Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) works as a waitress in a cheap bar in Bon Temps, Louisiana. It's a crappy job to begin with, and it's not made any easier by the fact that Sookie can hear what all the drunks and other customers are thinking, which gets to be a pain after a while. And then in walks Bill (Stephen Moyer), whose thoughts Sookie can not hear, which is part of how she figures out that he's a vampire.
Vampires live openly in the world of True Blood; ever since a Japanese company developed a synthetic blood (called True Blood) that provides them with all the nutrition they need, they don't need to prey on humans, and now want to be accepted as full, equal members of society. Alan Ball's series (based on novels by Charlaine Harris) doesn't bother with subtlety in comparing the vampire rights movement to the gay rights movement; vamps are described as "coming out of the coffin," and a churchyard sign announces that "God hates fangs."
Based on the first episode, the show is something of a mess. The characters are cartoons, rarely rising to the level of two-dimensionality, much less three, and each can be reduced to an obvious cliche -- Sassy Black Diva, Lovestruck Boss, Irresponsible Horndog, Wise Old Granny, and so on. The vampire/gay equivalency is poorly handled and borders on the offensive, surprising from Ball, who has proven himself capable of telling gay stories with great sensitivity on Six Feet Under; it's sad to see him retreating to this sort of cowardly "don't scare the straight folks" allegory.
And the show can't even make up its mind about its own internal logic. For the first several minutes, it seems that Sookie's overhearing of thoughts is completely involuntary, but there are people whose thoughts aren't heard (or at least, we don't hear them when they're near enough to Sookie that we should), such as her brother and grandmother. And by the end of the show, the dialogue has strongly suggested that Sookie can, in fact, control her ability; her best friend screams at her, "You promised to stay out of my head!"
This is a major disappointment.