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'True Detective' Turns Popular Cop Drama Genre on Its Head

By Jac Kern · January 8th, 2014 · Television
ac_tv_truedetective_jamesbridgesPhoto: James Bridges

HBO kicks off its 2014 programming this week with a new murder mystery anthology, True Detective (9 p.m. Sundays).

The show follows Louisiana detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) over the course of 17 years, with the story jumping across three time periods. The former partners (now retired), believed to have solved a 1995 murder, are called back for questioning when the case is reopened in 2012. The men’s differences are apparent from the beginning — Cohle is cold, standoffish, obsessed with his work; Hart is a passionate, all-American family man — but, as the story unfolds, both experience change as a result of that singular case.

With McConaughey’s recent accumulation of solid, standout roles (from Mud to Magic Mike to Dallas Buyers Club), Harrelson’s diverse background and the focused vision of just one writer and one director (creator Nic Pizzolatto and Cary Fukunaga, respectively), True Detective exhibits all the makings of a hit. The anthology format (which means a new case, cast and setting each season — we’ll miss you, Woody and Matt!) requires this case to come together in a short eight-episode run. Without time for extraneous sub-plots or characters, viewers are in for an exciting ride, full of twists and turns.

And if that’s not enough to convince you, fans of Surfer, Dude finally get to see these two pot-loving pals work together again — albeit under entirely different circumstances.

WEDNESDAY JAN. 8

Modern Family (9 p.m., ABC) – Mitch and Cam learn wedding planning isn’t all cake-tasting bliss; Phil’s ploy to trick Luke into taking dance lessons lands him in handcuffs; Manny and baby Joe celebrate their birthdays.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (9 p.m., NBC) – The third installment of the Benson-Lewis saga follows the trial of William Lewis, the serial murderer/rapist that held Det.

Benson hostage (portrayed terrifyingly by Pablo “Pornstache” Schreiber). In court, Lewis turns the trial on Benson, forcing her to confess details she had previously kept private.

Chicago P.D. (Series Premiere, 10 p.m., NBC) -– Dick Wolf knows his cop dramas. The man behind Miami Vice and all the Law & Order series — whose name is now synonymous with the “dun dun” gavel sound — brings this Chicago Fire spinoff about the tough detectives in a new Second City intelligence unit.

American Horror Story: Coven (10 p.m., FX) – Two words: Stevie Nicks.

The Real World: Ex-plosion (Season Premiere, 10 p.m., MTV) – This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens … when MTV flips the script and secretly invites the housemates’ exes to move in.

THURSDAY JAN. 9

Parks and Recreation (8:30 p.m., NBC) -– In the series’ 100th episode, Andy’s back from London, Leslie’s last day looms and Chris and Anne learn the sex of their baby.

Project Runway All Stars (Season Finale, 9 p.m., Lifetime) – Elena, Korto and Seth Aaron reveal their collections in a final runway show at Fashion Week the United Nations Headquarters. Wha? Zac Posen and Oprah’s BFF Gayle King help select a winner.

The Spoils of Babylon (Series Premiere, 10 p.m., IFC) – Get swept up in this multigenerational saga, based on the fictional book by non-existent author Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell). A satire of the over-the-top multi-installment Television Events of the ’70s and ’80s, this campy miniseries with a stellar cast continues weekly in six parts.

FRIDAY JAN. 10

Helix (Series Premiere, 10 p.m., Syfy) – A group of CDC scientists travel to an Arctic research facility to study a potential disease outbreak, only to face a new danger as the virus spreads. Battlestar Galactica fans will be happy to see Ronald D. Moore on board.

SUNDAY JAN. 12

The 71st Golden Globe Awards (8 p.m., NBC) -– Amy Poehler and Tina Fey return to host the show, celebrating television and film.

Shameless (Season Premiere, 9 p.m., Showtime) – Fiona takes things slow with her boyfriend/boss Matt; increasingly hormonal Carl and Debbie rebel against Fiona’s wishes; not-so-shocking development: Frank needs a liver transplant!

Girls (Season Premiere, 10 p.m., HBO) – In back-to-back episodes, Hannah and Adam host a dinner party at their apartment and go on a road trip with Soshanna to see Jessa; Marnie gets her own place; Ray opens his new coffee shop.

TUESDAY JAN. 14

Justified (10 p.m., FX) – Boyd fights to get Ava out of jail.

Kroll Show (Season Premiere, 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central) – Nick Kroll returns with C-Czar, PubLIZity, Too Much Tuna and more.


CONTACT JAC KERN: jkern@citybeat.com or @jackern

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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