PASADENA, Calif. -- At least two dramas debuting in 2014 bear watching: HBO's engrossing "True Detective" (9 p.m. Sunday) and A&E's "Those Who Kill" (10 p.m. March 3), which is set and filmed in Pittsburgh.
'Those Who Kill'
"Those Who Kill," which filmed its pilot in Pittsburgh in December 2012 and returned in 2013 to shoot the balance of its 10-episode first season from September through December, follows Pittsburgh homicide detective Catherine Jensen (Chloe Sevigny), her collaboration with forensic psychologist Thomas Schaeffer (James D'Arcy) and their pursuit of serial killers. It's based on a Danish series of the same name.
Producers said they filmed in Pittsburgh due to the state tax credits.
Star Chloe Sevigny was thrilled to be in Pittsburgh -- she's from the Northeast and in an interview whispered, "I don't really like L.A." -- but executive producer Glen Morgan was initially less enthused.
"Joe Carnahan, who directed the pilot, and I thought we'd go to Vancouver because there's a natural scrim over there, a great atmospheric look," Mr. Morgan said. "And [producing studio] Fox said there are some tax breaks in Pennsylvania. Joe and I complained the entire flight there, and from the airport to Downtown we're like, 'Yeah, we're coming here.' There was a look that hadn't been seen on TV historically. It was a place that had been considered down and out and had something to prove, and it's bounced back and it was reflective of what our characters have gone through."
Ms. Sevigny warmed to Pittsburgh instantly and enjoyed living in Bloomfield down the block from Tessaro's, one of her favorite haunts.
Although the show involves one investigator, Thomas, who identifies with serial killers, and another, Catherine, who is obsessive in her pursuit of killers, Mr. Morgan said the show is more about the characters than the killers.
The pursuit of criminals will vary: Some cases will take three episodes, others two.
Although it's a crime drama, the show has a serialized element about Catherine's pursuit of her stepfather (Bruce Davison), a respected Pittsburgh judge who she believes to be a killer, something only hinted at in the pilot but is explored in subsequent episodes. (Her brother is also missing, and she believes he was killed by her stepfather.)
"She just seemed endlessly fascinating," Ms. Sevigny said of her character. "There's so much to work with there, just trying to find her way out of that darkness by any means necessary, which includes manipulating James' character as best she can. She can't rest until there's justice for her brother, so she's just shut herself off from the world and can't function in any relationship."
Ms. Sevigny said starring in a crime series can be draining, but she didn't find it as difficult to shed her role as when she was a brittle, judgmental wife in a polygamous relationship on HBO's "Big Love."
"I remember doing 'Big Love' and everybody yelling at [my character] all day, and that was even worse," she said. "Everyone thought I was the bad guy. That was painful. I think you turn it off when you go home at night and try not to bring the world home with you."
HBO's "True Detective" offers up a slow-boil murder mystery that plays like an eight-episode, page-turning mystery. It brings to mind "The Killing" -- minus all the red herrings -- if those detectives turned on one another.
In 1995, Louisiana detectives Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) investigate a murder with possible occult leanings.
A woman is found murdered with antlers affixed to her head, giving the show a "Hannibal" vibe, although "True Detective" is less gruesome and trippy.
The story bounces through time from the events of the 1995 investigation to a similar case in 2012 in which an older Hart and Cohle take turns telling a new set of detectives about their earlier investigation, revealing along the way stories of their partnership and lives.
All eight episodes of this smart series were written by novelist Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.
"True Detective" offers a deep dive into the psyches of both men. Cohle has a penchant for pessimistic philosophizing (he thinks humans are irreparably damaged and should "stop reproducing and walk hand in hand into extinction"), while Hart appears to be a family man but suffers from his own peccadilloes that almost bring the partners to blows in the show's second episode.
Episodes sometimes move with a laconic pace that befits the poverty-stricken, backwater setting, but coupled with over-long episodes (often 58 minutes), viewers might want the show to sometimes move it along already.
But there's no denying that, even when it seems to dawdle, "True Detective" resonates, thanks to grounded storytelling that revels in the details of its characters and their journeys over a 17-year period.
"True Detective" is envisioned as an anthology, similar to "American Horror Story."
If it's renewed, the show will keep its title but will follow new detectives in a new story.
HBO premiere dates
HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" will wrap up with its fifth and final season this fall.
"Game of Thrones" returns for its fourth season at 9 p.m. April 6. A trailer for new episodes will air Sunday immediately before the "True Detective" premiere.
In April "Game of Thrones" will be followed by a new season of "Veep" at 10 p.m. and the new comedy series "Silicon Valley," about high-tech entrepreneurs and programmers from writer Mike Judge ("Office Space," "King of the Hill"), at 10:30 p.m.
A new season of "Vice" airs starting March 14, and the miniseries "The Normal Heart," based on the Larry Kramer play, will air in May.
"Girls" debuts a new season at 10 p.m. Sunday and has already been renewed for a fourth season.
A portion of this column originally appeared online in the Tuned In Journal blog. Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour. Follow RobOwenTV at Twitter or Facebook. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.