Hi, I'm Keith R.A. DeCandido—who is suffering a cold, and so sounds a bit funny this time 'round (Note: obviously this was done for audio... ---KRAD)—and this is Couch Potato Salad, a critical look at genre television.
F/X has had an odd history. Like many cable stations, they have been dabbling in their own original programming, starting out small and working their way up. They don't have HBO or Showtime's critical success or USA or TNT's ratings, but they're pootling along nicely.
While they've branched out to many different nights of original programming, Tuesday remains their version of HBO's Sunday night, to wit, where they put their best stuff. It's where The Shield and Sons of Anarchy have both resided, as well as the initial launching point for Damages and Dirt, and plenty of others.
For their latest series, they've turned to Elmore Leonard. The octagenarian author has had a metric ton of his prose turned into television shows and movies, starting in the 1950s with The Tall T and 3.10 to Yuma, and continuing to such films as Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Jackie Brown, Killshot, and the recent remake of 3.10 to Yuma.
Justified marks the second TV series to be based on Leonard's work, the first being the short-lived Karen Sisco in 2003. The new series stars Timothy Olyphant as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, who appears in two of Leonard's novels—Pronto and Riding the Rap—as well as the short story "Fire in the Hole." The latter forms the basis of the pilot episode of Justified.
And so far, it's fantastic. Olyphant is in many ways playing a modern version of Seth Bullock, the role he played on HBO's Deadwood, and not just because both men wear a cowboy hat and serve the law. Both Givens and Bullock have an anger just simmering below the surface, and both also have an instinctive intelligence.
Leonard is listed as an executive producer, and it's unclear whether or not that means he's actively involved in the show or just gets a big check—but it's also evident that the writers of the show, led by Graham Yost, the show's developer, are staying quite true to Leonard's style. The dialogue is crisp and brilliant, and the characters are ordinary people with delusions of competence who generally mean well even when they're committing crimes. Leonard's world is a cynic's dream, but it's an affectionate cynicism, and it's a lot of fun to watch.
The cast is also excellent, from former Shield star Walton Goggins in a recurring role as Raylan's childhood friend and adult nemesis Boyd Crowder, and most especially Nick Searcy as Raylan's sardonic boss, Art Mullen.
Definitely check this show out—it's worth your time. Justified airs Tuesday nights at 10pm on F/X and is repeated a few times throughout the week.
Finally, we have Cathode to Joy, where I praise a show in 15 seconds or less: Law & Order: Criminal Intent is back on USA, and it's the swan song for Vincent D'Onofrio, Kathryn Erbe, and Eric Bogosian, so watch it now before the show goes completely into the toilet without them.
For The Chronic Rift I'm Keith R.A. DeCandido with "Couch Potato Salad."