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Hercules Says HBO’s TRUE DETECTIVE Could Be The Best Cop Show Since HBO’s THE WIRE!!

I am – Hercules!!

“True Detective” is a show about death and horror and nihilism and godlessness and violence and substance abuse and madness – and it is most assuredly not a dramedy – but I’ll be danged if the Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey characters do not draw some huge well-earned laughs out of me.

HBO’s complex and engrossing “True Detective” stars movie stars who have made some great movies lately, but their new TV show may turn out the best thing either actor has done in years.

The scripts for “True Detective,” HBO’s new cop show, are crazy great. So great it’s easy to understand why McConaughey, Harrelson and Michelle Monaghan put their movie careers on hold long enough to star in all eight hours.

The premise will not sell you on this series:

Thanks to an archive-destroying flood, a pair of retired Louisiana State Police detectives find themselves recounting to younger detectives their investigation of a macabre, 17-year-old murder case – a murder case that seems to have ties to more recent events (and may remind more than a few of the work of the Minnesota Shrike over on NBC’s “Hannibal”).

What does sell this series are the same things that sell “Justified”: characters and emphasis on character and the actors who embody these characters. (To be clear, this is not to say the “True Detective” characters are anything like the ones in Raylan Givens’ universe.)

As each episode peels away the detectives’ (usually troubling) layers, it’s shockingly easy for one to find these rule-breaking lawmen at once appalling and embraceable.

One of the many cool things about this new franchise is the way it contrasts – in a “56 Up” kind of way – the appearances and attitudes of the two former detectives and their 17-years-younger selves. The first few episodes do an effective job of setting up the mystery of what happened to these fellows between then and now.

All eight episodes were written by novelist Nic Pizzolatto, whose thin screenwriting resume includes only a couple season-one episodes of AMC’s “The Killing.” Nothing against “The Killing,” but his new show is operating in a whole other league of complexity and nuance.

The new HBO drama (don’t diminish it by calling it a procedural) is both wildly entertaining and likely the most original cop show since “Twin Peaks.”

Hitfix says:

... This is a show about duality and hidden identities (the opening title sequence features an array of ordinary images laid over other much darker ones), and one that's ultimately much, much less interested in the serial killer than it is in the two men chasing him. And those men, as written by Pizzolatto and played by McConaughey and Harrelson, are riveting. …

HuffPost TV says:

... a frequently spellbinding affair … If its second incarnation gives actors and actresses of this caliber as much good material as McConaughey and Harrelson got here, this HBO series will remain, as it is now, essential viewing.

Time says:

... Whatever you’ve heard about Matthew McConaughey’s astounding performance as Rust Cohle is true, and maybe even sells it short. … when True Detective is good, it’s breathtaking …

The New York Times says:

... the series reveals itself as a languid character study and a vehicle for long-winded exchanges about religion and responsibility that are writerly in the worst way. …

The Los Angeles Times says:

... a quietly terrific new series … McConaughey pitches his lines low, keeps them matter-of-fact, more so even than Harrelson's presumably laid-back Hart. The dance they do together here is work of a very high order, and all the reason you need to watch.

The Chicago Sun-Times says:

... Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson should star in everything, always — that’s how mesmerizing they are as Louisiana criminal investigators in HBO’s new anthology … the real drama surrounds this mismatched pair of cops battling their own demons.

The San Francisco Chronicle says:

The term Southern Gothic takes on a new level of meaning with the terrific first season of HBO's new anthology series, "True Detective," premiering Sunday. The murder mystery at the heart of the eight-episode story is dark and macabre, with suggestions of orgiastic satanism, while the performances by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey are two of the greatest you'll see on television this or any year. …

The Washington Post says:

... a beguiling and moody mess, a narcotic with nearly no addictive effects. …

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:

... smart … resonates, thanks to grounded storytelling that revels in the details of its characters and their journeys …

The Boston Herald says:

... will linger with you long after the credits roll …

The Boston Globe says:

... Even though “True Detective” can feel very heavy at times, and as often as we’ve seen serial killer story lines, Harrelson and McConaughey were compelling enough that I powered through the first four episodes HBO sent for review. …

TV Guide says:

... hypnotic, unsettling and sensationally acted … These detectives are truly fascinating. …

Variety says:

... Rich and absorbing, this eight-part drama quickly vaults into elite company, offering a singular voice that’s unlike almost anything else on TV. …

The Hollywood Reporter says:

... even though the new year is just beginning, there's a real certainty that True Detective will feature prominently in the year-end best-of lists we've all just set aside. Who will forget this out-of-the-box knockout in 11 months? Nobody paying attention, that's for sure. … puts an exclamation point on the topic of excessive quality. Who knew the bar would be set so high so early?

9 p.m. Sunday. HBO.

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