As fans of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” debate whether or not a certain major character died in last week’s season finale, they can take in the premium channel’s three latest offerings, all of which begin tonight (June 21). Here are my rundowns of each:
“True Detective” (8 p.m.) -- Season two begins with a whole new cast, but it’s just as grim and dark as the first go-round. Three extremely flawed law enforcements officers (Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch) and a criminal (Vince Vaughn) trying to go legit find themselves in the middle of a murder investigation.
It’s difficult to like or root for any of the four, making this one difficult watch. Still, creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto has a knack for storytelling and character development. Especially intriguing is Farrell, whose performance is downright gritty as a good cop gone bad. He’s intense and explosive.
Last season, Pizzolatto took some heat for a story lacking any strong female characters. That’s not the case here, with Rachel McAdams playing a sheriff’s detective. She comes the closest to a likable character, but, like the others, her redeeming qualities are few.
This one’s going to a rough ride to the finale. Grade: B.
“Ballers” (9 p.m.) -- The trailers make you think this one’s a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson vehicle, and, yes, he’s the draw, but he’s just one of four storylines.
Johnson is an ex-professional football player who’s now trying to make his mark as a financial manager.
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The series also involves John David Washington as a current player whose immaturity gets in the way of his success, Omar Miller as a retired lineman who has no idea what to do with post-football life and Donovan Carter as the rookie sensation who can’t control his friends, family and hangers-on.
Johnson, in a non-action role for a change, is surprisingly good, offering up a multi-dimensional character. I didn’t see that coming. His story will keep you coming back. Grade: B.
“The Brink” (9:30 p.m.) -- When Jack Black is the least funniest thing about this dark political satire, well, that’s saying something.
He plays a low-level State Department employee who finds himself stuck in the middle of an uprising in Pakistan while scoring some weed. Aasif Mandvi plays Black’s driver who bails his “friend” out of one jam after another.
Tim Robbins is the irreverent secretary of state, who tries to prevent the Pakistan crisis from turning into World War III. He’s at his best opposite Maribeth Monroe, who plays his aide. Watch for an extremely funny scene involving him, Monroe and a cell phone in a men’s restroom.
The scene stealers, though, are Pablo Schreiber (“Orange is the New Black”) as a drug-peddling fighter pilot and Eric Laden (“The Killing”) as his sidekick, especially when they take to their jet. Some of the humor involving them is juvenile, but you can’t help but laugh and laugh hard.
“The Brink” is whip-smart, featuring actors who know how to play comedy. This one’s a joy to watch. Grade: A.