Why is True Detective obsessed with casting A-listers?

The arrival of Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn suggests either a lack of confidence in following on from McConaughey or signals a more worrying future that TV is headed for.

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The Independent Online

When it was announced that Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson would not be returning for True Detective season 2, I kind of hoped that the creators wouldn't try to "replace" them – this is a show prized for its writing, cinematography, pace and tone after all, not just a vehicle for big name talent, and good unknown actors would have done just fine.

The discourse surrounding it the past few months however has been like that of a Bond movie or the latest Marvel franchise though, obsessed with which trending actor or screen legend would be the next to grace the show. The links with Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Elizabeth Moss, Kate Mara and more seemed at best fanciful and at worst desperate, and I put it down to rumour, only for HBO to today boastfully announce two A-listers despite not having inked the rest of the cast.

It's not that Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn aren't right for the show (the former showed he is at home in gritty crime drama in In Bruges and the latter has always had a latent creepiness and power that it will be exciting to see come into fruition as the show's antagonist), but the necessity to cast them suggests either a lack of confidence in following on from McConaughey's outstanding performance or signals a more worrying future that TV is headed for.

The Sopranos, Mad Men, The Wire, to an extent Breaking Bad: these are all great shows that knew they didn't need big names to succeed. Orange Is The New Black, meanwhile, has if anything suffered from having a real recognisable face, with some fans unable to see Jason Biggs' Larry as anything other than "that douche from American Pie".

The type of audience that enjoys True Detective doesn't crave A-listers, but it's going to be getting a lot more of them now that TV has replaced film as the arts' main topic of water cooler conversation. The danger is that just as the major film studios have become obsessed with exclusively big budget projects that play well across the world, so could the cable channels and streaming services become tempted by the lucre of bankable hits rather than commissioning daring television.

Would David Chase be able to cast a James Gandolfini today? Or would we be wondering which Oscar-winner was about to be the next to make the jump from film to TV?

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