HBO orders second season of 'True Blood'

Series follows adventures of vampires in Louisiana

HBO has renewed Alan Ball's vampire drama "True Blood" after only two episodes.

"Blood" debuted Sept. 7 on the premium network to a modest 1.4 million viewers. But the debut has attracted a total of 4 million viewers with repeat airings. Also, HBO noted the second episode grew 24%.

"We're in a business where we have to believe in the show -- and the show is fantastic," said Michael Lombardo, president of HBO's programming group and West Coast operations. "It gets better in every episode. The show deserves a second year whatever the ratings."

The early pickup also sends a reassuring message to fans, Lombardo noted. "It says, 'It's OK to get hooked on the show, it's coming back.' "

Fans also won't have to wait very long. Season 2 will air next summer (yet another reason for the early pickup), part of HBO's plan to return to year-round programming on Sunday nights.

"Last couple years our volume of Sunday night series went down, and we're hoping to have a distinctive night of series on for 52 weeks a year next year," Lombardo said. "Our intention is not to have periods where we're not delivering originals."

HBO should have no problem filling the night; it has several projects in development including the Ted Danson comedy pilot "Bored to Death," the dark comedy "Hung" and the gambling drama "Boardwalk Empire."