Yesterday I complained about what I perceived as laziness on the part of HBO in terms of the production of their calendar. You cannot say the same thing for the Blu-Ray version of Season 4 of True Blood, which came out this past Tuesday the 29th. HBO always outdoes itself for these productions and this year was no exception. In addition to the usual commentaries and featurettes, that have become the norm for this kind of thing, they have a great feature called “Enhanced Viewing.” These are various bits that play over the episode while the episode is running.

Let’s take a look at the main ones:

1. Text Boxes – hints, factoids or additional information that appear in a text box.

Although these don’t sound exciting, I’m a particular fan of these because you can really see the thought that went into them and they really add flavor to the world of True Blood. In watching the first two episodes you get biographies for the fangbanger that Jessica drank from in Fangtasia as well as Cullen, the bartender Bill fed on in 80s in the London and even Lloyd, the Faery Godmother. You learn (amongst other things) that Pam showed Eric the ad that lead him to buying Sookie’s house, that Bill employs a speech writer, has vampire security advisors and that his security staff was all vetted by the Authority and what lumiere fruit does for faeries. If you stop and read them you’ll be amazed at the amount of detail that can be packed into those few lines of text.

2. In character voice overs – characters (not necessarily ones that were in the scene) comment on the situation.

Sometimes they’re little one-offs, like Pam’s “And what the fuck is a Twitter? It sounds like something New Amsterdam prostitutes would do for an extra hundred bucks” and sometimes they’re more detailed – in one scene Arlene talks about how (while Sookie was missing) Bill would come into Merlottes and sit at [the table where he met Sookie for the first time] and order a True Blood. He never drank them, just peeled the labels off.” What a great way to show that Bill really did care for Sookie. She did say he eventually stopped -it was probably due to the whirlwind of appearances and speechmaking that was alluded to early in Episode 1 – but it would have been nice to have a reference to that in the series itself.

3. Flashback/Flashforward – just as it sounds. When the option pops up, click a button and it shows a thirty second scene of relevance.

Of the three these are probably my least favorite because they aren’t always that interesting or relevant. For example one is about Bill meeting the Mayor of Bon Temps at the Descendents of the Glorious Dead meeting. Still, they do occasionally help jog your memory. Best of all they’re completely optional so if it doesn’t sound interesting you can skip it entirely which is a wise move. Overall, the process is fairly seamless, but there is some load time as they switch back and forth.

All in all this is a great way to broaden your understanding of the True Blood. I would say this however: if you haven’t seen an episode yet (or are watching with friends/family who haven’t) or you’re fuzzy on the details I would skip this version for the initial viewing. The text boxes are somewhat unobtrusive, but they are opaque (so it’s easy to read the text) so can be a distraction and the voice overs completely dub over any dialogue in the scene at the time. I remember catching up on Season 1 with this option on and it drove me crazy so fair warning. That said, once you’re good and caught definitely give it a go, you won’t regret it.

If you don’t have a Blu Ray player now you still might want to consider the combo pack. For only $5 more than the DVD set you not only get the DVD, but digital copies of all twelve episodes (in the format of your choice) and the Blu Ray. The digital episodes are worth it by themselves and if/when you make the leap to Blu Ray you’ll be able to access the features and the higher quality video. Just a thought.

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