Tracking Audience Scores Through a Decade of ‘True Detective’ | Chart

Crime anthology “True Detective” rocked the television world when it premiered in 2014. The nonlinear story tracking a series of grisly, ritualized murders in rural Louisiana dared viewers to look away, while at the same time, incredible performances from Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey made the show impossible not to watch. “True Detective” won over TV viewers everywhere, launched a fleet of imitators and forever transformed McConaughey’s career.

On Sunday, a decade after the show debuted, “True Detective: Night Country” premiered on HBO. The anthology series has been slow and deliberate about the production of new installments, with “Night Country” just the fourth season in 10 years (compare that with “American Horror Story,” which has seen nine seasons and a spinoff series in the same span of time).

To celebrate, we’re mapping out how viewers’ sentiment on the show have changed with each season, and looking at the impact these seasons have had on the reputations of their respective stars.

“True Detective” audience sentiment through the seasons

After the tremendous reception of the first season, showrunner Nic Pizzolatto didn’t waste much time in producing the follow-up. Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, and Vince Vaughn, Season 2 of “True Detective” was released in June of 2015 to mixed reviews from critics. But while reviewers may not have been as hot on the second season, Ranker data shows that fan sentiment for “True Detective” has remained solidly positive throughout the 10 years since it premiered.

This chart tracks “True Detective’s” average monthly sentiment score both during and after the release of each new season. While the average score did take a noticeable dip from Season 1’s 67%, “True Detective” continued to get a large enough number of upvotes on lists like The Best HBO Shows Of All Time (105,000 votes) to stay well above 50%. In fact, during the three months when new episodes of Season 2 aired, the average monthly score was 71%, which is even higher than the 64% score Season 1 got during the three months it was on the air.

Critics saw the third season, which starred Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff, as a return to form. Ranker voters tended to view it positively as well, voting “True Detective” an average of three percentage points higher during and after the third season than they did in the second. Like the first season, the average score the season got while new episodes were still premiering was 64%.

“True Detective” and The McConaissance

Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey in True Detective
Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey in “True Detective” Season 1 (HBO)

“True Detective’s” first season was a key factor in The McConaissance — the period in the 2010s when Matthew McConaughey successfully transitioned from rom-com heartthrob to serious dramatic actor. Though McConaughey started this transition earlier with roles in films like “Killer Joe” and “The Lincoln Lawyer,” it wasn’t until 2014 that Ranker data shows his score with readers improved significantly. From 2013 to 2014, his average sentiment score rose 10 points from a negative score of 44% to a positive one of 55%.

Vince Vaughn underwent a similar, less widely recognized transition during the 2010s. The celebrated comic actor was recognized for his strong performances in dramas “Brawl in Cell Block 99” and “Dragged Across Concrete” in 2017 and 2018. And like McConaughey, Vaughn also got a boost in terms of sentiment among Ranker readers, albeit a smaller one. From the year following Season 2 of “True Detective” to the year after, Vaughn’s average sentiment score went from 48% to 52%.

Mahershala Ali didn’t see much of a comparable change overall in the year following the release of Season 3. However, Ali rose an incredible 28 spots over the course of 2019 on our list of The Best African American Film Actors (11,000 votes), from #68 to #30, though we can’t fairly attribute this to “True Detective” alone since he won his second Oscar that year. Ali has since continued his forward progress up the list and currently sits at #16.

It’s hard to make predictions about the reception of “True Detective: Night Country,” though early reviews and initial response has been positive. The casting of Jodie Foster in the lead role is sure to draw plenty of attention — this is the first time she’s had an on-screen television role since the 1970s. It’s also the first time the script won’t come from showrunner Pizzolatto, who’s handed off writing duties to renowned Mexican filmmaker Issa López (“Tigers Are Not Afraid”).

But sentiment scores for “True Detective” have been climbing steadily since October, rising by an average of around four points each month. Despite releasing only 24 episodes over the last decade, this show is still highly effective at building anticipation.

Ryan Mach is a content marketing manager at Ranker, a WrapPRO partner. Ranker is a source of crowdsourced rankings on the internet, where millions of people come to voice their opinions on their favorite movies, TV shows, celebrities, and more. Visit Ranker Insights for more unique information about any audience or to contact us for more information.

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