True Detective

Remember the ship of Theseus? For those, like me, who flunked A-level philosophy, it’s the theory of how much something that has had all its component parts replaced can still claim to be the same object. (If Greek mythology’s not your bag, you might prefer to think of it as ‘the Sugababes question’.)

It’s the sort of idea True Detective’s Rust Cohle (Mathew McConaughey) might have spun into one of his trademark metaphysical monologues. But Mathew McConaughey isn’t in True Detective any more. And neither is his co-star, Woody Harrelson. Director Cary Fukunaga, who helped give HBO’s hit 2014 drama its swampy, southern gothic vibe, has also departed, while the sultry bayous of Louisiana have given way to the scrubby, industrial landscape of LA County. All of which meant that, creator Nic Pizzolatto’s name on the writing credits aside, it was often a stretch to see how this week’s second series opener had earned the True Detective name at all.

Star billing this time out goes to Colin Farrell. Battling beneath a porn star moustache that makes him look unnervingly like an 80s-vintage Kevin Webster, Farrell plays a troubled (is there any other sort?) detective in the pocket of a local crime kingpin (Vince Vaughn), while Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch are also from the cops-with-issues mould, the latter as a war veteran-turned-highway patrol officer who appears to be starring in his own, very dark re-boot of ChiPs.

But it’s not just a badge and a long face that unites these tortured souls, as they’re all drawn into investigating the apparently ritualistic killing of a politician who perhaps should have been more choosy about the company he kept.

This city hall corruption plot feels a long way from season one’s witchy backwoods occultism. But Pizzolatto hasn’t entirely rewritten the show’s DNA: from Leonard Cohen’s subterranean rumble on the opening titles to Nick Cave howling over the closing credits, it’s still shot through with the same brooding menace and sticky sense of dread that made the original feel spiritually much closer to Twin Peaks than Starsky & Hutch. Whether there’s really enough of the good ship True Detective left for fans to cling on to, though, remains to be seen.


TV extra: 


Black Work

It was inevitable current go-to girl Sheridan Smith would wash up in an ITV police drama before too long. Thankfully, Black Work is a better-than-average thriller about a WPC determined to uncover the truth about the death of her husband – a “deep swimmer” undercover detective who kept his double life even from her. It’s a messy tangle of secrets, lies and illicit relationships, in which Smith is as fabulous as you’d expect as a grieving widow with a core of steel. Not sure about the Servalan-from-Blake’s 7 haircut, though.


Hoff the Record

Dave’s much-hyped new mockumentary mines the same comic seam as Ricky Gervais’ Extras. But where that captured the exquisite humiliations of an actor trying to get a foot on the showbiz ladder, this David Hasselhoff vehicle chronicles the trials of one desperately clinging on to it by his fingertips – even if it means auditioning (unsuccessfully) for a part in his own biopic. The script is hit-and-miss, but there’s no denying The Hoff’s a good sport, even allowing the writers to riff on his infamous YouTube ‘cheeseburger’ meltdown.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, June 25, 2015

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