Remember when Twin Peaks was the show that had everyone talking? Then it was X-Files, and Ally McBeal, and Sex and the City, and House... there are a lot of shows that present such strong characters and such a distinctive narrative voice that not only do they burrow into the popular culture collective unconscious, they become an avatar of media coolness.
True Blood was just such a show. For the first couple of seasons, it was the show that everyone felt they should watch, even if they didn't find it particularly appealing, because it had become a trendy cultural touchstone.
Problem is, a lot of writers and producers have no idea what to do with this onset of trendy fame. And Alan Ball is having just such a problem with True Blood. The show was supenseful, with a unique narrative voice, in its first season. It began to digress a bit in the second season, losing some of its edge but still retaining its pop-cultural prominence. Each subsequent episode has seemed to drift farther and farther from the show's original intensity, however. Three episodes into its fourth season, True Blood has become a parody of itself. Many speculated that the series "jumped the shark" (thanks, Happy Days, for giving us this delightful term for a series that has gone too far from its original focus, passing the point of no return) near the end of the third season; the fourth season proves that to be the case.
I'm still watching, but only intermittently--that is, I listen as much as I watch, using the show as background entertainment while I'm working on Comic Shop News. In its first two seasons, I couldn't do that; True Blood demanded your attention. Now, an hour with True Blood is like an hour with an addled friend; you listen to the rambling in hopes that something meaningful will come out of it, and afterwards you find yourself wondering what led to such a sad state of affairs.