Tag Archives: Elmore Leonard

The Praise Is Fully Justified

What an ending!

Like I expected anything less from an episode called “Bloody Harlan“? I won’t spoil it for you, don’t worry – sit and savor it for yourself. Matter of fact, go back to the first episode of this second season and watch it all again just in case the well-placed seeds escaped your grasp the first time around. Because what’s popping up out of the ground as this arc closes is as interesting as who is getting planted in it.

I think we all agree that Timothy Olyphant is badass, and in Raylan Givens he has achieved what many actors never do – the perfect match of performer and character that we can only feebly call the role of a lifetime. But even I wasn’t sure where they could take Justified after the first season; frankly I was thrilled just to see that it was renewed. But I’m struggling for the words to describe how exponentially better this season has been. Whatever the opposite of a sophomore slump is called would be a good start.

Video: Season Two promo

I couldn’t even tell you where to start with the supporting cast, from the amazing Walton Goggins as the unpredictable Boyd Crowder, Nick Searcy as the supportive yet skeptical boss, or Natalie Zea and Joelle Carter as the strong but damaged women trying to keep Givens and Crowder from jumping the rails. And in smaller and guest roles, actors like Raymond J. Barry, William Ragsdale and Jere Burns shine like beacons. But everything in Season Two begins and ends with the Bennetts, a dry-land hillbilly crew that would make the river-edge pikers in Deliverance squeal like a pig.

Joseph Lyle Taylor, Jeremy Davies and Brad William Henke are incredible as this show’s version of Dumb and Dumber (and Dumbest) although there’s rancid evil and twisted Mommy issues percolating underneath those hillbilly hats. Davies has always played characters as an amalgamation of tics and quirks (Lost and Saving Private Ryan being two prime examples), but Dickie is soaked in them. And while young Kaitlyn Dever might seem to be playing a page from the script of Winter’s Bone, she stands toe-to-toe with this group, a tribute to her skills and the quality of the writing. Really – how can you go wrong with Elmore Leonard in the mix?

But as Mags Bennett, the matriarch of this twisted little holler, Margo Martindale is off the charts. Sinister yet sensitive, moral and amoral, protective and ruthless, her complex portrayal is mesmerizing. I don’t hold my breath expecting actors on FX shows to get their due when awards are passed out – Goggins would have a mantle full by now if they did – but anything short of a Best Actress trophy would be…well, unjustified.

There are a lot of great dramas on television that deserve your attention like Breaking Bad and Mad Men. But after a season that was absolutely Shakespearian, there is no doubt that Justified is the best show on television, game, set and match.

The official website.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten TV Tips

 

OK, couch potatoes – Fall Season is here

Not that I’m actually going to have time to watch all of these – some will actually be better as weekend marathons on DVD – but at least I could find ten new shows that seem to be worth checking out. And sure, the networks are still cloning cop shows and lawyer shows and even sinking one new program’s hopes immediately by casting Jerry O’Connell in it. He is the Ted McGinley of his generation…now that Jason Gedrick isn’t making pilots anymore. 

Yeah, I’m skeptical – and I’m not alone. Before it even aired, Outlaw was savaged by the press, despite the presence (and publicity efforts) of usual favorite Jimmy Smits; the premise was just too preposterous. And despite the always alluring Dana Delaney and Jeri Ryan, their show Body Of Proof might be its own cadaver

I’m not going to get too excited if a show starts out great, because I’ve seen some of the best shows get shot down in their infancy despite stellar writing, casting and performances. I still wince when I think about EZ Streets and Better Off Ted, and there’s a laundry list beyond those two. But before I throw my glass at the television, it’s always half-full. 

So here are Ten TV Tips for the upcoming Fall season, in random order. Remember, there’s no gambling, these suggestions are for personal enjoyment only; we do not guarantee ratings. In fact, you might not want to blink or you could miss a couple of them entirely… 

  

01) Boardwalk Empire – A prohibition-era gangster show on pay cable with Steve Buscemi and Marty Scorcese? Are you kidding me? Reason enough to buy HBO, but I’ll probably wait to watch it all in one weekend. 

02) The Event I’ll admit it, they’ve hooked me with the promos. And anytime Zeljko Ivanek is on a show – especially if he’s a little on the corrupt side – that show is worth following

03) Lone Star Con men rule. Jon Voight rules. Texas rules. I’m in. 

04) Running Wilde – Will Arnett playing an asshole. Do you really need any more information than that to tune in? 

05) Detroit 187 Michael Imperioli back as a cop after the unjustly cancelled Life On Mars. Perhaps the modern clothing and the lack of a porn stache will work this time. 

The next great epic, Boardwalk Empire

 

06) The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret – I’m still pissed at IFC for cancelling Jackie Woodman, but if they are putting David Cross on television I almost forgive them. 

07) Terriers – Already airing and after two episodes I’m liking it. At first I thought it would mimic The Unusuals, but it’s more Elmore Leonard-ish. 

08) No Ordinary Family I’m only thinking of watching this because I can’t picture Michael Chiklis following up The Shield with a crap series. Yes, I saw The Fantastic Four… 

09) Lights Out It’s boxing and redemption. It’s FX. It’s gonna rock

10) Shit My Dad Says – What if Captain Kirk slept with Denny Crane? Yeah, this could suck out loud, but I’ll give William Shatner a chance. 

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TV or not TV?

Get back here and WATCH ME, dammit!!

It’s been an interesting year for television.

With ratings sinking, cheap reality programming gaining traction and a couple of long-running landmark programs coming to an end, the landscape for the next year or two might be a complete crapshoot. 

Although I don’t spend my time wallowing in celebrity gossip, I do find the machinations of the television industry fascinating. And this year has been particularly bizarre, with the whole Leno/Conan debacle the biggest story of the year – unless you want to separate Leno’s return to The Tonight Show from the single greatest disaster in prime time history. Ironic that Jay would make Headlines wither way. 

"Man single-handedly kills 15 hours of broadcasting"

Somehow The Simpsons keeps rolling along, South Park remains controversial and long running franchises Law And Order and CSI Wherever multiply like rabbits. Networks try to feed us more copycat cop crap, lame lawyer shows and miserable medical dramas. When they come up with something original (FlashForward) or even a reinvention of a past success (V) they forget that a complex serialized drama can’t have a huge gap in its schedule or momentum will be lost. (And speaking of Lost, someone at ABC couldn’t even understand the concept of  the phrase “uniterrupted schedule”, choosing to air a repeat episode April 25th). 

Fox has announced that 24 is ending this season, no doubt largely in part to the high cost of the program. But they hit the jackpot with Glee, and hopefully will pour some American Idol profit into keeping the wonderful Fringe alive. NBC looks like it might finally have a Thursday night comedy block again (Community, Parks and Recreation, The Office and 30 Rock) but is scrambling to replace the third of their schedule that The Jay Leno Show wiped out. If ABC drops it’s two high-priced sci-fi shows and cancels Heroes, they virtually  concede Monday and Tuesday nights; only Castle and Modern Family have broken the mold of celebretard programming. CBS might have found a winner in The Good Wife but the network is still more likely to clone a show than create one. 

 It’s not all hopeless. USA came up with a winner in White Collar which should help ease the loss of Monk.  Friday Night Lights returns this week thanks to the cost-sharing deal between NBC and DirecTV, whereby DirecTV gets to air the series on pay TV in the Fall, then NBC gets to air it on broadcast TV in the Spring. (Maybe that strategy can save shows like Damages and Southland; adult oriented drama that doesn’t pull vampire numbers in the ratings.) 

And the summer brings us basic cable winners like The Closer and Rescue Me and Mad Men as the more nimble basic cable channels like TNT, AMC and FX counter-program the dead season. Elmore Leonard on television is a good thing.  Louis C.K. on television is a good thing. 

If the smaller channels can get it right…why can’t the major networks? Pretty soon it’s all going to be internet television anyway, so the smart and savvy will survive. There is still a large audience that wants great storytelling and well-written comedy

But every year I still cringe when brilliant shows get cancelled. Watching the slow death of Better Off Ted was reminiscent of Arrested Development’s demise, only accelerated. And why would you have a show called The Unusuals and not let it be…unusual? But I could just be bitter. Hell, I still haven’t forgiven CBS for cancelling EZ Streets. 

There are a few excellent resources for those of you looking into that crystal ball wondering what’s happening with your favorite shows…or with the schedule in general. You’ll probably want to bookmark them. The week of May 17th might be D-Day for many of these programs as the networks finish Sweeps and sharpen the axes.

 

The Futon Critic is an excellent resource for TV news and even includes this handy guide to how many episodes are left for each program. Shows are listed by network in a cancel/renewal status grid  (note that a lot of them are TBD). 

The aptly named Is My Show Cancelled site focuses on just that very thing. 

TV By The Numbers takes a more statistical approach to the situation, tracking ratings on a daily basis and making some predictions based upon trends and historical decision points.

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Timothy Olyphant is Badass

The critical raves are Justified

Timothy Olyphant is badass. 

Olyphant has become one of those actors whose very presence in a cast legitimizes the project for me. Sure, his early career looks like most actor’s, a few romcoms, guest spots on bad TV shows, less than stellar plots. But lightning struck when he hooked up as part of the cast of Deadwood, certain to go down as one of the all-time classic series on television. He brings such charisma and strength to a role, when he’s onscreen it’s hard not to be completely captivated. 

John Hawkes, Timothy Olyphant, Keith Carradine

He’s always been good in a war-themed flick; the recent Stop-Loss and the underrated When Trumpets Fade being but two examples. Domed skull in Hitman. Convincingly appropriate in culture flicks like Go and Rock Star. But he really shines when given a character with inner conflicts who might be morally ambiguous; his supporting role on Damages was a standout. 

But after one episode of the new FX series Justified – hell, after one scene – I’ve come to the conclusion that Olyphant belongs under a cowboy hat. (And to think they almost cast Dermot Mulroney as the lead!) 


Justified is based upon an Elmore Leonard character from his story called “Fire In The Hole“, with Olyphant playing the lead character Raylan Givens. The original title of Lawman wasn’t available thanks to Steven Segal‘s latest abuse of his fifteen minutes of fame (isn’t that voucher beyond stale by now?). 

Writers include those who have worked on Karen Sisco (another Leonard-based show featuring Carla Gugino and Robert Forster) and Deadwood. And what tips the brim is that Elmore Leonard is directly involved as writer and producer. Show writers wear a bracelet that reads “What Would Elmore Do?“…now that is badass as well. 

Basic cable has started to kick the major networks’ asses with more and more quality actors finding great projects and first-rate material. Mad Men and Breaking Bad give AMC huge credibility; TNT struck gold with The Closer and USA may have found their replacement for Monk in White Collar

But FX has been on a serious roll the past couple of seasons adding drama like Justified and Sons of Anarchy and comedy shows Archer and The League. The majority of my must-see TV is on basic cable these days. 

If you have not jumped on the Justified bandwagon, I implore you to do so quickly and catch up; the third episode airs next Tuesday (March 30) at 10pm. Rich characters, great atmosphere, stellar casting (Walton Goggins!), adult themes…this one is a keeper. 

As scene-stealing Wes Krulik in Damages

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