Saturday, November 18, 2017

TV Watch: Justified

It's been three and a half years since the last piece in my "TV Watch" series came out. That last article in February 2014 covered the action-packed Cinemax drama "Banshee" starring Antony Starr and Ivana Milicevic.

Since that time, more and more Americans have taken on the phenomenon of binge-watching television series. This involves watching all episodes of a show in a short period of time via an OnDemand service, or through a pay service such as Netflix or Amazon.

Many times, I have found myself in conversations regarding which series folks are currently binging. Some of these conversations have turned me on to some of my favorite television shows.

I have also passed along some of my own favorites as a recommendation to others. That is what I'll be doing now with 'TV Watch' over the next few months. As the series continues with occasional pieces, I'll be highlighting some of my favorite shows from the last decade or so that have concluded their original runs, but which are available for you to enjoy on those various OnDemand or pay networks.

Near the top of any recommendation list that I could make would be "Justified", which originally aired on the FX network from March 2010 through April 2015. It's 78 episodes over six seasons make up one of the best and most original cop dramas in television history.

Timothy Olyphant stars as deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, who battles the bad guys operating in and around his home turf of Harlan, Kentucky.

Harlan is a small town and county located in extreme southeastern Kentucky near the Cumberland River, bordered by mountains and ridges. The mountainous geography and warm, humid climate help set the stage for the series.

Olyphant is in some ways the typical smart aleck style law enforcement officer. His quick wit and superior intelligence often helps him disarm his opponents, both literally and figuratively.

One of my all-time favorite lines in TV history came out of the mouth of Raylan Givens:
"You run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. You run into assholes all day, you're the asshole."


And as with many a good ol' Cowboy hat-wearing southern boy, he can back up his mouth. Raylan is good with both a gun and with his fists when needed. But he's quick enough with both that wit and his gun that he rarely needs to actually use his fists.

A running thread throughout the series finds Raylan battling with the outlaw Crowder family, especially one whom he knew since childhood. Boyd Crowder, as played marvelously by Walton Goggins, proves to be Raylan's principle nemesis.

Raylan's personal life is complicated by ongoing flirtations with both his ex-wife Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea) and Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), Boyd's sister-in-law. Though Winona disappears for large stretches of the series, she will return and prove critical as it winds to a conclusion.

Both Raylan's personal and professional lives are also constantly complicated by his father, Arlo Givens (Raymond J. Barry), who is suffering from the early signs of dementia. Unlike Raylan, Arlo has spent much of his life on the wrong side of the law, often with Boyd's father Bo Crowder (M.C. Gainey) who is a key figure in the shows first season.

As the show progresses, Raylan is forced to battle newly emerging threats, some from locals such as the Bennett and Crowe families, others from out of town drug operatives.

That renegade Bennett clan includes family matriarch Mags Bennett, played by Margo Martindale, and her sometimes bumbling but always villainous son Dickie Bennett, played by familiar face Jeremy Davies. Both Martindale and Davies won Emmy Awards for their roles. The Crowe family is a bunch of alligator farmers, and is led by another familiar face in Michael Rapaport.




Assisting Raylan on the law enforcement end are his immediate boss, Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen. The chief is played brilliantly by Nick Searcy as a father figure to Raylan. He is much more of a straight, by the book lawman.

Based largely on Raylan's track record of success, and simply liking him personally, Art tends to give Raylan a great deal of latitude in getting the job done - most times. Fellow deputies Rachel Brooks (Erica Tazel) and Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts) work out of Raylan's office and usually have his back.

The shows theme song is "Long Hard Times to Come" by Gangstagrass, a New York based group that combines blue grass and rap in an original sound. The song was nominated for 2010 Emmy Award.



Over it's history, "Justified" won a 2010 Peabody Award and the two Emmy Awards. Among the numerous nominations that it received over it's run were eight Emmy Award nominations, including for both Olyphant and Goggins. The show, Olyphant, Goggins, and Carter all received Critic's Choice Award nominations over the life of the series.

You rarely, if ever, get this style of law enforcement shown on television. Rural and small-town life highlighted, and the law enforcement in the form of the U.S. Marshal's office rather than some big city police.

Whether you are a fan of cop shows or not, I believe that you would find "Justified" enjoyable. It's smart, well produced, and well acted. If you've never seen it before, add it to your list of shows to binge-watch sometime soon. You won't regret it.

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