Picks and Pans Review: True Blood

updated 06/22/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/22/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

HBO, June 14, 9 p.m. ET/PT |

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The first four episodes of the new season sustain the off-kilter appeal of HBO's cult hit, which mixes supernatural gore, Deep South eccentricity—and waitressing. The town of Bon Temps is seduced by strange, statuesque Maryann (Michelle Forbes), who looks like a catalog model for clothes designed by Anne Rice. When she throws a party, the revelers turn into mindless orgiasts with solid-black eyes. Anna Paquin, as telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse, remains indispensable for supplying a note of down-to-earth empathy, even when having sex with her vampire boyfriend (Stephen Moyer).

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