Ah television, I have ignored your siren call for too long now. I can turn a blind eye no more nor feign ignorance of the cultural import television has earned over the past decade or so with groundbreaking series such as The Sopranos, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, Rome, The Wire, In Treatment, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Girls to name a few challenging the hegemony and complacency of big screen entertainment with smart, complex plots, three-dimensional characters and of course generous helpings of frank adult content, i.e., sex and violence which has become a rarity amidst the risk free atmosphere of Hollywood executives chasing the kiddies animation, young adult and geek fan boy dollars.
Now, I have been an avid viewer of many quality television shows but being a cinematic disciple whilst I value the opportunities that American cable television in particular has given to many talented, undervalued and marginalized writers, directors, producers and actors, I do not regard one medium as superior to the other, just different. Both are designed for a different viewing experience, although watching the first episode of True Detective, an eight part HBO drama series one could easily mistake the project that has accidentally bypassed the theatrical route.
It is a beautifully put together serial killer mystery set in Louisiana; directed by up and coming young director Cary Joji Fukunaga (Jane Eyre, Sin Nombre) and headlined by two of America’s finest lead actors; Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as the detectives on the case. All of these gentlemen have thriving careers on the big screen but the perception of television has changed so radically in the past ten years that signing on to a prestige cable drama is now seen as a step up and not a step down the career ladder in this creatively vibrant climate. Gone are the dark days of the great Burt Reynolds reluctantly retiring into dignity challenging, bland television series about ageing private detectives although in Mr Reynolds case that would still be a step up considering his post-Boogie Nights cv.
Indeed, Mr McConaughey could now be seen as Mr Reynolds over-achieving heir apparent to the devilishly charming Good Ol’ Boy throne in terms of his prodigious work in recent years; Mud, Bernie, Killer Joe, Magic Mike, Dallas Buyers Club and now True Detective all play out against a Southern backdrop, beyond the Mason-Dixie Line where Reynolds popularity made him a bonafide superstar. But whereas Burt made several questionable career decisions that could have prolonged his stardom and challenged his acting prowess, McConaughey has swerved off the main road and taken his career down a much darker, more interesting Bayou trail leaving his feeble romantic comedy schlock past far, far behind him.