Alan Ball's gleefully mischievous vampire/murder-mystery saga, set in Louisiana, gets off to a perky start with a giant dollop of slayings, sex and saucy dialogue.
The plot, which is based on Charlaine Harris's collection of "Southern Vampire" tales, centres on Sookie (Anna Paquin), a goofy telepath and waitress who falls for a brooding vampire, Bill (Stephen Moyer). So far, so Buffy, but it's the other characters that make this Southern gothic sizzle, particularly Sookie's amusing bimbo brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten), and Rutina Wesley's acerbic Tara. One hopes this doesn't go the way of Ball's other HBO delight, Six Feet Under, and become increasingly maudlin. At the moment, though, it's bloody gripping.