What is quality TV? That is the question that we posed in our first podcast and just about 100 episodes later we are still covering it. The question that True Detective Season 2 really brings up is…does quality TV have to be enjoyable or does it just have to be well made? Does it have to be fun to watch? Well no one could say Hannibal is FUN to watch, but you do like the characters. I didn’t like the characters of True Detective. Do I have to root for the characters or be on their side? No, because I was never on Walter White’s side, or Don Draper. That was what the Difficult Men era was all about. And I wasn’t rooting for anyone in Season 2 of True Detective. Not even the poor little red headed boy that had no friends. He kind of seemed like a jerk to me.
So what makes quality TV and was True Detective quality? You have to admit that the show was filled with good actors, was not a story we had exactly seen before and they upped the female participation quite a bit. They obviously thought about how to shoot scenes and a color scheme to go with the show. So was it quality?
Maybe a more relevant question is: was it watchable? I mean great actors, an HBO budget and spectacular music isn’t enough. It has to be entertaining. Was it watchable? Why would anyone want to watch 8 episodes where EVERY character is dark and miserable. Life is hard. No doubt about it, but can someone be happy? Or at least not absolutely despondent. There is always one sad sack in every group, but a group of sad sacks don’t really move a story or accomplish anything in life. I think the major mistake was not having the Vince Vaughn character be more fun. If he had a sense of humor he could have been intimidating. I never believed that he could just take over every business in LA because he said so. Had he been a little more Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet, it would have maybe worked better.
But those are just splitting hairs. The truth is after two seasons we now know the case doesn’t matter at all. Both seasons the actual “mystery” was solved in the last episode with no connection to any clues that the happen in the previous 7 episodes. Why this worked last year was because Matthew McConaughey played an interesting character who said things about religion in America that no one has said on mainstream TV Drama. Woody Harrelson played a dirt bag who pretended to have morals. This character difference of morality in the religious south was what the show was about, not the murder.
This season no character was interesting and no character complimented each other. I have read that the writer and director fought last year and so a new director was brought in this year. That may have been a bit of the problem but overall this idea may not work on TV. The idea that you are going to have people invest in 8 episodes in a mystery that will never pay off. If you have 2 seasons and both times the worst episodes are the finales you have a problem.
In yet, it has a feel of quality. I have to admit, I am not annoyed that I watched it. Also, I am still thinking about it a week later. True, I am not thinking of the plot, characters or story and I am just thinking of how it went wrong, but still I am thinking of it. The main thing I see in Season 2 is that they tried and failed. I can give a lot to a writer who tries. Most TV has given up trying at all. So, I will watch season 3 and I have hope. The difference is next year, I will quit after the second episode if I don’t like the main characters cause now I know that is what the show is about. Quality or not, I have to get some level of enjoyment out of a show and that enjoyment level is going to come from the characters. So just like the detectives on the show, I cracked the case at the end when it was too late to turn back.