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On the box

15 Apr 2014

Lately local audiences have been bombarded by advertising for the ‘next big television event’. This is usually a mini-series featuring an overdramatised retelling of some recent event. Oh, and how we love to see that they were based on true events. Although we’ll even settle for dramas that were ‘inspired’ by true events. Or at least we’re made to think that we will. Unfortunately, if you’re wanting to see some well-made television that doesn’t revolve around convicted felons or pokey period dramas starring people from insurance commercials - then you’ll need to look elsewhere.

True Detective is a program getting a lot of attention at the moment as the latest of the large-scale cable shows to come out of America.  US cable network HBO, which also plays host to Game of Thrones, continues its reputation for quality programs with a venture into the crime genre.

True Detective is led by lead actors Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson (who also serve as executive producers). Both give incredible performances and lend their considerable star power. McConaughey does well to drive the entire show as the outspoken and aloof Detective Rust Cole. The complexity of the main characters and their development is actually what drives the pace of the program, as opposed to the clichéd character parts that are usually stapled onto the end of a typical crime serial. 

What True Detective does brilliantly is tell one, coherent story that gradually unfolds through the course of the season. It is a clever deconstruction of the entire crime genre. Gone are the desirable beaches of Miami or the glamour and spectacle of Las Vegas – True Detective is set in the marshes of Louisiana for the most part. The typical cityscapes are instead seedy caravan parks on the bayou.  The warm buddy-cop rapport is lost on the two leads, who grate on each other constantly and are often at odds. 

The plot itself follows a series of murders that follow themes of the occult, as well as other dark themes that are normally associated with the horror genre. It’s also refreshing to have McConaughey’s lead character as a sort of messed up anti-hero who acts as a foil to the now common mould of a Sherlock Holmes-style detective who has all the answers. This only helps to further ground this show and make it more believable. While True Detective does take a little while to build its grand story, once it gets going you won’t be able to look away.

True Detective is available to stream (legally) online but is also available for purchase on DVD and Blu Ray for those not wanting to wait for it to be shown here locally.

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