HBO Roundup - "True Detective" And "The Brink"

One of my favorite shows returns with a brand new cast and story and a new comedy starring Jack Black premieres. Let's dive right in. 

The Brink - "Pilot"

brinkA comedy that seems to be inspired by Veep's style of finding humour in the realities of modern politics, The Brink stars Jack Black as an underachieving employee in the American embassy in Pakistan, Tim Robbins is a womanizing drunken Secretary as State and Aasif Mandvi as the only sane one.The show does a great job of feeling accurate and current in its politics. While it isn't referencing real world events and the show is absolutely a comedy, the situation that Jack Black and Aasif get drawn into, a riot in Pakistan, feels realistic enough to create a real feeling of tension.The show can feel a bit like something we have seen before; womanizing, drug abusing main characters in modern comedies is about par for the course these days. The geo-politics and the specific performances from the three leads (and the lady boss from Workaholics) made it really interesting to me. Not to mention that the comedy was on point. 

True Detective - "The Western Book of the Dead"

trued3True Detective is back and it's... different. From the deep voiced rap/country/folk song intro (by Leonard Cohen) to the entire structure of the story. No more dual timelines, aside from a brief flashback, four main characters and a first episode that mainly introduces the characters and setting rather than establishing the central plot of the season help to create a feeling a freshness. For better or for worse, this feels nothing like the first season.Colin Farrel completely steals the show in the first episode as an unhinged detective running rampant. He reminds me of Rust from the first season, minus any semblance of self-control. I enjoyed the idea of him leaving voice messages for his son, which seems like a convenient way to develop philosophically inclined monologues, a la the interviews in season 1.Vince Vaughn and Rachel McAdams both deliver strong performances. My hat really goes off to McAdams who has to really sell her character without a lot of flashy Pizzolatto dialogue. I enjoyed Taylor Kitsch as well, but felt like I hadn't really got to know him yet.As for the show itself, it's tough to know how to feel. It is undeniably a very slow first episode, even compared to the very patient and methodical first season. Without director Cary Joji Fukunaja a certain magic is missing, but Justin Lin did a good job creating a visually engaging first episode. I was drawn in by the leads and hints of the mystery to come. I think the writing is as strong as the first season so far and seems to be going in a different direction than the existential daymare that was season 1. Broken people in a dirty city grasping for redemption. I can dig it.