Sometime yesterday, news broke that a third season of True Detective was highly unlikely. This is probably due to the second season being considered in the classiest way possible as “god effin’ awful.” HBO is sticking with the man behind the anthology series, Nic Pizzolatto, though.
I think they have it backwards.
HBO should be keeping True Detective and moving on from Pizzolatto. Sure they can thank him for getting the ball rolling. A gift basket or membership to the wine of the month club would probably suffice. But if we’re giving Pizzolatto credit for putting the ball in play, then we definitely have to acknowledge that he went down swinging on three strikes at his next at bat, leaving the bases loaded. He buckled under the pressure, the massive expectations that came with following up the first season of A Show Everyone is Talking About. Because the first season of True Detective aired during a black hole in the programming schedule it became a gigantic hit, even though it most likely wasn’t nearly as good as we all thought at the time. The series’ second season stumbled out of the gate and was never able to gain it’s footing. I also think the second series was a better barometer of what Pizzolatto is capable of and that’s why I think he should be the one getting shown the door.
The idea of True Detective, a yearly anthology series anchored each year by a cop-driven mystery is a good idea, especially on HBO, which can draw top talent. One of the best things about the first season of the show was that endless possibilities that came with the finality of it. As opposed to serialized shows, it was unencumbered by traditional restrictions. One main character could die. Both could die. The whole effin’ state of Louisiana could have blown up. Literally anything could have happened because no one had to be around for a second season. That was fresh and liberating. If you are looking for the exact opposite of True Detective season one, look at the second Avengers movie. Because you know that all of the Avengers were going to live and go on to be in more movies, the stakes were fairly minimal and largely inconsequential. I mean, the plot was also kind of a mess but that’s besides the point. Do we really care about Ultron and what he might be capable of if we know full well that he’ll be defeated in the end and we’ll be moving on to Marvel’s phase three? Yeah, not really. And we weren’t even sure what the hell his plan was anyway.
HBO’s next move should have been pushing Pizzolatto aside and packaging up the True Detective franchise, a template placed in a Google doc, and then have each season be helmed by a different person- whether it’s a writer or director or maybe a team comprised of one of each. So as long as each season feels like True Detective, we’re good and excited because each season will be different. There will be a different voice in the writing and a different visual style. Pizzolatto seems like a dude who takes himself to seriously and that was one of the problems with his version of the show. I think he also was given free reign on the second season, which is always a terrible idea, regardless of the person. Everyone needs a sounding board; someone to bounce off ideas of and someone to steer you in a different direction if needed. I don’t think Drake has this person and Pizzolatto definitely didn’t. If True Detective is going to be passed on from person to person, HBO should closely monitor it. They shouldn’t be confident in the names attached and wait for the final product.
Also, allowing different creative minds into the True Detective Google Doc would open it up more in terms of ideas and locations. The one thing I give Pizzolatto credit for is picking two cool and interesting locations for each seasons. But why not go more off the beaten path or why not venture into different time periods, although I suppose to an extent he did that with the first season. Even still, take a page from Fargo, which is the anthology series everyone should care about and not True Detective, and explore different eras. The murkiness of rural Louisiana and the wide open terrain of California were cool and all, but they also weren’t places we hadn’t seen before. Fargo is digging deep into a part of the country we only saw briefly in the movie. It’s fresh meat. So stage a True Detective in quieter corners of the country. Or not even quieter, just different. Not many people watched The Bridge, which was a shame, but part of the draw of the show was that it took place in an area (the U.S/Mexico border in southern Texas) that we knew about it, but weren’t overly familiar with. It promised a glimpse into life beyond that border and the people whose lives intersected with the drug trafficking that is such a big part of the area. True Detective could do that. Easily.
Whether it’s the panhandle of Florida (truckers! cigarette boat racing! country music!) or the islands off the coast of Maine (drug-running lobstermen! surfers! small-town government!) or in the shadow of the College Baseball World Series in Omaha, Nebraska (gamblers! college athletes! former friends of 311!) or among the small ski towns tucked away within the Rocky Mountains (ski bums! mysterious tourists! hermits!) the possibilities could be endless. I don’t think Pizzolatto would have gone to those places. But other people might have; people drawn to locations instead of the played out idea of broken down men wondering what it means to be a man.
Anthology series do seem to be gaining in popularity now, so maybe something like True Detective gets brought back to life again. We can only hope. In the meantime, we save some hope for Pizzolatto and that maybe he learned something from the dumpster fire that was the second season of True Detective. The show was his idea to begin with. That counts for something. But not everything.
One oh shit, can ruin a million attaboys. But it doesn’t necessarily ruin the person at the center of it.
Not yet at least.