MaHB / TV: Chapter And Verse

Esquire Malaysia, March 2015

True Detective

Chapter And Verse
The most noteworthy thing about True Detective isn’t its A-list cast or Emmy-winning director.

By Sophia Goh

Perhaps the most interesting TV show to come out in the past year has been True Detective. The crime drama mini-series – its first season totalling just eight episodes – is worth talking about. For starters, it is an anthology series, which means that each season of the show will feature a different cast of characters and a different story (more on that later).

The first season, created and written by Nic Pizzolatto, starred Woody Harrelson and a post-renaissance Matthew McConaughey, riding high on the wave of his Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning portrayal of Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. Viewed through the lens of director Cary Joji Fukunaga, the series premiered in January 2014 to rave reviews. A brief summary: using multiple timelines, True Detective follows two homicide detectives, Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, and their 17-year hunt for a serial killer. The show went on to win five Emmy awards, including Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, while both its leading men also scored nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

I won’t discuss the season’s ending; suffice to say, there were mixed feelings so you should watch it to decide for yourself. Also, McConaughey and Harrelson’s nuanced, brilliant and almost haunting performances should not be missed. The bar having been set so high is the reason why the main cast of Season Two – Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn and Rachel McAdams – were slightly less than well received when finally announced. They have big shoes to fill, no doubt about it, but remember: it wasn’t so long ago that we would have raised our eyebrows at the thought of McConaughey pulling off anything more substantial than a rom-com too. Currently in production, Season Two, again written by Pizzolatto but directed by multiple directors including Justin Lin, will revolve around three police officers and a career criminal who find themselves navigating a web of conspiracy in the aftermath of a murder. Will it live up to the expectations of a hungry audience and bloodthirsty critics? We’ll soon find out.

For now, it is important to note that, despite its many accolades, True Detective is most significant not for the amazing work it has delivered, but for its format. As an anthology series, it allows for a completely new story, cast and crew every season, which also means that each eight-episode arc is a fresh opportunity to attract viewers, win over fans, and, quite simply, get it right. By debuting with A-list movie actors Harrelson and McConaughey and continuing with Farrell, Vaughn and McAdams, it is setting itself up as the perfect movie-television crossover vehicle, and its shorter season run makes an already attractive move all the more appealing to big-screen actors. Given how much Hollywood loves a successful trend, I dare say this is the beginning of a new way to do television. Trial and error is often the only way to find out what works, and, in the case of True Detective, the verdict has been favourable.

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