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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that True Detective is an anthology series that structures each new season around a different murder case and the detectives investigating the crime. It plays as decidedly adult pay-cable fare, with dead bodies and bloody injuries, unbleeped swearing ranging from "f--k" to "t-ts," and visible nudity in the form of breasts and buttocks, along with simulated sex. There's social drinking and drug use, too, from prescription pills to crystal meth.
Simultaneously Brilliant and Sick
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What's the Story?
Designed to run as an anthology of individual miniseries, TRUE DETECTIVE devotes each new season to a different case that's being investigated by a different crop of crime solvers. Polar-opposite partners Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) star in the series' first season in Louisiana with a search for the twisted mind behind a series of chilling murders, all while they grapple with their own personal demons. The second season shifts to California, where a trio of brooding cops -- Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams), Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), and Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) -- come together to solve a disturbing crime.
Is It Any Good?
Named in homage to a popular true-crime rag that debuted in the 1920s, True Detective isn't necessarily a period piece, although it does play with chronological structure via a series of flashbacks that bounce viewers back and forth between decades. It's definitely not a traditional crime drama either, thanks to creative choices that set it apart from competing crime shows and, in the end, make for smart, cerebral TV that's as challenging as it is chilling.
One of those choices is the decision to center each season on a separate murder case, involving different characters and casts from year to year, similar in structure to American Horror Story. That makes it hard to predict what kids will see on-screen -- and whether a new season will be as good as its predecessors. But judging from the show's first two seasons, it's a sure bet that adults are the intended audience.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the messages True Detective sends about good and evil, crime and punishment, and human nature, particularly in terms of criminals and the law-enforcement agents who bring them to justice. How do the main characters measure up as role models?
How does True Detective compare to the slew of crime dramas currently on television. From storytelling to cinematography, what things does this series do differently -- and do they work?
How does True Detective play with traditional structure? What are the pros and cons of its anthology approach that devotes each new season to a different case and a different set of characters?
- Premiere date: January 12, 2014
- Cast: Rachel McAdams, Colin Farrell, Matthew McConaughey
- Network: HBO
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: TV-MA
- Last updated: February 4, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Prime Suspect (UK)
Flawed-but-forceful female lead is a tough act to follow.
Smart detective series more funny than graphic.
Riveting crime drama with a strong female lead.
For kids who love drama
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate