10 Fascinating Facts About True Detective

HBO
HBO

Can you smell the psychosphere? The first season of True Detective smashed through viewers' consciousnesses, scoring one of HBO’s biggest hits, infecting pop culture with a host of bonkers quotes, and launching what is now a tripartite anthology of detective mysteries. First, it was Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) tromping through Louisiana, then it was a trio of cops (Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch) navigating a crooked California. Now, in True Detective season 3, it’s Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali looking for missing girls in 1980s Arkansas.

Series creator Nic Pizzolatto merged hard-boiled noir and religious myth into a swirl of infectious stories. The vibe and look of the series' first season was crafted by director Cary Joji Fukunaga (and marked by a jaw-dropping extended tracking shot that was unusual for TV), while the second season was touched by incredible talents like Justin Lin and Game of Thrones alum Jeremy Podeswa. The series returns for a third psyche-testing tale on Sunday, January 13, with an episode directed by Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room).

Here are 10 facts about the Emmy Award-winning show about bad people keeping the other bad people at bay.

1. The first season was probably inspired by a real-life cult case.

During the series' first season, Nic Pizzolatto told fans who were trying to piece things together to do an internet search for “Satanism,” “preschool,” and “Louisiana.” The results? The story of the Hosanna Church child abuse scandal. In Ponchatoula, Louisiana, a group connected with the church used its facilities for a series of crimes against children and animals, with its leader and former pastor Louis David Lamonica claiming in his confession that the rituals were in service of Satanic worship. In season one, Rust and Marty investigate a ritualistic murder that has connections to a church and the local government.

2. Matthew McConaughey was supposed to play Marty.

Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in True Detective
HBO

The show’s creators originally wanted Matthew McConaughey for the role of the personable, traditional detective Marty Hart because of his Lincoln Lawyer prowess, but McConaughey was fascinated by Rust and angled for that part instead. Fortunately, he suggested to producers that his friend Woody Harrelson play Marty instead.

3. Beyoncé danced at Carcosa.

The unforgettable location of the show’s season one climax looked like something out of Serial Killer Lair Quarterly, but it was a run-down 19th century fort. New Orleans's pie-shaped Fort Macomb was abandoned by the United States Army after an 1867 barracks fire and left to rot since. While you can’t visit it for yourself, you can wallow in its uneasy majesty in both True Detective and in Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.” It was one of several Louisiana locations the artist used for the blockbuster music video.

4. HBO's programming president took the blame for the second season not being up to snuff.

Fans weren’t as enamored with the second season of True Detective, which featured a messy (yet more straightforward) tale of corruption, mob influence, and infrastructure policy. In a rare move, HBO’s longtime programming president Michael Lombardo said it was his fault—specifically for rushing Pizzolatto to repeat the success of season one in an unrealistic time frame. “When we tell somebody to hit an air date as opposed to allowing the writing to find its own natural resting place, when it’s ready, when it’s baked—we’ve failed,” he said. In 2016, after 33 years with the network, Lombardo departed HBO.

5. The theme song in season 2 changed every week without people noticing.

Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams in True Detective
Lacey Terrell, HBO

TV theme songs are fairly standard, including the first season of True Detective (The Handsome Family’s super creepy “Far From Any Road”). Occasionally show’s (like The Leftovers) will toy with having a new song every week, but what T. Bone Burnett pulled off for the second season of True Detective was almost certainly unique. He used different portions of the same song—Leonard Cohen’s “Nevermind”—to intro the show in narratively meaningful ways. The changes were subtle, showcasing different lyrics from the droning tune each episode.

6. Rachel McAdams threw up after filming a shoot-out.

Rachel McAdams’s character, Ani Bezzerides, was weighed down by gambling debts, a knife collection, and regret. The investigation takes her deep into dark personal memories she thought she’d left buried. When they shot a lengthy shoot-out sequence, McAdams had to run 200 yards while reloading her weapon in an intensely violent scene. When it was over, she threw up, but she didn't blame the power of the sequence. “It was probably my own fault because I’d been drinking an energy drink,” she told The Telegraph. “But it was really fun.”

7. McAdams’s sparring dummy was named Woody.

No relation to her True Detective predecessor, but a nice coincidence. McAdams took notice of her stunt double throwing knives and wanted to learn, so they would go to work on a wooden target shaped like a man. The weapon—more intimate than a gun—colored her character’s fierceness and her overall philosophy.

8. Mcconaughey created a document chronicling the four major eras of Rust cohle.

Matthew McConaughey in True Detective
HBO

With the story in season one ping-ponging from the past to the present (and ultimately into the future), McConaughey centered himself through each epoch with notes on what shaped Cohle throughout each major event. There are his undercover narcotics days, his 1995 return to policing, the 2002 ritualistic murder case, and the 2012 “Time is a flat circle” guy swilling beer during a police interview. On that last note, McConaughey told Rolling Stone that Cohle had, “lived longer than he hoped ... He’s a guy who’s resigned to his indentured servitude of being alive.”

9. Nic Pizzolatto didn't know he was writing a third season of True Detective when he began writing the story.

The catalyst for the newest season of True Detective was the writer thinking about dementia and the puzzle of a detective questioning what his life (and life’s work) was about. Mahershala Ali’s character is shown both in his youth during a major case and much later when he’s experiencing the early symptoms of memory loss. Pizzolatto didn’t know until he got deeper into the idea that it would be for the show, thinking it might be a movie instead.

“It felt like an impossible math problem at first," Pizzolatto told Entertainment Weekly. "Once I was 40 pages in and I was starting to see how the puzzle would fit together, I was like, 'Oh, this is a True Detective.'"

10. Mahershala Ali used pictures of his grandfather to land the lead role.

Mahershala Ali in 'True Detective'
HBO

The main detective of the third season, Wayne Hays, was originally meant to be white, but Ali convinced producers to hire him in the role. Obviously, his Oscar win didn't hurt, but the Moonlight star also campaigned for the role by sending pictures of his grandfather—who was a state police officer—to Pizzolatto and arguing that the story would be deepened by the examination of race at the time.

“You’re asking someone questions, and [you’re] the lead detective. If [they’re] white, they might not look at me," Ali explained to Variety of his pitch. "When I ask them a question, they’re addressing [the white detective]. Racism is not experienced as the n-word, all the time. It’s more like, ‘Yo, you wouldn’t even look me in the eye.’ Or I said thank you and he just brushed me off.”

His pitch worked. Producers called Ali a few days later to tell him he’d gotten the gig.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Good Gnews: Remembering The Great Space Coaster

Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
YouTube

Tubby Baxter. Gary Gnu. Goriddle Gorilla. Speed Reader. For people of a certain age, these names probably tug on distant memories of a television series that blended live-action, puppetry, and animation. It was The Great Space Coaster, and it aired daily in syndication from 1981 to 1986. Earning both a Daytime Emmy and a Peabody Award for excellence in children’s programming, The Great Space Coaster fell somewhere in between Sesame Street and The Muppet Show—a series for kids who wanted a little more edge to their puppet performances.

Unlike most classic kid’s shows, fans have had a hard time locating footage of The Great Space Coaster. Even after five seasons and 250 episodes, no collections are available on home video. So what happened?

Get On Board

The Great Space Coaster was created by Kermit Love, who worked closely with Jim Henson on Sesame Street and created Big Bird, and Jim Martin, a master puppeteer who also collaborated with Henson. Produced by Sunbow Productions and sponsored by the Kellogg Company and toy manufacturer Hasbro, The Great Space Coaster took the same approach as Sesame Street of being educational entertainment. In fact, many of the puppeteers and writers were veterans of Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Producers met with educators to determine subjects and content that could result in a positive cognitive or personal development goal for the audience, which was intended to be children from ages 6 to 11. There would be music, comedy, and cartoons, but all of it would be working toward a lesson on everything from claustrophobia to the hazards of being a litterbug.

The premise involved three teens—Danny (Chris Gifford), Roy (Ray Stephens), and Francine (Emily Bindiger)—who hitch a ride on a space vehicle piloted by a clown named Tubby Baxter. The crew would head for an asteroid populated by a variety of characters like Goriddle Gorilla (Kevin Clash). Roy carried a monitor that played La Linea, an animated segment from Italian creator Osvaldo Cavandoli that featured a figure at odds with his animator. The kids—all of whom looked a fair bit older than their purported teens—also sang in segments with original or cover songs.

The most memorable segment might have been the newscast with Gary Gnu, a stuffy puppet broadcaster who delivered the day’s top stories with his catchphrase: “No gnews is good gnews!” Aside from Gnu, there was Speed Reader (Ken Myles), a super-fast sprinter and reader who reviewed the books he breezed through. Often, the show would also have guest stars, including Mark Hamill, boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard, and Henry Winkler.

All of it had a slightly irreverent tone, with humor that was more biting than most other kid’s programming of the era. The circus that Tubby Baxter ran away from was run by a character named M.T. Promises. Gnu had subversive takes on his news stories. Other characters weren’t always as well-intentioned as the residents of Sesame Street.

Off We Go

The Great Space Coaster was popular among viewers and critics. In 1982, it won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children’s Programming—Graphic Design and a Peabody Award in 1983. But after the show ceased production in 1986, it failed to have a second life in reruns or on video. Only one VHS tape, The Great Space Coaster Supershow, was ever released in the 1980s. And while fan sites like TheGreatSpaceCoaster.TV surfaced, it was difficult to compile a complete library of the series.

In 2012, Tanslin Media, which had acquired the rights to the show, explained why. Owing to the musical interludes, re-licensing songs would be prohibitively expensive—potentially far more than the company would make selling the program. Worse, the original episodes, which were recorded on 1-inch or 2-inch reel tapes, were in the process of degrading.

That same year, Jim Martin mounted an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to begin salvaging episodes and digitizing them for preservation. That work has continued over the years, with Tanslin releasing episodes and clips online that don’t require expensive licensing agreements and fans uploading episodes from their original VHS recordings to YouTube.

There’s been no further word on digitizing efforts for the complete series, though Tanslin has reported that a future home video release isn’t out of the question. If that materializes, it’s likely Gary Gnu will be first to deliver the news.