyer is appropriately dark, handsome, and brooding in this first episode, and he doesn’t really have a lot to do. Hopefully his character gets a little more range soon.

Ryan Kwanten plays Sookie’s brother Jason. His character is really complicated, and I’m not sure if he’s intended to be a villain or a good guy. One thing is for sure — he was cast for his totally hot bod. And he doesn’t seem to mind showing it. His character is clearly going to be the himbo of the series. He has some fairly adult scenes in the first episode. I kind of like that this series is more sexual than violent, though there is some violence too.

And finally, Rutina Wesley plays Sookie’s best friend, Tara, who seems to have a chip on her shoulder as a black woman named after a plantation. Wesley seems promising, but hopefully her character grows a bit more soon.

Overall, the first episode of True Blood is entertaining. I look forward to seeing where the series is going. And maybe I’ll check out the novels sometime too. Entertainment Weekly‘s relatively unfavorable review of the series suggests that the books are better. It might be fun to read some vampire fiction!