HBO's 'True Blood' returning but it's more soap than satire

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In its early years, HBO's "True Blood" was a smart, savvy show that employed satire and wit. Now it's basically "Passions" with better production values and an occasionally laugh-worthy rejoinder from vampire Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten).

Season five kicks off Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO and it picks up where it left off with Tara (Rutina Wesley) seemingly dead. Her state of being is definitively resolved early in the new season.

Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) encounter a woman from Eric's past who works for the Vampire Authority. Jason (Ryan Kwanten) receives a visitor: The Rev. Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian), who recently became a vampire after crusading against them.

As usual, Pam gets the best lines. When she enters Sookie's blood-soaked kitchen to find Sookie killed Debbie Pelt in retaliation for shooting Tara, Pam observes, "Color me impressed. You know how to party."

Later, after aiding Sookie's efforts, Pam declares, "I'm wearing a Wal-Mart sweatshirt for you all. If that's not a demonstration of team spirit, I don't know what is."

There's still some fun to be had watching "True Blood" but it offers more soap than satire or social commentary these days.

America 'Untamed'

National Geographic Channel is offering a new natural history series reminiscent of Discovery Channel's "Planet Earth" -- just a bit smaller in scope.

Narrated by Josh Brolin, "Untamed Americas" airs in four parts: "Mountains" (9 p.m. Sunday), "Desert" (10 p.m. Sunday), "Coasts" (9 p.m. Monday) and "Forests" (10 p.m. Monday).

Rogers scholarships

Sunday at the Fred Forward children's media conference in Latrobe, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation named four recipients of the eighth annual Fred Rogers Memorial Scholarship Program.

Joanne Rogers, Fred Rogers' widow, was among those making the presentations of $10,000 scholarships to Alexandra Castro Klaren of the University of Pittsburgh, Kelly Lake and Tatenda Mbudzi of UCLA and Kelly Whitney of Harvard. They received the scholarships for their "innovative ideas and remarkable dedication to the education and development of children through media," according to the Television Academy Foundation.

Three scholarships are funded by Ernst & Young LLP and the fourth by Pittsburgh's Grable Foundation for a Pittsburgh-based student focused on studying interactive children's media.

New KDKA quarterly series

Monday at 7:30 p.m. KDKA-TV will launch a new quarterly magazine program, "Your Pittsburgh," hosted by anchor Kimberly Gill and reporter David Highfield.

Debut episode features include an interview with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's wife Kiya, a fashion designer; a tour of a movie studio in Pittsburgh's Strip District, and the status of Pittsburghese and whether it is becoming extinct. "You Wanted to Know," a regular segment, will answer viewer questions.

KDKA general manager Chris Pike said this KDKA production will not replace "Pittsburgh's Hidden Treasures," which will be back with new episodes, but is designed to cover stories of the region's growth that don't always make it into newscasts.

"David's enthusiasm for the idea has kept it on the front burner," Mr. Pike said via email. "We all agree that there are many new and exciting things going on in the region that are difficult to dedicate the appropriate time to in a daily newscast format."

TCA Award nominations

The Television Critics Association, made up of about 200 North American TV critics and reporters, announced its 2012 nominations late Wednesday and series with multiple nominations include Showtime's "Homeland," AMC's "Breaking Bad," HBO's "Game of Thrones," AMC's "Mad Men," NBC's "Parks and Recreation," CBS's "The Big Bang Theory," FX's "Louie" and PBS's "Masterpiece" series "Downton Abbey."

A complete list of nominees can be found in the Tuned In Journal blog at


In a surprising move given its ratings success, Starz has opted to end "Spartacus" after its upcoming third season titled "Spartacus: War of the Damned," which will air in January.

Disney Channel has renewed "Shake It Up" for a third season. Syfy has renewed "Lost Girl" for a third season to air in January 2013. Showtime has renewed "Nurse Jackie" for a fifth season likely to air next year.

Channel surfing

A&E's "Longmire" got off to a strong start Sunday, drawing 4.1 million viewers. ... PCN is teaming with Pennsylvania Legislative Services for the "PLS Rundown" about what happened in the state Capitol each week during the legislative session. The show will air at 6 p.m. Friday beginning today.

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "Royal Pains," "NCIS" and "CSI: Miami." This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "The Glee Project," "Saving Grace," "Bunheads" and "Adam Richman's Best Sandwich in America." Read online-only TV content at

Tuned In podcast has the week off.


TV writer Rob Owen: or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news. First Published June 8, 2012 4:00 AM


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