Why HBO’s True Detective Has Become My True Obsession

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author: Timmie

True Detective costars acclaimed film actors Matthew McConaghey and Woody Harrelson as partnered detectives working on a disturbing murder investigation. Both actors have had much success in the film industry thus far. Harrelson has been nominated for several Featured Actor Academy and Golden Globe Awards as recently as 2013, and McConaghey, who has already received the Golden Globe in 2014 for Best Actor in a Drama (Dallas Buyers Club), is up for Best Actor at the Oscars in March. So what are they doing on HBO each Sunday night?

The stigma of stars “lowering” themselves to the small screen has been slowly fading away over the past several years. In fact, I would say that it’s getting downright popular for celebrities to take leading roles in serialized television. Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) and Chevy Chase (Community) both took on either featured or starring roles in NBC comedies, and remained on their shows for several years. Steve Buschemi, known predominantly for his character and featured acting on the big screen moved to HBO in 2010 to star in the vastly popular, Boardwalk Empire. Since then, and with the help of Netflix and Hulu original programming, the small screen has also acquired big names like Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright (House of Cards). I for one couldn’t be happier.

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HBO is known for its edgy and sometimes groundbreaking television such as The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, both of which enjoyed great success, and moved along the careers of actors like the late James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, and Michael C. Hall. Its newest drama series, True Detective, has taken a new approach in regards to casting. True Detective costars acclaimed film actors Matthew McConaghey and Woody Harrelson as partnered detectives working on a disturbing murder investigation. Both actors have had much success in the film industry thus far. Harrelson has been nominated for several Featured Actor Academy and Golden Globe Awards as recently as 2013, and McConaghey, who has already received the Golden Globe in 2014 for Best Actor in a Drama (Dallas Buyers Club), is up for Best Actor at the Oscars in March. So what are they doing on HBO each Sunday night?

Serialized television offers actors the chance to play continuous roles that spans longer than a two to three hour movie. With an eight-episode season, McConaghey and Harrelson will receive up to four times the amount of screen time. The audience also receives this extra time with the characters, leading to a win-win situation. The extended format of television allows for detail that is not easily accomplished in feature films, which is one of the reasons I tend to become much more obsessed with a series than a feature. You know these characters, and are therefore invested in their situations.

Let’s get to the actual show. I have to admit that I watched the first episode almost two weeks after it aired. But once I pushed play, I couldn’t stop. Creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto, also creator of The Killing, has put a new spin on the tried and true detective drama. Detectives Rust Cohle (McConaghey) and Martin Hart (Harrelson) tell the story of an investigation that took place in 1995 through the lens of current day interviews with a new tag team that wants to know the details of the seemingly old case. Present day Cohle and Hart, both decidedly worse for wear after many years, slowly reveal the details of the infamous investigation, and their personal relationship. Although the actual case is more than intriguing: ritual killing, the deep south, religious fanatics, drug use, and wayward women, the tension of an eminent fallout between the partners hangs in the air, so thick you could cut it with a knife. From Hart’s infidelity to Cohle’s troubled past, True Detective holds you to the screen for every minute of its hour run time.

Pizzolatto’s writing is perfect for this type of drama. And although there is nothing glaringly new about two detectives trying to solve a murder case on television, the interweaving of the timelines make True Detective all the more intriguing. As the episodes unfold we see more interaction between Cohle, Hart, and the new detectives, Gilbough (Michael Potts) and Papania (Tory Kittles). Having “moved on” from their time in the homicide department, both Cohle and Hart sense there is something new to the case, and are being drawn back into the world they left behind.

In true HBO fashion, True Detective offers excellent production value from its cinematography to an amazing Intro song, “Far From Any Road,” by the Handsome Family, originally from their 2003 album Singing Bones. If you don’t know this song already, which I have to admit I did not, you will before long. It perfectly embodies the dark mood of serial murder and intrigue in this Louisiana town. In the spirit of not wishing to give too much away I’m going to stop there. It is a crime show after all. Suffice it to say HBO has done it again with True Detective. Great cast, great writing, great look, great vibe. If you have been debating whether or not to watch this series, stop right now! I for one, am hooked.

As one final intrigue, check out these amazing opening credits:

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