Last year, we stuck with the HBO series out of habit. Early in the drama, in his giddiness to exploit the elastic potential of vampires in metaphor, creator Alan Ball forgot to create nuanced characters. Or hire a good dialogue coach or even — a novel idea — Southern actors. But, gradually, miraculously, as the first season progressed, the most loathsome characters died, a few compelling story lines emerged and Ball and co. embraced their source material for what it is — a trash novel. In that spirit and with several inspired casting moves, the second season found its footing by wallowing in excess. It included an orgy-inducing bull-woman, big-haired religious crazies, a duplicitous shape-shifter and more vampire action. It was so fun we’ve already forgiven the show for its utterly stupid season finale. Meanwhile, Magnolia author Charlaine Harris
, whose Sookie Stackhouse books inspired the series, saw all nine of her books from that series in the New York Times bestseller list for a time.