Comic-Con '09: True Blood, the anti-Twilight

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It's easy to tell how a show is doing by comparing its Comic-Con real estate from one year to the next. In 2008, True Blood was a relative blip on the radar, taking an evening panel in one of the outer auditoriums. This year, it was headlining the main Ballroom.

True Blood is HBO's biggest property now and has been the talk of the summer season for its sexiness, rising cast, and of course, vampires. But don't lump them in with another certain vampire phemonenon.

During the packed panel, a fan asks if there will ever be a half-human-half-vampire baby (the Twilight series features one), and creator Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, American Beauty) doesn't even understand the question. A rain of boos from the audience descend on the fan who asked the question, and when Ball finally realizes what she asked, he gives a playful look of disgust and emphatically says, "What!? Noooooooooo!"

Twilight may draw tween girls into its clutches, but True Blood is an entirely different beast. Ball explains how the pilot was the best internally-tested show for the network since The Sopranos, because it has such a broad appeal and doesn't go after one audience. "Women love the drama and romance, and men love the sex and violence," Ball says, adding a "well, duh."

Indeed, the "fangbangers" who filled the ballroom were a mix. Women swooned at Alexander Skarsgard, Sam Trammel, and Stephen Moyer, and men cat-called at Anna Paquin, Rutina Wesley, and Deborah Ann Woll. This wrangling of both genders is why True Blood pulls in roughly six million viewers per episode -- gaudy stats for a cable program.

Because of those numbers, it's no surprise that True Blood will be back for season three, as Ball announced at the panel. An official announcement will come soon, but Ball teases a few characters from the books he's excited to tackle in the next season: Russell Edgington and Debbie Pelt, because "she's kind of awesome." There will however be no Bubba, the Elvis vampire, because Ball doesn't think he can recreate a real Elvis feel. He says in the books it's easy to imagine the real Elvis, but on the show he'd have to use an Elvis impersonator... and that's cheap.

But not everything will be the same as Charlaine Harris' "The Sookie Stackhouse Novels," because Ball and Harris are okay with sharing the universe Harris created. Case in point, Lafayette doesn't live past the first book, but he's alive and kicking in season two. "I do not tell [Ball] how to write the show and he does not tell me how to write the books," says Harris, who is a real charmer and admitted that she had to cover her eyes when she saw the naughty bits of her books come to life on the show.

And if True Blood continues to roll in the ratings, it will have plenty of source material to go on for several seasons. Harris announced that she's signed on for three more "Sookie Stackhouse" books, taking Bon Temps to the page until 2014.

Other highlights form the panel:

--For all those that have read the books, Ball says that the relationship between Bill, Sookie, and Eric will play out in the show the same way. That is, expect some real complications down the road.

--After several requests, there will be an actual Tru Blood beverage which will be available on September 10, the same day as the season two finale. It's a blood-orange-flavored soda (and from first-hand experience, I can say it's delicious!).

--Paquin loves Sookie because she says what's on her mind even if it's not the smartest thing. Her least favorite part about Sookie is the fact she was written as a natural blonde, and that means a lot of time in the salon getting her brunette roots done. "Other than that, Sookie and I get along great," Paquin says.

--Michelle Forbes, on taking the role of Maryann: "When someone offers you an entrance where you are standing in the road naked with a pig, you don't say no."

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