Stars: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Alexander Skarsgard, Ryan Kwanten, Joe Manganiello, Kristin Bauer, Deborah Ann Woll, Chris Bauer, Jim Parrack, Carrie Preston, Todd Lowe, Christopher Meloni, Denis O’Hare
Premiere date: June 10

How disappointing was True Blood’s scatterbrained fourth season? Let’s recap: the once badass Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) was turned into a romance-novel-worthy chump, Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) spent more time with corny werepanthers than cracking his hilariously dim-witted one-liners, the promising witch antagonist’s storyline went nowhere fast, and Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) ran afoul of some rather boring biker werewolves. Other than all of that, though, True Blood was a hoot.

Always an exercise in gluttonous storytelling over restraint, HBO’s trashy exhibition of sex, fangs, and guilty pleasures went overboard last year, juggling far more subplots than its creators could readily handle. Yet, we’re completely optimistic about season five—go figure. Or we put stock in last season’s balls-out finale, which laid the narrative groundwork a more streamlined and vampire-centric new year, one that’ll bring the wicked Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare) back while introducing a new undead authority figure named Roman (Christopher Meloni).

As long as showrunner Alan Ball (who’s set to leave the show after this season wraps up) and his colleagues keep the world of Bon Temps rooted in narrower, focused vamp lore, True Blood should triumphantly return to its pre-2011 glory. But Nosferatu help us if we see any more of those goddamn werepanthers… —M.B.