Finding, building, and sustaining a successful television franchise in today’s overcrowded media marketplace is an immense challenge for any network. You might argue that the process is more magic than science. However, over the last several decades HBO has proven itself the industry’s bellweather, regularly churning out evergreen properties, such as Game of Thrones, Westworld, Boardwalk Empire, Six Feet Under, The Wire, and The Sopranos.
The key to HBO’s repeated successes, according to many of their acting and creative alums, has been a long-standing spirit of auteurism; an esoteric process whereby execs hand over the creative reigns to new and established voices, and then stand back (with fingers crossed and talismans clutched).
Case in point, in 2014 the television landscape was struck by a bolt of lightning; out of nowhere an aspiring screenwriter and college professor, Nic Pizzolatto, burst onto the scene with HBO’s True Detective anthology series. The first season of True Detective, born of 1940s pulp magazines and recollections from Pizzolatto’s Louisiana childhood, was a major commercial and critical hit; its characters and dialogue jumped to the front of the popular culture landscape. True Detective was a legit phenomenon.
But just one year later, True Detective Season 2 happened… and what seemed a sure bet, for both Pizzolatto’s career and HBO’s ongoing legacy, veered a hard left into the virtual L.A. river of its quasi-SoCal setting, where it faceplanted and was left for dead. True Detective Season 3 was suddenly in grave doubt, and the show descended into Hollywood’s infamous “turnaround hell.”
The Internet has been coughing-up wild rumors of a True Detective revival ever since.
And perhaps because it’s so incredibly hard to launch and market new TV franchises these days, Variety reports that HBO is back in the laboratory, seeking to conjure some bits of buried sorcery or voodoo from the corpse of True Detective‘s seminal season.
So, what kind of alchemy are the execs at HBO attempting and why should we have any hope for its success?
Well, let’s go back a few more years, to 2004 when HBO was striking-it-rich with David Milch’s groundbreaking Deadwood series. Similar to True Detective Season 1, Deadwood was heralded for its nuanced storytelling, rich characterizations, and striking visuals. Deadwood was also a cultural phenomenon in its day; expressing brilliant (if incredibly profane) dialogue and shockingly visceral violence that caught-on with the general public. But after just three seasons, Milch tired of the world he’d created and simply walked away — Deadwood fans have never forgiven him, nor has Milch achieved the kind of critical or popular success that he enjoyed on Deadwood.
So, HBO clearly hopes that (by some arcane process) they can merge the essence of Pizzolatto with the distilled vapors of Milch’s early cops-and-criminals TV successes, which includes: Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blues, Brooklyn South, and Deadwood.
Can the combined wizardy of David Milch and Nic Pizzolatto restore the magic to HBO’s True Detective? Let us know in the comments down below!
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