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True Blood's HBO Suck-Up

In True Blood, HBO’s new vampire series premiering this September, the undead coexist openly with the living. You know, work, shop…and watch HBO.

In the latest example of what has become a familiar calling card of HBO’s original series, the True Blood pilot begins with a self-referential bit in which a representative of the "American Vampire League" appears with Bill Maher on what looks to be his HBO late-night show, Real Time.

Later in the episode, a character tells her children that they cannot "watch a scary movie on HBO."

It isn’t the first time such in-network jokes have popped up in HBO series.

For instance, the wall of a dry cleaner on Curb Your Enthusiasm displays photos of Six Feet Under’s Peter Krause and Rachel Griffiths, and other familiar HBO faces. And in a hilarious collision of HBO universes, a demented Uncle Junior on The Sopranos happens upon an episode of Curb and becomes confused when he sees Larry David and Jeff Garlin, thinking he’s watching himself and his own hefty sidekick, Bobby Bacala, on TV.

So are these cross-promotions a new directive for HBO show-runners like True Blood’s Alan Ball?

Nope, says Michael Lombardo, president of HBO’s programming group and West Coast operations. "That was all Alan," he tells B&C. "We looked at it and wondered if it worked, but in the end it works in the context. But it’s not the kind of thing we would do ourselves."

So Ball wasn’t looking to guarantee his show’s future on the network?

"If you know Alan, he’s not really much for ass-kissing," Lombardo says. "I’m going to guess that wasn’t the case."

By Joel Topcik