December 9, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Well, this much is certain: no one is going to say that the producers of HBO's True Blood tiptoed timidly into their sixth season.
Indeed, the TV adaptation of Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novel series returns with a frenzied, blood-soaked, action-packed vengeance this weekend (Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO Canada), offering its followers very little opportunity to take a breath and consider what last season's finale had set up for the current campaign (though the sixth-season opener is preceded by a quick overview of past events and a behind-the-scenes "live from the set" special).
It's full scream ahead, right from the opening moments, as Sookie (Anna Paquin), Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsg*rd) and others scramble to make sense of just what the heck is going on with powerfully reincarnated Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) -- is he still Bill? Is he Lilith? Is he some sort of abominable and, perhaps, indestructible "Billith" hybrid?
Whatever the case, he's sure to be big, big trouble as the storyline unfolds.
And he's not the only problem facing Louisiana's vampire population -- in the wake of a wave of vampire attacks on humans during a shortage of Tru Blood, state governor Truman Burrell (Arliss Howard) has pretty much declared open season on the blood-feasting set, declaring a dusk-to-dawn curfew for vampires and calling for a state-imposed shutdown of all vampire-owned businesses.
By comparison, things are going pretty well for the werewolf population, though newly installed pack master Alcide (Joe Manganiello) is having a few problems figuring out how to balance the jobs perks against its potential pitfalls.
And back in Bon Temps, Sheriff Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer), is receiving a crash course from friends on how to handle being single dad to a quartet of newborn human-faerie hybrids.
As is always the case with True Blood, there's an awful lot going on, and the densely layered storylines are delivered with the familiar deft mix of horror and humour.
If you haven't been with True Blood since the beginning, it might be a bit late to jump aboard. But if you're a fan, you're probably going to come away from this premi®re feeling that the series has a sharper bite than it has had in at least a couple of seasons.
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One bad turn precedes another: As scary as True Blood can be when it's at its neck-biting best, it simply can't compete for the title of this week's most white-knuckle-inducing, terrifying television.
Nope, that nod goes to another series on a very different channel. If you really want to experience fright, tune in to Discovery on Monday night for the debut of Don't Drive Here, which is undoubtedly one of the most stressful hours of prime-time programming you'll encounter this or any other season.
This new six-part series features Andrew Younghusband -- best known as the mocking host of Canada's Worst Driver -- on an around-the-world journey in search of the planet's most dangerous and harrowing driving environments.
If he thought eight seasons of wrangling and teasing incompetent Canadian motorists under controlled, test-track conditions might have prepared him for this new project, well ... let's just say the premi®re episode of Don't Drive Here, which takes Younghusband to Delhi, India, proves to be something of an eye-opener for the suddenly-not-so-smart-alecky Canuck.
As it turns out, Canada's bad drivers are mostly a rather benign bunch, either lacking in skills or brimming with behind-the-wheel arrogance. Drivers in India aren't just inept; they're terrible on purpose, driving like maniacs just so they'll fit in with the death-wish-driven attitude that rules that country's roads.
Younghusband assigns himself a number of challenges during his short stay in Delhi: he takes driving lessons from an Indian instructor (when the Canadian shoulder-checks before changing lanes, the instructor admonishes him with, "Don't ever do that") in preparation for a local driver's-licence test (which most Indians don't bother to take, opting instead to bribe their way to a driver's permit); he chauffeurs a Delhi family home from a dealership in their brand new car (which the father is afraid to drive); and later, he drives a large cargo truck (which lacks such luxuries as turn signals, side-view mirrors or a horn, but does have a sticky accelerator pedal) on India's deadliest highway at night.
If you want real, squirm-inducing, wide-eyed TV terror, check out the look on Younghusband's face while he's careening down a pitch-dark Indian highway with oncoming traffic approaching in his lane.
True Blood? Scary? Let's put Bill Compton behind the wheel of a downtown Delhi taxicab and see who's afraid of what.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @BradOswald
Starring Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer and Alexander Skarsg*rd
Sunday at 10 p.m.
4 stars out of 5
Don't Drive Here
Hosted by Andrew Younghusband
Monday at 9 p.m.
4 stars out of 5
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2013 G9