I’m a big fan of FX’s new cop-drama/western Justified. It’s a seriously high-quality show, with really good regular actors and guest stars, great dialogue, and a kind of old-fashioned lawman + Southern Gothic nouveau vibe that I think is super cool.
It also stars Timothy Olyphant, who is one of those actors that is immediately the best part of a project. I first came across him in The Girl Next Door, which is generally a bad movie. Whenever Olyphant and Emile Hirsch were on screen though, it became… cinema. Live Free or Die Hard gave him even less to work with, but he managed to be a plausible villain in roughly 12 minutes of screen time.*
It struck me the other day how atypical Justified is in my TV lineup (the things that I watch week-to-week). The first TV show that I got hooked on watching every week was LOST, and that gave me strong preference for serialized shows, or at least shows with a strong story arc. As my tastes have diversified, I’ve become a fan of stoner-comedy shows like Venture Brothers or Robot Chicken that don’t have anything near a serialized plot. But with the exception of some Law & Order comfort food, I can’t think of any dramas that I watch that don’t have a strong story arc.
But Justified is almost the definition of network television, just on a cable channel. There is no genre with such a connection to the rise of mass television audiences than the Western… Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Lone Ranger. And while Harlan County, Tennessee is not the same as the West of 1950’s America, Raylan Givens is a classic American TV man. He’s handsome, can outshoot any gunman he meets, is kind to women, gets along with men, holds no racial, religious, or orientation biases, has casual fun in the bedroom, and doesn’t worry too much about any of these things.
There’s not that many men that occupy that space on TV today.
*I won’t go on about Timothy Olyphant all day, but he has a couple of really entertaining early roles. One is as the clueless rookie sidekick to Delroy Lindo’s stolen car cop character in the awful Nicolas Cage/Angelina Jolie Gone in 60 Seconds. Another early Olyphant role was in a mediocre gay romantic comedy called The Broken Hearts Club. That one’s fun to watch both for Olyphant as a studly gay man (!) and for Zach Braff’s ridiculous performance as a horny gymrat.