HBO keeps coming back to its tried-and-true creators, with uneven results.

David Simon went from the criminally underappreciated “The Wire” to the generally positive reviews of “Generation Kill.” David Milch moved from the acclaimed Western “Deadwood” to the bizarre mysticism of “John From Cincinnati.”

Now it’s Alan Ball’s turn. He’s evolving from his work with the dead in “Six Feet Under” to depicting the undead in “True Blood,” debuting at 10 p.m. Sunday on HBO.

The drama is set in the not-too-distant future, and vampires have gained a degree of legitimacy. Because of the invention of mass-produced synthetic blood, vampires don’t need humans for their fix and can walk freely among their live counterparts, although they still can come out only at night.

That doesn’t mean they’re at all accepted. Instead, they are the new favorite targets of bigots everywhere.

Although it sounds like a joke, the action in “True Blood” begins when a vampire walks into a bar in backwoods Louisiana. He’s Bill Compton (played by Stephen Moyer), who has been undead since the Civil War.

Waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin, the “X-Men” films) quickly falls for him. You see, Sookie is a little unusual herself, as she can read the minds of those around her. Except, that is, for Bill, which she finds refreshing.

The two are drawn to each other, which doesn’t go over well with Sookie’s relatives and friends, including her doltish brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten), her opinionated best friend, Tara (Rutina Wesley), and her boss, Sam (Sam Trammell), who is carrying a torch for her. The only one who accepts Bill is Sookie’s grandmother, Adele (Lois Smith), who sees him for the Southern gentleman that he once was.

Despite the supernatural trappings, “True Blood” is first and foremost a Southern gothic romance, as Sookie and Bill grow their fledgling relationship in a world that doesn’t accept them. It’s a story as old as time, one of star-crossed lovers with a whole new twist. “True Blood” proves to be a shadowy tale with bite.