Maybe it got lost in the shuffle of the Oscars hoopla, but there seems to be a rumor going around that Alan Ball is stepping down as head writer for True Blood. Forbes.com reported the news as a rumor on Friday afternoon, then updated it to confirmed at an undisclosed time. While it certainly wouldn't surprise me if Ball stepped down - that is not uncommon for a show going in to its fifth season - but Forbes isn't exactly where I go for my news about Hollywood creatives. According to Forbes contributor Roger Friedman, he has confirmed that Alan Ball will "step down from being headwriter of the show" but will "still be with the show." Speculation on Friedman's part is that Ball's departure stems from exhaustion, monetary issues, and "maybe that the show seemed like it had tired blood last season." What will this mean for the denizens of Bon Temps? Let's discuss it after the jump.
Season five of True Blood, set to premiere this summer on HBO, should be nearly done with filming, so this season will still be Ball-rific. But going forward, how will things change? I have to imagine things won't change a whole lot. Most of the writers/producers (Raelle Tucker, Alexander Woo, Brian Buckner - to name a few) have been on the show since the first season. Without a lot of staff turnover, the writers can work as a cohesive unit. In my years of covering True Blood for FEARnet, I have been lucky enough to chat with a number of the writers from the show, and they all seem to be on the same page. I suppose one of the most obvious changes that many will worry about is the homosexual content. True Blood has long been recognized as one of the most favorable portrayals of gay characters on television, and many attribute that to Ball's own open orientation. But I think that is a naive assumption: that the gay head of the show will take all the queers with him. When a show has been on air as long as True Blood has been, there is a show bible that often has the entire trajectory of the series planned out.
I have to take Friedman's report with more than a few grains of salt. For one, no other major entertainment outlets (including Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and Deadline.com) have reported on this story. For another, Friedman gets a number of basic facts wrong (he credits Ball for directing American Beauty, when in fact he wrote it and Sam Mendes directed it; and he sets the show in New Orleans when in fact it is in the Shreveport area). He also suggests that Ball is exhausted from "directing" American Beauty (a film from 1999) and creating Six Feet Under (a series whose final episode aired in 2005), yet makes no mention of the new series, Banshee, he is currently developing for HBO's sister network, Cinemax. Maybe this makes me a snob, but it is hard to take news seriously when it sounds like it was written by a hysterical 14-year-old.
Emails to the HBO publicity department were not answered at the time of this writing.