I’ve been slacking off this summer on episode recaps and weekly reviews. And with a flurry of season finales currently coinciding with a slate of series premieres, this seems like a good opportunity to chime in on how some series fared, and how some new ones look. First up: “True Blood.” Suffice to say: spoilers ahead.

My summer project was to catch up not only on the current season of HBO’s gothic vampire soap “True Blood,” but the first two seasons as well. Call it my summer of vampires. I timed it pretty well: I was all caught up by Sunday’s Season 3 finale. Gotta say, I was kinda let down by the series overall. I had heard all the hype about it being HBO’s most popular drama since “The Sopranos,” and while it looks pretty slick, it’s also pretty cheese-tastic. And not always in a good way. Good for mindless, escapist, gory summer fun, but not a top-echelon TV drama by any means. I thought Season 1 was pretty entertaining, but each successive season has been on a downhill slide. So now that I’ve insulted probably the most fervent TV fanbase out there, here’s a look at Season 3:

Eric Northman: Careful, he bites. (HBO photo)

Season highlights: I really liked the development of Eric (Alexander Skarsgard). His backstory and quest for revenge was the best part of Season 3. Well, other than the object of his revenge, Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare) — the Vampire King of Mississippi — who chewed up every scene he was in. Often literally. Eric’s partner Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) was great too, and I’m glad her role was made meatier. If the series was just the adventures of Eric and Pam, I’d be totally on board. Young vamp Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) was as entertaining as ever, but didn’t get enough screen time. The best line of the year came from Debbie, the werewolf/crazy ex-girlfriend: “You killed my Cooter,” after her hillbilly/werewolf boyfriend, Cooter, was shot.

Season lowlights: Pretty much everything else. The season introduced way too many secondary characters who came and went (especially the Mickens family), and the proliferation of supernatural characters got ridiculous.

Sam and Tommy: Interesting and don't care. (HBO photo)

It presented a serious plot flaw: If almost every character is supernatural, then aren’t they the norm? And the regular humans are the freaks? By making supernaturals so common, it negated their specialness and made them all less interesting. Besides, some of the newly introduced beings were kinda stupid. Sookie summed it up best: “I’m a f-ing fairy?!?” The whole Crystal/were-panther storyline was completely pointless, though it did provide a few laughs by reminding me of “Sex Panther” from “Anchorman.” Jason (Ryan Kwanten) has been the main source of comic relief throughout the series, but even that was lacking this season. Cook/drug dealer Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) is a terrific character, but this wasn’t his best season, as he was tamed a bit by a new boyfriend. Who wants to see him domesticated? I liked the reckless, carefree Lafayette better. Tara’s (Rutina Wesley) continued misery was sad to watch. And Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Sookie (Anna Paquin) continued to annoy me.

Bottom line: Meh. It was, at best, an uneven season. Entertaining at times, but ultimately a bit of a letdown, even though HBO apparently boosted the budget for fake blood (a lot). Really, outside of the Eric-Russell showdown and Jessica’s continued vampire training, the rest wasn’t very compelling. Will I be back to watch next summer? Probably. But “True Blood” needs to slim itself down and get back to its root story: Vampires.

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