True Detective — Killer TV No 29

HERE’S the latest in our series of Killer 50 crime dramas…

True Detective Series 1.Episode 05 "The Secret Fate of All Life"..Charles Halford as Reggie Ledoux and Matthew McConaughey as Rust Cohle..?HomeBoxOffice

Backwoods terror – Charles Halford as Reggie Ledoux and Matthew McConaughey as Rust Cohle

HBO, 2014-

‘Who’d want to bring life into this meat grinder?’ – Detective Rust Cohle

Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Potts, Tory Kittles

Identikit: We see Detectives Martin Hart and Rustin Cohle investigating the ritualistic murder of a former prostitute in Louisiana – and then discussing the case 17 years later when another body has been found posed in a similar style.

logosDARK AND unsettling, True Detective is a powerful, beautifully acted eight-part drama from HBO. Its A-lister stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson pin the audience to their sofas and play out a troubling story across several time frames, beginning in 1995 when they are teamed up to investigate the murder of a former prostitute in south Louisiana. The crime scene, in a field, is staged like a ritualistic killing, with the victim wearing deer antlers. While the investigation of the grisly crime is engrossing, the drama is really centred on Detective Rustin Cohle (McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Harrelson). Cohle suspects the killer has acted before, Hart is not so sure. But the fractiousness in their relationship goes deeper. Cohle has a bleak outlook on life, while Hart is more of an average stressed cop with kids and a wife, to whom he is unfaithful. Cohle is damaged by the death of his own daughter, which led to a reckless time as a narco cop. The 1995 investigation takes them into underbelly of the Bible belt, and is intercut with interviews with the detectives 17 years later, when a similar murder is committed and they are asked to review the case. Detectives Gilbough and Panania are interviewing them now, and Cohle and Hart are talking to a digital camera, documentary style. By this time Cohle has succumbed to his alcoholism and is a long-haired has-been, who hasn’t seen his old partner since 2002. Was he more damaged by the investigation or the road death of his daughter? He was always aloof and unpopular with his cop colleagues, often fell out with Hart, who admired his intelligence but couldn’t stand his pessimism. ‘You don’t choose your parents and you don’t choose your partner,’ Hart tells his modern-day interviewers. But do Gilbough and Panania in 2012 actually suspect Cohle of being involved in the killings? Why did Cohle and Hart fall out irrevocably? And if the case was closed in 1995, how can a similar crime have now been committed 17 years on?

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Crime Thriller Award winners 2014 – best crime fiction and TV shows of the year

Here are the results of tonight’s 2014 Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards.

CrimeTimePreview predicted all the correct winners apart from one – that was Keeley Hawes nabbing Best Actress over Sarah Lancashire. Still, Keeley Hawes put in a terrific performance in Line of Duty 2 and deserves the plaudits.

James Norton also won his first ever award for his chilling portrayal in Happy Valley. Here are the winners in full…

Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards Winners are:

Keeley Hawes for Line of Duty – Dagger for Best Actress

Matthew McConaughey for True Detective – Dagger for Best Actor

James Norton for Happy Valley – Dagger for Best Supporting Actor

Amanda Abbington for Sherlock – Dagger for Best Supporting Actress

Happy Valley – Dagger for Best TV Series

Actor James Norton before Crime Thriller Awards 2014
James Norton being interviewed before the awards

True Detective – Dagger for Best International TV Series

Cold in July – Dagger for Best Film

Peter May – Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read of the Year

Wiley Cash – CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger

Ray Celestin – CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger

Robert Harris – CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for Best Thriller of the Year

Denise Mina, Robert Harris and Midsomer Murders were inducted into the Hall of Fame

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TV Daggers 2014 – who should win

AS A VOTING member of the Academy of British Crime Writing, I’ve already selected my nominations in this year’s Crime Thriller Awards for the best TV series.

What were your favourites? It’s been a terrific year for powerful new dramas, with True Detective, Happy Valley and The Honourable Woman all in  contention.

The CWA/ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards have become the most exciting annual awards do for crime books, TV and film. This year’s event is on Friday, 24 October, at the Grosvenor Hotel in London, and will be shown on ITV3 the following week.

ITV3 is also showing a series of one-hour shows from 15 September called the Crime Thriller Club in the run-up to the gong show. Each one will showcase a crime book or bestselling author.

Here are the TV nominees, and I’ve picked my faves.

But what do you think? Please comment below.

TV Dagger

Happy Valley

Line of Duty series 2

Sherlock series 3

The Bletchley Circle series 2

The Honourable Woman

And the winner should be… Happy Valley
Line of Duty was more compelling than the first series and Sherlock – a recurring winner in recent years – again dazzled, while The Honourable Woman was a sophisticated series that found a large and committed audience. But the BBC’s Happy Valley was the most powerful drama by far, with moving performances and a nail-biting storyline.

International TV Dagger


Inspector Montalbano series 9

Orange Is the New Black

The Bridge series 2

True Detective

And the winner should be… True Detective
Again, there are blockbuster contenders here. The Bridge was once more distinctive and captivating, while Fargo captured some of the Coen brothers’ movies’ off-beam sinister mood, and Orange Is the New Black was fresh with a dark humour. But True Detective was something else… brooding and original, scary and oblique – it must have prompted the most online comment and theorising of any crime series this year. Totally breathtaking.

Best Actress Dagger

Brenda Blethyn Vera

Maggie Gyllenhaal The Honourable Woman

Anna Maxwell Martin Death Comes to Pemberley

Sarah Lancashire Happy Valley

Keeley Hawes Line of Duty

And the winner should be… Sarah Lancashire
A bugger to choose, with Keeley Hawes in one of her best ever roles as the detective under suspicion and Maggie Gyllenhaal sublime in Hugo Blick’s political thriller. But Sarah Lancashire had to push herself furthest in Happy Valley, mixing grit and violence with vulnerability and glimpses of wit. Fabulous performance.

Best Actor Dagger

Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock

Shaun Evans Endeavour

Martin Freeman Sherlock and Fargo

Matthew McConaughey True Detective

Steve Pemberton Happy Valley

And the winner should be… Matthew McConaughey
This one’s easier. Matthew McConaughey is by far the most mesmerising performance of the year as the almost unhinged detective Rust Cohle.

Supporting Actress Dagger

Amanda Abbington Sherlock 

Vicky McClure Line of Duty

Helen McCrory Peaky Blinders

Gina McKee By Any Means

Michelle Monaghan True Detective

And the winner should be… Amanda Abbington
It’s not easy to stand out in this series with Sherlock and Watson hogging the limelight, but Amanda Abbington gave the drama an added dash of fun and mystery.

Supporting Actor Dagger

Mark Gatiss Sherlock 
David Leon Vera
James Norton Happy Valley
Mandy Patinkin Homeland
Billy Bob Thornton Fargo
And the winner should be… Billy Bob Thornton
James Norton made our flesh creep as the sadistic brute in Happy Valley (he’s a vicar next in ITV’s Grantchester – talk about versatile), but I think Billy Bob Thornton just pips him in Fargo – a brilliantly queasy blend of hilarious and menacing all in one.

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True Detective episode 8 PREVIEW

Cohle’s stash of evidence in a lock-up garage. Pics: Sky Atlantic

Sky Atlantic, Saturday 12 April, 9pm
True Detective is also available in the UK on Now TV

TONIGHT we go into the belly of the beast.

From the opening scenes, it is clear that what Rust Cohle and Martin Hart are up against and it is fairly nightmarish.

It would obviously be wrong for me to give away what occurs, but I would just say the final episode is no letdown. It is incredibly tense, frightening and moving.

True Detective confirms the view that US television as made by the subscription channels such as HBO, makers of this series, and AMC etc is far superior to anything in the UK. British series such as Line of Duty – particularly the second season – and The Fall have been very good, but in terms of ambition and depth they are far smaller than the likes of True Detective.

What have they got? Hart and Cohle

Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey have put in blockbuster performances as the mismatched detective partners. In just eight episodes it feels as though we have been on a huge journey with them.

And we have. True Detective has dazzled with its time-shifting narrative, its travels through the decades, from 1995 to 2002 to 2012.

It has teased us with horror literature references, alluding, for example, to RW Chambers’s macabre short story collection The King in Yellow, first published in 1895, which, combined with the eerie depiction of the bayou, give the series its ominous, disorientating mood.

There is a fictional play in that story collection called The King in Yellow, the merest glimpse of whose second act will apparently drive men insane. All of

Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey)

which bodes ill for Cohle and Hart tonight.

McConaughey has had the show-stealing part, his bleak, logical, loopy monologues transfixing us and infuriating Hart. But, ultimately, his alienation is clear and understandable, as we learn by the end.

Nic Pizzolatto, the series creator and writer, and director Cary Joji Fukunaga will now be closely watched to see what conjure up next.

So what is next? Brad Pitt is said to be a target for season two, as Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson move on to other things. There are also rumours that the two protagonists will be women next time round.

Or not. Maybe there’ll be a team of cops. Pizzolatto has hinted the setting could move west to California

Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson)

and involve ‘hard women, bad men and the secret occult history of the United States transportation system’.

Now that sounds intriguing.

Meantime, try these links…

True Detective on Sky Atlantic
True Detective on HBO, a superb site
‘Undumbing of American TV’ in the Daily Telegraph
‘What British drama can learn from True Detective’ in the Daily Telegraph
What Might Season 2 Have in Store from Den of Geek

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True Detective episode 3 – don’t miss it

Latter-day Cohle, boozed-up and drifting, being quizzed by detectives who’ve re-opened the case. Pics: Sky Atlantic

IN THE UK True Detective is on Sky Atlantic, which means few people are catching it. This is a channel that premiered a new series of Mad Men to an average audience of 72,000 viewers.

So, the subscription channel keeps its jewels close to its chest, but what a gem True Detective is. You may not have seen it, but chances are you have picked up the buzz.

I reviewed the opener for the show a few weeks ago, and as it reaches episode three tonight on Atlantic

Cohle’s homework

it has continued to almost mesmerise me with its dark, slow-burning story, its strangely menacing Louisana setting and epic performances from last weekend’s Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

True Detective‘s ritualistic murder

They are the clashing detectives looking into the ritualised murder of a woman in a field. Martin Hart (Harrelson) has a recently acquired partner, Rustin Cohle (McConaughey), an aloof character whose shrewdness as an investigator he admires while hardly being able to stand driving in the car with the man.

Cohle is a bleak character, and tonight we realise that this is a man who might prefer to be dead himself,

Hart finds his mistress dating another man

and that he needs the harrowing case to keep him going. When they track down the pastor of a burned-out church tonight where a graffiti figure of a woman with antlers – resembling the murder victim – was daubed on the wall, Cohle surveys the congregation in a huge tent and sneers, ‘No one here’s going to be splitting the atom.’

Lost in his own existential hell (Cohle’s marriage ended after his daughter was run over), the detective loathes these believers and the ‘fallacy that there is light at the end of the tunnel’.

Chilling vision reminiscent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 

Meanwhile, we also learn more about family man Hart, married with two kids, who is not the together

The pastor tracked down by Hart and Cohle

guy we first thought. He has a mistress he needs as badly as a crack addict needs cocaine.

The episode ends with an alarming vision worthy of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s not a graphic scene, just a man in the distance who will send you to bed with a chill. Some online commentators are talking about the quasi-horror aspect to the show, with its brooding Louisiana swamp setting and Cohle’s nihilistic ramblings echoing horror writer HP Lovecraft, all of which is highlighted by tonight’s coda.

This is a eight-part drama from HBO that exists in a separate universe to cosies such as Jonathan Creek and New Tricks. The narrative jumps between 1995, 2002 and 2012, there is little ‘action’, just events unfolding with a near dream-like sense of foreboding.

It’s the best drama on television by a long, long way right now. And the good news is that if you haven’t got Sky Atlantic, you can see it on Sky’s Now TV service. At a fiver a month, True Detective is well worth it.

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True Detective, Sky Atlantic, Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson PREVIEW

Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey, True Detective, Sky Atlantic
Trailer parks and pop-up churches – detectives Hart and Cohle canvass for clues. Pics: Sky Atlantic

Rating: ★★★★½

Sky Atlantic: starts Saturday, 22 February, 9pm

Story: 1995 – Detectives Martin Hart and Rust Cohle, partners in Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division, are assigned to a macabre murder by a killer with disturbing occult leanings. In 2012, a similar case leads to the investigation being re-opened…

WOWSER –  a new series from HBO. In contemporary TV terms, the people that brought you The Sopranos, The Wire and Game of Thrones, are definitely the gold standard.

Not that HBO is perfect (don’t mention John from Cincinnati, Tell Me You Love Me, 12 Miles of Bad Road) – but when it gets a drama right, it’s appointment viewing.

Woody Harrelson as Detective Hart, True Detective, Sky Atlantic
Woody Harrelson as Hart in 1995

True Detective is a bullseye. It has two of Hollywood’s most interesting actors, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, in a rich and engrossing eight-parter.

While at it’s core it is a whodunit, True Detective – like ITV’s excellent Broadchurch last year – is far superior to those clapped-out series that start with a corpse and proceed with half-dead characters asking, Where were you on the night of the 14th?

It is the story of two men, detectives Martin Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey), with a grisly crime as the backdrop.

Hart is an average guy, Cohle is deep and aloof

Matthew McConaughey as Cohle, True Detective, Sky Atlantic
Matthew McConaughey as Cohle in 2012

Hart and Cohle are not buddies. As Hart says, ‘You don’t pick your parents and you don’t pick your partner.’

Hart is a normal guy, stressed by his job, with a wife and kids, average outlook on life. Cohle is deep, aloof, voicing opinions about people being wrong to think they are somebody, when in fact they are nothing and should stop reproducing.

Watching Hart and Cohle just driving in a car is one of the drama’s lighter moments. ‘I just wish you would stop saying shit like, “This is someone’s memory of a town,”‘ moans Hart.

Investigating a grisly murder

Michelle Monaghan as Maggie Hart, True Detective, Sky Atlantic
Michelle Monaghan as Maggie Hart

The thing is, we know what Cohle means, and Hart can’t help but admire the partner he can’t get along with. The low-rent Louisana town where they are digging for clues really looks like a washed-out memory.

It is the murder of a prostitute, found posed in a field with occult props, that bonds and tests the partners. The narrative splits revealingly between 1995, the year of the murder, 2002, and 2012, when a similar crime occurs and the two investigators, who now haven’t seen each other for 10 years, are interviewed about the original case.

By then, Cohle has long hair and a serious booze habit, and Hart is chubby and talks with a sneaking sense of loss about his former partner.

Written by Nic Pizzolatto

The setting is bleak and forbidding, the characters look like normal people (the cops mostly all overweight), and the story is fascinating and compelling.

Written by novelist Nic Pizzolatto, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (Jane Eyre), True Detective is also produced by its two leading stars and feels like a project they’re really invested in.

When there is so much crime drama dross around, it’s great that HBO can still pull-off a quality show that takes you on a journey with characters who grip you by the lapels.

Cast: Matthew McConaughey Rust Cohle, Woody Harrelson Martin Hart, Michelle Monaghan Maggie Hart,  Michael Potts Det. Maynard Gilbough, Tory Kittles Papania, Bruce Elliott Trustee-Levi, Madison Wolfe Audrey Hart, Randal Gonzalez Detective Gonzalez, David Stephen Mitchell Promise Keeper, Eric Price Detective Shinn

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