Is 'True Blood' Set to Join the Hall of Canceled TV Shows?

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episode 61 (season 6, episode 1): Rutina Wesley, Anna Paquin, Lucy Griffiths. photo: John P. Johnson

"True Blood" fans don't want their favorite vampire drama to come to an end, but Season 6 may just be the end of the story for Sookie & Co. Even though it hasn't been billed as the final season, Season 6 could be the final nail in the coffin for this series.

The Season 6 premiere scored lower ratings than the Season 5 premiere, drawing 4.5 million total viewers -- down 700,000 viewers from Season 5.

However, fans point out that the dip in viewership could be attributed to the NBA Finals. The Season 6 premiere had to face off against basketball, while the Season 5 premiere did not. However, the show has yet to beat the series high of 5.53 million viewers achieved way back in Season 4, with the episode "Let's Get Out of Here."

Season 6 was troubled even before filming began. The season order was shortened from 12 episodes to 10, partially as a cost-cutting measure. Creator Alan Ball stepped down as showrunner, and writer Mark Hudis was elevated to the showrunner position. However, Hudis moved on somewhat unexpectedly, throwing Brian Buckner into the showrunner spot.

Critics attacked "True Blood" last season for its lack of focus. While the show should be commended for having a strong collection of supporting characters, each episode had an awful lot going on. In other words, the somewhat "jumbled" nature of Season 5 could have turned fans off the show, resulting in a ratings dip for Season 6.

It's possible that if ratings dip too low, HBO will cancel "True Blood." "Game of Thrones" is definitely the channel's rising star, and execs might rather use the "True Blood" budget to augment dragon and battle effects for "Thrones." The "True Blood" Season 6 premiere edged out the "Game of Thrones" Season 3 premiere, but not by much.

However, an episode of "Game of Thrones" costs $6 million to make, while the similarly rated "True Blood" costs just $3 or $4 million per episode. That could help keep "True Blood" in favor with execs. However, some other sources put the per episode cost of "True Blood" at $5 million, which might put a bigger target on the back of this aging series.

Will Season 6 be the final outing for "True Blood," or will it get renewed for a seventh season? Only time will tell. If ratings drop sharply this season, however, cancellation for this veteran vampire drama could be a virtual certainty.

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