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May 11, 2010

Fletch's Favored Five: Things About Justified

There's a lot to love about FX's latest hit drama Justified, which airs its ninth episode tonight. Here are but a few of my reasons:

1. Timothy Olyphant
Might as well start with the star. I've counted myself as a fan of Olyphant's ever since his role as drug dealer Todd Gaines in 1999's Go, a job that's been pretty rough since then. There's been the occasional high since then - Deadwood, his similar role in The Girl Next Door, for starters - but mostly his career has been marked by either bad decisions or bad directors or bad luck. Playing the villain in Die Hard 4 should have helped to make him a household name, but sadly, that's one where even he wasn't all that memorable. We'll call it the wrong part for the right actor.

But with Justified, Olyphant's found a perfect role. His character's name may be Raylan Givens, but it might as well be "Clint Eastwood." Raylan's a U.S. Marshall not just from the old school, but quite possibly living in it - it's a wonder he has and uses a cell phone. Olyphant gets to play him with a mix of toughness and cool, and the former Mayor of Carmel would be proud.

2. "Based on a story by Elmore Leonard
Words to my ears. I really need to go back and check out earlier adaptations of Leonard's work, because ever since Get Shorty, I've been smitten with them and seen most of all of them - even the critically shat-upon ones like Touch (remember Skeet Ulrich?) and The Big Bounce.

Justified is taken from a short story of his called "Fire In the Hole," a phrase that was uttered in the first episode. That might've made me wonder how much the rest of the series really owed to Leonard, but he's also served as an Executive Producer for a few episodes, so my fears have been calmed. More importantly, you can feel his imprint all over the writing, most notably in scenes like one where two thugs are given valuable seconds of screen time for nothing more than throwaway banter. The banter might be throwaway (and witty), but its inclusion is invaluable, making the show feel that much more authentic and unlike the scads of procedurals you see all over TV. Moreover, it demonstrates, as the show often does, that just because the characters you might be seeing at any given moment aren't the "stars" doesn't make them any less important to the show.

3. Kentucky
A simple one here, as it's just always refreshing to see media that can somehow overcome the overwhelming need to have everything take place in either NY or LA (or maybe Chicago). As it turns out, the show is filmed in southern California and parts of Pennsylvania, but hey - it's a start.

4. Walton Goggins/Boyd Crowder
It's hard to know who deserves more credit - Goggins or the writers of the show, but one thing is clear: Boyd Crowder is one of the scariest and most hilarious characters on television, played with glee and eight slices of ham by Goggins, who seems to be enjoying himself almost as much as I'm enjoying watching him. He's unpredictability defined, which is most of what makes him scary.

5. That Guy. Which one? All of them.
Finally, the real reason for this post, and aside from Olyphant, my chief reason for loving Justified. They have gathered a murderer's row (no pun intended) of That Guys for each and every episode it seems. In fact, I want to break this down on an ep-by-ep basis. Here are the guys I'd count for each one (some were/are recurring characters, others are one-and-dones):

Episode 1 - Peter Greene (Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects); Doug E. Doug (Cool Runnings, Cosby)

Episode 2 - William Ragsdale (Herman from Herman's Head! Am I the only one that watched that show?)

Episode 3 - David Eigenberg (Sex and the City)

Episode 4 - Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Speed); Clarence Williams III (The Mod Squad, a million movies, including The General's Daughter, Half Baked and Reindeer Games)

Episode 5 - Eddie Jemison (the Ocean's movies)

Episode 6 - Tony Hale (Arrested Development, Stranger Than Fiction); Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager, The Wonder Years); Brett Cullen (aka Goodwin on LOST)

Episode 7 - M.C. Gainey (LOST, Con Air, former FF-UN)

Episode 8 - W. Earl Brown (There's Something About Mary - Warren!); Jere Burns (Dear John)

Long story short: there hasn't been one episode yet where I wasn't happy to see one of the supporting cast, as if they were a long-lost friend. Keep 'em coming, Justified. If you need to catch up, watch back episodes of the show here. I highly suggest getting on board before you find yourself out of the loop with this great show.

12 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Favored Five: Things About Justified"

kid vegas said...

You recognized an actor from Sex and the City? Wierd, I always thought you were straight, ummm enjoy the sequel this summer I guess...

Fletch said...

That's all you have to say? Jerk!

Yea, I watched the show quite a bit when it was on. What can I say? HBO's Sunday lineup 10 years ago was awesome with Oz and The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, and that show was a part of it. Never did see the movie, though, and have no desire to. The show got old after awhile.

TJMAC510 said...

I totally agree although you forgot to mention the fact that it was written and created by Graham Yost. The same man who co-wrote the first two Alien films, the man who wrote Speed and the man who created one of the best cop dramas of all time: Boomtown. Ever since Boomtown I have been waiting for him to create a show like this. My prayers have been answered.

Buffett35 said...

I mentioned the same thing a few months ago about Sons of Anarchy. FX series manage to fill even the smallest roles with recognizable faces. Had you watched another excellent FX series, The Shield, you would be very familiar with Goggins. He wasn't quite so over-the-top in that one, but equally good. Oh, and yes, I watched Herman's Head.

blake said...

Whoa. Slick new lay out Fletch. I usually get your stuff through Google Reader so I hadn't seen it yet (my apologies if it's been this way for a considerable amount of time).

I'm unashamed to say that I have a man crush on Olyphant. He's why I watch this show, and I'm glad I do. This show is bitchin'. I haven't read any Elmore Leonard, but it sounds like his short Fire in the Hole is awesome. I'll pick it up at the library.

Fletch said...

Travis - oh, and Graham Yost, too! ;)

Buffett - I just couldn't watch The Shield. I can't take The Commish seriously as a tough guy. I just can't. But yeah, I remember you telling me that about Sons of Anarchy. Did you know that the voice of Lisa Simpson was one of the "people" inside Herman's Head? Yeardley Smith.

Yea, I'm a geek.

Blake - thanks! No, it's not been too long - just a couple weeks.

I really need to read some Leonard as well, but I have a hard time doing so with movies/TV that I've already seen. Might be able to try with Rum Punch, as supposedly it's quite a bit different than the adapted product (Jackie Brown).

Heather said...

So it looks real sexy here at Blog Cabins right now. I love the new template!

I love that it takes place in Kentucky, and even though he's as you pointed out a Eastwood style lawman, he hates it and doesn't feel like he belongs there, even with that 20 gallon hat.

Easily my favorite show on TV right now, and I'm so relieved Olyphant has found his niche. It proves how talented he truly is.

"I got you out of jail. At the very least, I'll get you back in"

Fletch said...

Heather - thanks for the template love!

Yeah, you have to wonder - where is it that Raylan would feel comfortable (besides the Old West)? On a beach in Mexico, perhaps?

Chase Kahn said...

I watch it, too. I'm only through the first three episodes and I love the neo-western approach with Olyphant as the justifiable gunslinger with a badge.

My only concern to this point has been the "procedural" feel to each episode. I'm not a fan of that structure (preferring shows with recurring storylines from week-to-week) but when done really well, it can be enjoyable.

Right now I watch "Mad Men," "Treme," "Breaking Bad," "Lost," and "Justified," although it's tough to squeeze in TV most of the time.

Reel Whore said...

Herman's Head, baby! Yet another reason we are brothers from different mothers!

Absolutely love Justified. I like how the last few eps have been a Deadwood reunion with The Preacher, Dan and Johnny all showing up. Plus any show that gives Stephen Root a meaty role to chew up is A#1 in my book.

I keep telling ppl Olyphant is a slightly less charismatic version of Eastwood, but no one has listened. He's right out of Coogan's Bluff with this character.

One of my Top 5 shows.

I, too, recognized David "Steve" Eigenberg, btw.

Fletch said...

The evidence is indeed overwhelming, idn't it? We are indeed bros from other moms - though our similar ages probably don't hurt, either.

This was written before the Stephen Root ep, but yeah, he was great, too. I'm still waiting for a Gary Cole appearance, though.

Reel Whore said...

Gary Cole, yes!! It's only a matter of time before he shows up. If he does, I hope he'll be a regular.

I'm waiting for the day when Powers Boothe shows up. He'd be an awesome addition.