One of the joys of the box set age of televisual viewing is that services such as Lovefilm and Netflix enable dedicated story lovers to acquire a new obsession at the touch of a button. Searching for the next spare hour when I can watch another episode makes the addiction almost drug-like, but has the benefit of being altogether more healthy (in theory).
Past obsessions have included Breaking Bad (surely the seminal series obsession), Girls and The Bridge. But my new love is True Detective. Matthew McConaughey. Woody Harrelson. What’s not to like right there? To summarise, it’s a dark detective drama with the murder of a woman at its heart with both detectives troubled and unpredictable. But that’s where the cliches end. The old-school quality of the film gives a graininess to the texture, all dirty colours and moody skies, the music is haunting and the characters have a depth that makes them utterly convincing (I suspect McConaughey will never look at a script like Sahara ever again).
But what has really interested me in this series is the way the narrative structure is handled. It’s told in flashback, or flash forward, whichever way you want to look at it, with the two detectives separately giving their accounts of the case to police officers, years after the events themselves. I didn’t question this device too much, it added to my understanding about the characters’ development and gave intriguing titbits of information about the case. But midway through the series a pivotal episode suddenly gives this structure a heft of purpose that raises the level to Breaking Bad proportions (yes, really).
I’m not going to give any details here because I consider story spoilers to be the eighth deadly sin, but it did make me realise the value of the box set to anyone with creative interests. Being able to watch back-to-back episodes means we can see plot and character development, methods of direction, camera work, etc, in a way we never could with the drip-feed of weekly episodes. The continuity makes it easier to see the connections, the subtle nuances that bind the story as a whole, whether it’s the way colour is used in Breaking Bad to denote character allegiances, or the structure of True Detective that becomes the linchpin leading to a nerve-shredding climax.
I have to confess to always being behind the times in engaging with technology and new ways of getting my media delivered (I still haven’t got to grips with streaming), but creatively the opportunity for binge-viewing has been a revelation. Incidentally, it’s worth taking a look at the extras too as they often include fascinating insights into the filmmaking process.
So if you’re looking for a new obsession I’d recommend all of the series mentioned above. I can also add Fargo, House of Cards and Happy Valley (we Brits can do it too occasionally). This does come with a health warning though as you’ll be spending the summer pale, wide-eyed and coffee-fuelled, desperate for your next fix.