HBO announces early renewal of hit True Blood

True Blood season two returned less than a year after season one began and has only been airing for a little more than a month, but it's doing so well that HBO executives announced today that they have already picked up season three and that the plan is to return again in June 2010.

"I think one of the reasons we brought it back as soon as we did is we always felt it felt like a summer show," said Michael Lombardo, president, programming group and West Coast operations, in a press conference today in Pasadena, Calif., at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. "So the hope is to bring it back next summer."

The third-season pickup comes as a batch of renewals for HBO Sunday night, including the new series Hung and the showbiz comedy Entourage. "We have picked up all three shows that are on Sunday night," Lombardo said. "True Blood ... will be coming back next summer. We're very excited about it, so stay tuned for next June."

HBO co-president Richard Plepler added that high ratings gave them the confidence to renew the show again. "The size of these shows has really broken through into the popular culture in a way we haven't seen before," Plepler said.

The executives were cagier about specific details on upcoming episodes. As fans await Evan Rachel Wood's debut as the lesbian Vampire Queen of Louisiana, Lombardo only confirmed his own satisfaction with her footage.

"It totally delivers," Lombardo said.

As for the extent of Wood's involvement in the newly ordered third season, Lombardo honestly could not specify. "We actually haven't sat down with [series creator] Alan [Ball] and heard his plans for season three yet," Lombardo said. "I'm sure we're going to be surprised and excited about it."

Plepler felt confident that Ball will reveal more new casting surprises when he begins constructing season three. "Knowing Alan, probably yeah," Plepler said.

True Blood airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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