The first season of True Detective was definitely worth watching despite its Damaged Men, cod philosophy, and problematic attitude to women. As promised, it’s returning with a new cast and new storyline – so out go Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, and in come three men whose careers, for various reasons, need the credibility that a quality cable TV drama can provide: Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, and Tim Riggins out of Friday Night Lights. Rachel McAdams and Kelly Reilly are also in the main cast, and presumably hoping to get more to work with than the female characters did last time round. On looking back at my reviews of the first run I see that I promised to “watch the shit out of” a new season. Except… I’m not going to, for a couple of reasons.
When looking back at the first season I suggested that it perhaps looked like great TV, without actually being great TV. Much of the remarkable look and feel of the show was down to director Cary Fukunaga, who helmed all of the episodes first time round (and won an Emmy). This time, though, he’s out of the director’s chair, amid rumours of conflict with creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto. Meantime Fukunaga remains as exec producer, although given that (apparently) one of the episodes will feature an unflattering portrayal of an Asian-American director one might reasonably wonder what his continuing involvement actually amounts to.
And, crucially, the second season just isn’t as good, according to the critics who’ve seen the first few episodes. I suspect that part of this will be a delayed season 1 backlash, but the consensus so far is that Pizzolatto hasn’t managed to pull off the same trick twice. The good news is that, once again, Sky Atlantic is sticking very closely to American transmission, which starts today, so for UK viewers there’s a 2am simulcast in the early hours of tomorrow morning and a 9pm repeat (Mondays, Sky Atlantic).
One show I will definitely be watching, though, is My Mad Fat Diary, back for its third and final season. At the end of season 2 I suggested that the last episode had rounded things off nicely, but I’ll be delighted to see whether there’s a little more mileage in this fresh, funny, and charming show, anchored by a dazzling but subtle performance from Sharon Rooney. Three episodes this time round, and weekly reviews again (Mondays, E4, 10pm).
Also starting: three-part Sheridan Smith vehicle Black Work, in which she plays a police officer investigating the murder of her detective husband (tonight, ITV, 9pm); Tim Robbins and Jack Black in HBO’s new and reputedly not-terribly-good geopolitical comedy (sic) The Brink (Mondays, Sky Atlantic, 10.10pm); season 3 of Chicago Fire (Tuesdays, Sky Living, 9pm). And we should probably have mentioned Norwegian six-parter The Saboteurs, about the struggle to stop Nazi Germany developing an atomic bomb during the Second World War, before now (Fridays, More4, 9pm; first episode available through the usual on-demand services).