TRUE BLOOD. 9 p.m. Sunday, HBO.
CAN A GIRL really have a future with a guy whose past goes back before the Civil War?
That's just one of the questions being chewed over as HBO's vampire series "True Blood" enters its second season Sunday with telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) still in thrall to the resident vampire of Bon Temps, La., Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer).
Not that Bill, who last season took advantage of the vampire-liberation movement to return to his long-ago home and do a little rehabbing, is the town's only vamp anymore.
Having been forced by the blood-sucking authorities to create a vampire, he finds himself with a sullen teenager named Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) on his hands, a situation that does more to liven up "True Blood" than any number of the things that go bump in the night.
Bill has rules - no "hunting," a strict 4 a.m. bedtime, and, yes, "we recycle in this house" - while Jessica has hormones.
As well as a certain appetite.
"I will not have you looking like a slattern," he tells his new charge, who's as confused by his 19th century vocabulary as by his insistence that she stick with the synthetic blood product that gives the series its name.
And then there's Sookie, who only weeks ago was a virgin herself and whose relationship with Bill can only be complicated by her new role as "stepmother."
Season 2 begins where Season 1 left off, with Sookie in mid-scream after the discovery of yet another body.
No, I can't tell you whose body.
Alan Ball ("Six Feet Under"), who adapted Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books for HBO, has taken some liberties with the material, most of them for the show's own good (though his treatment of conservative Christians and others in the anti-vampire camp remains more than a tad stereotypical).
Rutina Wesley is back as Sookie's best friend, Tara, whose relationship with the mysterious Maryann (Michelle Forbes) grows only more mysterious, as is Alexander Skarsgard as Eric, the Viking-like head of the local vamps' chapter.
No, I still can't tell you who the dead body belongs to.
A world that admits vampires probably can't afford to deny entry to shapeshifters and the other so-far unclassified supernatural types who've made their way to Bon Temps, but there's an awful lot going on in "True Blood" this season, and not all of it is equally interesting.
But, hey, you've been dying to ask me about the sex.
Yes, there's sex, and a fair amount of it, in the four episodes I've seen so far - though Sookie's brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten), who got the lion's share of the action last season, has sidelined himself for the moment.
Jason, whose lips move when he reads, rediscovers Christianity one carefully sounded-out word at a time and ships himself off to a camp run by the Fellowship of the Sun Church, whose anti-vampire campaign leaves little doubt about its metaphorical roots.
Sookie and Bill, whose occasional relationship problems seem to have heated up things in the bedroom, are more playful this season as Sookie asserts herself a little more.
She may only be the human in the relationship, but this continues to be more her story than his.
After the vampire-loving Bella of "Twilight," whose longing to join the undead made her one of the creepiest teen heroines ever, it's worth noting that "True Blood" may be more graphically sexual (and even a bit more violent), but not, perhaps, as potentially damaging to young girls as its big-screen counterpart. *
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