And then there are the numbers. While the events on the most recent season of
made some fans groan for simpler days (when witches and magic fruit didn’t take screen time from sensual supernatural couplings), its ratings were stronger than ever. Season Four hit at a high point with an average of 4.97 viewers an episode – that’s more than double the Season One average. Plus, the series hit an all-time high on Aug. 21, 2011 when the ninth episode of the season, “Let’s Get Out of Here,” drew 5.53 million viewers. If anything, Ball is setting his team up with one hell of a golden goose to get them through the winter of his absence. Once again: it’s going to be just fine.
Okay, that’s not quite enough proof. We’ve seen too many shows take a nose dive when their founding fathers took indefinite sabbaticals – ahem, Larry David leaving Seinfeld
in 1996 was a major detriment and Aaron Sorkin’s absence from The West Wing
writers’ room after the fourth season was certainly palpable. How can we possibly think that True Blood
will be “just fine?”
There’s the matter of drastically different qualities amongst these examples: True Blood’s
real draw is its premise, whereas with The West Wing
, dialogue and story (or lack thereof) required a lot more heavy lifting from the behind-the-scenes team. Then, there’s the very recent example of AMC’s The Walking Dead
, whose visionary showrunner and creator Frank Darabont was cut loose midway through production on Season 2. The news broke quickly and fans were in an uproar – how could we go on without the wisdom of Papa Frank? But as soon as the series premiered, it was obvious that the show really could go on. The Season 2 premiere shattered previous records for AMC (and TWD’s
first season), with a whopping 7.1 million viewers. And when the second (Darabont-less) half premiered on Feb. 13, the series broke records yet again with 8.1 million viewers. Chalk it up to a killer brand and premise if you will, but it’s obvious that Darabont taught his underlings well: the second half of the season is simply fantastic.
In his statement to The Hollywood Reporter
, Ball expresses a similar level of faith in his remaining staff, “Because of the fantastic cast, writers, producers and crew, with whom I have been lucky enough to work these past five years, I know I could step back and the show will continue to thrive as I look forward to new and exciting ventures.” And extrapolating from The Walking Dead’s
success, it would seem that with Ball taking a backseat to work on his upcoming projects – Cinemax’s Banshee
and HBO’s Wichita
– True Blood
will continue to titillate audiences. And fans should count themselves lucky; at least the series will still enjoy his guiding hand; he’s simply graduating to the guardian angel of vampire coupling, if you will.