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On The Tube

The existentialist cop

1/8/2014

TV 010314Matthew McConaughey turned in a performance for the ages in “Dallas Buyers Club,” and damned if he doesn’t turn in another in “True Detective” (Sunday, 8 p.m., HBO). He plays Rust Cohle, a one-of-a-kind Louisiana detective investigating a murder with occult overtones. We watch Rust and his partner, Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson), track the killer in 1995, and also testify about it in 2012, when a similar case crops up. But don’t get the idea that “True Detective” is a standard police procedural. Every hour in the eight-episode series plumbs the depths of the human heart.

Martin is an outgoing family man, Rust a cynical loner, and the actors explore the very specific tensions in their relationship. Harrelson gives one of the best performances I’ve seen all season, but even he can’t top McConaughey. Granted, Rust is the juicier part: an odd, erudite, haunted macho man, inclined to philosophize about man’s folly. Rust discourses about time, death and God, doubtful about the meaning of life. Martin pushes back on his pessimism every step of the way: “For a guy who sees no point in existence, you sure fret about it an awful lot.”

I could say the same thing about “True Detective.” This is existential fretting of the highest order.

 

TV WEB ONLY_Enlisted“Enlisted”

Friday, 8:30 p.m. (Fox)

It’s been awhile since the last great military sitcom. “Enlisted” brings the genre into the “Arrested Development” age with a single-camera style heavy on irony. And judging from the pilot, the series could give “M*A*S*H” a run for its money.

Super-soldier Pete Hill (Geoff Stults) makes a misstep in the heat of battle in Afghanistan, after which he’s relegated to a pathetic unit in Florida. This is where the Army misfits mow lawns and look for lost dogs, and it’s also where Pete rejoins his two soldier brothers. Derrick (Chris Lowell) and Randy (Parker Young) are the biggest misfits of all, the one smart aleck, the other not smart in any way. Pete must come to terms with them as both family members and as soldiers under his command. Yeah, good luck with that.

“Enlisted” is dense with absurd dialogue and sight gags, and the cast pulls them off masterfully. This is the rare military comedy that deserves a 21-gun salute.

 

TV WEB ONLY_Banshee“Banshee”

Friday, 9 p.m. (Cinemax)

In Cinemax’s stylish thriller, master thief Lucas (Antony Starr) masquerades as a sheriff in a small Pennsylvania town, where he surreptitiously continues his criminal activities. Last season ended with an apocalyptic showdown between Lucas and the frightening Ukrainian gangster Mr. Rabbit (Ben Cross). The bloodbath caught the attention of the FBI, and season two begins with an agent named Racine (Zeljko Ivanek) investigating Lucas’ deeply suspicious sheriff’s office. Racine is the show’s latest memorable character, a cynical, chain-smoking SOB determined to ferret out the truth before cancer kills him.

It’s hard to believe that Racine allows Lucas to continue as sheriff. And that Mr. Rabbit survived being shot at point-blank range. Then again, the goal of “Banshee” is not to be realistic, but to be fun. Mission accomplished. CV

Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. He graduated from Grinnell College and went on to become an award-winning journalist. See more of his work at www.thedailypage.com.

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