Sunday, July 13, 2014

One Episode: True Detective, Brooklyn Taxi, Halt and Catch Fire

True Detective (HBO) is the competitor for the hearts & minds of Hannibal fans. I was watching the latter when I heard about the former. I watched the first episode and loved it, but knew what would happen should I continue to watch both simultaneously. First, they would compete for space in my little brain, filling in gaps around each other leading to memories of both seasons merged. It would make these "reviews" very confusing. Secondly, nightmare fuel. Now that Hannibal has ended, its time to go back and re-watch Ep1 and then quickly plow through the rest of the season. My dreams have been too calm as of late anyway.

Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson compete for the most intense screentime in this period crime drama. McConaughey is just post-Dallas Buyers Club, thus still scary skinny, but is just sooooo engrossing as the almost unemotional cop stuck with Woody Harrelson investigating a horrific, possibly mystical murder. They don't like each other but they know it has to work. Amusingly, Harrelson is playing the "normal guy" but you don't really buy it --- I expect him to get weirder, more intense, as the season goes by, making McConaughey look calm & composed by reflection.

The key to comparison of the two shows is style. Hannibal is all about colours and set dressing, clothing and artistically laid out crime scenes. True Detective takes on the similar artistic bent but reminds us how utterly horrific it is. This is small town America, late 70s, completely unfamiliar with this. They are scared. We are scared with them. The set dressing is impeccable, the colours all washed. This is like coming downstairs in the middle of the night, half asleep, in your pyjamas, and turning on an old 70s movie that you never heard of.  The whole show feels a little surreal. I hope to enjoy it equally yet separately.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Taxi (TF1) is the French entry into the TV cop market that Canada has been dominating of late, with TV shows like Rookie Blue, Flashpoint and Motive. But it has the trademarks of a show being produced for a market that doesn't actually know the setting very well.

We have a classic American rogue cop, who is known for ... well, trashing the cars she drives. Yeah, that's it. She doesn't blow things up or shoot drug dealers, she just drives badly. Oh, those crazy American women! So, they take away the keys from her. Rather than desk duty, she will walk a beat. But before she can get into swinging a billy stick and whistling a tune, she is mixed up in a bank robbery story involving taxi cab drivers. Together they (her, cab driver) solve the crime and he ends up becoming her personal driver, as thanks.

Now, you would think that wouldn't matter -- she has been assigned to walking a beat. But no, it just means she is not allowed to drive a precinct car and the premise of the show is that they will be OK with her being driven around by an illegal (France) immigrant taxi cab driver. Oh those crazy American cops!

Oh, so its about a Brooklyn taxi cab driver. Now, the first thing I learned when I visited Brooklyn a couple of summers ago was that Brooklyn doesn't actually use the yellow cab company. They have a bunch of privatized car services. I think this stands, though I will accept an American (crazy!) correcting me on this. Maybe Wikipedia is not up to date. But the original market was France, so that can be forgiven, can't it?

And, the show was not very good even if you forget everything else above.

P.S. Shit, was this based on a Luc Besson movie?  Now I am curious...

And we have Halt and Catch Fire (AMC), another period (80s) drama set at the beginning of the personal computer race. It is everything that other shows like Silicon Valley make fun of, the revolutionizing of technology fueled by personal passion and brilliance. This is when making a difference was going to count. IBM dominated the PC market, Apple and a few others were trying to sneak into it. But Joe McMillan (Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies, who is utterly fucking brilliant here) has ideas that computers can be so so so much more. He is thinking 10, 20 years from then to now, when they are ubiquitous and are everything. He wants in on that. He wants to make history.

This is very precise story telling, establishing an economy of characters and a tight premise. You have McMillan, you have the genius but disillusioned engineer Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy; Monsters) and forward thinking, hot young Cameron Howe. The show needs a trio and the company Clark and McMillan work for needs a scapegoat engineer no one has every heard of. As they fulfill the trailer promise in the first episode (reverse engineer an IBM PC) I am not sure how they will maintain a pace (excuse pun) but I willing to explore it, just to watch more of this acting and directing. This is my Mad Men when that show couldn't do it for me.