By Darren Johnson
In this space, I have been largely ignoring reviewing the premium channels, such as HBO. That’s because the spirit of “It’s New to You!” has been finding hidden film and TV gems you may have missed, and how you can get them on the cheap.
On the latter point, Netflix is just $8 a month, and Redbox about a buck or two per movie, while HBO is an expensive add-on to an already expensive cable package, and is mostly about first-run series. Thus, I have mostly stuck to reviewing items on Netflix or Redbox.
However, many people get a free year of HBO when they subscribe to a new TV service, and there is talk of HBO going independent and becoming more of a Netflix-style entity. And, conversely, Netflix has gotten more like HBO, adding original shows, such as “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black.”
In the post “Breaking Bad” TV world, a lot of people in media have been debating what is now THE great show. This is even though “The Walking Dead” is still going on, and still is a ratings dynamo; it somehow gets overlooked. Maybe critics are taking it for granted, or maybe that it’s science fiction (and based on a comic book) hurts it, but it’s hard to find a show as well done and as addictive.
An HBO show that is starting to get that “Breaking Bad” type hype by critics and on message boards is “True Detective,” which is only up to its sixth episode as of this writing. The series surely is excellent, but can we give this some time to breathe?
“True Detective” has only been on less than a season, for crying out loud. Lots of great shows have kind of petered out – “Homeland” and “Dexter” are recent examples – and fell out of contention for the “greatest” title, while “Breaking Bad,” which now is fully on Netflix, stayed fulfilling until the end.
It’s the same argument “Seinfeld” used at ending when it did – save the series while it is still good. There is plenty of money to be made in repeats.
But “True Detective” is very well done. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, as two now washed up former detectives reliving a serial killing spree from the 1990s with plenty of flashbacks (it’s amazing how a toupee can make a person look so much younger!) is great TV. And with HBO, an hour show is an hour show – not 42 minutes plus commercials. Each episode is like a movie, shot stunningly in the open expanse of Southern Texas and Louisiana. Even the opening theme song is great.
What makes this similar to “Breaking Bad” is that attention to detail that shows you the director and writer really care.
Writer Nic Pizzolatto is planning this season to end at episode 8, and future seasons may be completely different with different casts. It already has been reported that McConaughey won’t be back. Will his character be killed?
Though this format doesn’t lend itself to creating a “best ever” TV series, and perhaps I will give up on it like with the similarly self-contained “24” season one, for now, you are getting an eight-hour “movie” better than most of the traditional movies on HBO.