Ugh – did anyone else watch the True Blood season premiere this week?

Just awful.

Now I’m a big fan of HBO and it’s consistently amazing content.  But man, has this show gone off the rails.

Details of the premiere will be discussed, but it’s hard to call it a “spoiler warning,” since I am basically warning you to not watch a show that has spoiled itself.

This is the series’ final season, and they tried to establish that all bets are off early on by killing off a central character, Tara, in the opening minutes.  That’s a ballsy move, but it felt hollow.  Notoriously this show has had a problem thinning the herd, only killing characters that no one really cared about anyway.  Last year they drew even more attention to that fact when Terry, a mostly uninteresting secondary player, met an untimely end, and the show was unbearably sentimental in his send-off.  The amount of time focused on the funeral and the after-effects of this one incidental character’s death – especially in a universe where there are supposedly life-or-death stakes at all times for everyone – was downright strange.  In contrast, this year, Tara dies off-screen, and short of a couple of quick mentions, no one really seemed to notice or care that much.

Of course the fact that we didn’t actually see her die implies that she isn’t actually gone.  If that turns out to be true, it will just be another eye-rolling “reveal.”

Another annoying element of the episode was the recurring theme that everyone in the town still blames Sookie for their vampire problems.  They think bad things about her, she hears those thoughts, and she gets mopey.  Haven’t we been down this road countless times before?  And not only that, but does it even make sense any more?  If we’re to believe that the entire country/world is dealing with this Hep-V outbreak, aren’t we a little past the point of blaming one small town waitress?  And then they use Sookie’s impassioned plea for acceptance as the episode’s cliffhanger?  The series has typically done a pretty good job at ending each episode with a great tease, even if they usually resolve it with a bait-and-switch quickly the following week.  But this has to be the lamest way to end a True Blood episode in the show’s history, and that’s especially disappointing for the final season premiere.

Then there’s the fact that Bon Temps is suddenly full of townspeople we never met/barely know getting (presumably) important story arcs.  That ragtag group of vigilantes we’re supposed to hate?  Eh, it sort of seems like they have a reason to not just depend on the town’s two remaining cops.  Willa shacking up with Tara’s mom and the Reverend?  Don’t care at all.  Sam being discovered as a shape-shifter by the guy he beat in the mayoral election?  Seems pretty trivial overall, no?

Meanwhile, how hokey has been 24 been this year?  (Again, spoilers ahead.)  I for one was amped about the return of the Jack Bauer power hour, but the back from the dead show has missed out on an amazing opportunity to break new ground with this season.  Instead they have resorted to all of the old tropes the show had become synonymous with.  Torture.  A mole at the highest levels of a government organization.  Personal feelings trumping smart strategy for the good guys and the bad.  A President in grave danger.  Newly introduced characters that we don’t have a chance to know before they are given a “twist” that doesn’t really resonate.  Same old song and dance.

We’re a week behind, and I heard that the newest episode was a bit of an improvement.  But last week’s show went into some seriously cheesy territory when Audrey talked about how she always felt like nothing bad could happen to her as long as she had that childhood picture of her at the beach with her parents.  I mean, how heavy-handed can you get?  Then at the end of the episode, President Heller is identified by facial scan technology that actually reads, “James Heller, Note: U.S. President.”  I had to laugh out loud at that one.

OK, to counter all that negativity, I will say that Fargo just finished up a pretty stellar first season on FX.  The show was obviously inspired by the Coen brothers movie, but it also found its own footing and voice.  Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, and all of the actors really brought the show to life.  If you forgot just how amazing ole Billy Bob can be, Fargo will very quickly remind you.  The series drew comparisons to True Detective, as they were both limited runs with major movie stars, incredible writing, and stories revolving around some pretty dark crimes.  Personally I liked True Detective a little bit more, because I enjoyed the fact that the audience was just as clueless about whodunnit as Marty and Rust; on Fargo we knew the truth about Lester and Malvo and were just waiting for everyone (besides Molly) to figure it out.  But both shows were truly fantastic, and they showed just how amazing TV can be in 2014.

Unlike 24 and True Blood.