Ball bringing new 'Blood' to HBO


Alan Ball is returning to HBO's primetime lineup as the pay cable network has picked up his drama pilot "True Blood" to series.

The number of episodes and the premiere date for the vampire drama starring Anna Paquin is yet to be determined. Production on the show's first season is slated to begin in the fall.

Based on the "Southern Vampire" book series by Charlaine Harris, "True Blood" takes place in a world in which vampires can buy Japanese-made synthetic blood. Their integration into a small Louisiana town causes quite a stir, and a love story ensues between a vampire, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and Sookie Stackhouse (Paquin), an innocent waitress who can read people's minds.

"It's an absolute pleasure to continue our relationship with Alan Ball," HBO Entertainment president Carolyn Strauss said. " 'True Blood' proves that Alan continues as a master of his craft."

Ball's first series for HBO, the critically praised "Six Feet Under," bowed out in 2005 after five seasons.

The pilot cast of "True Blood" also included Brook Kerr, Ryan Kwanten and Sam Trammell.

While basic cable networks have made great strides in the ratings lately with highly watched scripted series, HBO has not launched a hit series with the broad appeal of "The Sopranos," "Sex and the City" and "Six Feet Under." The premium cable network's upcoming series include half-hour drama "In Treatment" and "12 Miles of Bad Road."

Meanwhile, there is no decision yet on the other two HBO pilots recently delivered to the network. One is a medical drama executive produced by J.J. Abrams; the other a comedy from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's Gary Sanchez Prods. about an ex-professional baseball player teaching physical education.