In the olden days, when our favorite TV shows would go on winter hiatus, we had to make do with reruns and twiddling our thumbs, counting the days until they resumed airing. This time around, mid-season replacement shows have gone beyond being fillers—they’re enough to get you hooked and wonder where you’ll scrounge the extra time to watch the additional shows.
Three new shows that premiered recently caught our attention: HBO’s “True Detective”; CBS’ “Intelligence” (airing in the Philippines on RTL CBS Entertainment channel); and Syfy’s “Helix.”
Check out which one will catch your fancy.
Grit and American voodoo
Following Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story” anthology format in which each season tells different, disconnected tales, HBO’s “True Detective” takes on the same format, with each season following a single story arc.
The difference is that while “American Horror Story” has the same actors, “True Detective” features a different cast per season. It is also the first series to employ a single writer (Nic Pizzolatto) and director (Cary Fukunaga). The first season consists of eight episodes, way shorter than most TV series which churn out between 13-24 episodes per season.
The first season stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as state police detectives in Louisiana who are investigating a series of ritualistic killings that may have connections to the occult. The disturbing tableau they come across in the bare woods has a striking resemblance to “Hannibal’s” premiere episode.
But apart from that, “True Detective’s” storyline is bleaker. The pilot shuttles back and forth between two different timelines: 1995, with Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Harrelson) investigating a woman’s murder; and the present day, where they are being interviewed separately about a new case similar to the one they handled in 1995.
The flashback shows the stark difference between the two characters. Cohle is quiet, highly observant, but his sharp profiling abilities seem to take its toll on him. That, and the death of his young daughter and consequent divorce paint a picture of a man on the edge of a breakdown. Cohle looks dramatically different in the present-day setting, where he is unkempt, haggard and apathetic.
Meanwhile, Hart is a staid family man—married, with two daughters, and a dedicated cop through and through. Present day finds him looking the same, just with less hair.
But their handling of the 1995 case has obviously affected the detective partners, even as we have yet to see events unfold between the two timelines.
This is not a flashy crime drama with fast-paced chase scenes and super-cop caricatures as characters. Instead, “True Detective” takes us into the uglier side of America, with its bleak, muted scenery and beat-up characters.
“True Detective” airs on HBO Asia every Sunday. Visit www.hboasia.com.
‘Chuck’ with less chuckles
For those who missed seeing “Lost’s” Sawyer on TV, rejoice! Josh Holloway is back, this time as a highly decorated military man whose rare genetic mutation has allowed him to be part of an expensive government experiment. Basically, he’s a super-soldier with one hell of a search engine in his brain.
Sounds familiar? It’s sounds a lot like “Chuck” and his Intersect, but the producers insist that “Intelligence” is nowhere near “Chuck.”
“Intelligence” is different in the sense that it takes itself more seriously than “Chuck,” with more grown-up storylines and fewer jokes.
Holloway’s partner in the series is Meghan Ory (“Once Upon A Time”), who plays badass Secret Service agent Riley Neal. Neal’s only objective is to protect the asset, Holloway, and his internal supercomputer.
The two have an easy chemistry that make them a joy to watch as they race against the clock looking for suicide bombers and terrorists.
Marg Helgenberger also returns to TV as the unit’s boss.
As far as primetime TV goes, “Intelligence” is extremely watchable. It’s Josh Holloway, after all.
“Intelligence” airs on RTL CBS Entertainment. Visit www.facebook.com/RTLCBSEntertainment.
‘Outbreak’ on crack
“Helix,” which stars Billy Campbell, Jeri Ryan and Hiroyuki Sanada, is a new TV series about Center for Disease Control (CDC) doctors who head to the Arctic after learning of a new deadly virus that wiped out half the staff at the experiment site.
The show combines two of the most terrifying scenarios imaginable: being trapped and isolated in the middle of snowy nowhere, while a deadly, mysterious virus from unregulated experiments either kills you or turns you into a grotesque mutant with the urge to infect others.
“Helix” is an edge-of-your-seat fare, and the claustrophobia is extremely stifling. A.V. Club’s review hit the nail on the head when it described the show as a video game turned TV series.
The atmosphere is reminiscent of the interstitials in video games like “Resident Evil” or “Silent Hill.” Make sure to watch this if you’re a fan of scary, pandemic scenario flicks, like “Outbreak” or “Contagion.”
“Helix” airs on Syfy every Friday. Visit www.syfy.com/helix.