When "True Blood" premiered two years ago, I thought HBO was making an ill-advised attempt to cash in on the vampire craze. I was wrong, and its wild success spawned copycats "Vampire Diaries" and ABC's upcoming "The Gates."

When "True Blood" premiered two years ago, I thought HBO was making an ill-advised attempt to cash in on the vampire craze. I was wrong, and its wild success spawned copycats "Vampire Diaries" and ABC's upcoming "The Gates."

What these imitators - and the "Twilight" movies - are missing is the campy humor and self-awareness that make "True Blood" great.

The third season picks up with last season's cliffhanger: Who kidnapped Southern-gentleman vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) after he proposed to his human love, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin)? We quickly learn who snatched him, but who's really pulling the strings is shaping up to be a season-long mystery.

In fact, look for more than one enigma this season, with several new supernatural characters joining the fun. Werewolves, anyone?

The lampooning is entertaining, but "True Blood's" mystery arcs balance the folly with tangible plotlines. Credit creator Alan Ball for knowing when to suck you in with suspense before reminding you that it's just a fantasy about blood-sucking.

The only gripes are minute and forgivable. The acting is decent, but a few characters could tone it down. And the send-up of Southern intolerance can be heavy-handed (as in "God hates fangs").

Anyway, I'm not looking to "True Blood" for anything but a good time.