Tag Archives: Justified

TGIF – Ten TV Teasers

Ahh..the new television season is upon us. And there’s TV Guide, telling me in ridiculous detail why I’m going to be glued to a chair for the next eight months, although they seem to be focusing on the fragile and damaged network programs. I’m not their demographic. Hell, who is their demographic these days? People who like formulaic copycat television?

But I’m a betting man, so why not look at the lump of crap on the platter and see if I can find ten worth giving a chance to? So along with these Ten TV Teasers are two words why I will try them at least once while I wait for Justified.

(01) – Person Of Interest: It’s Ben!

(02) – Terra Nova: Stephen Lang!

(03) – New Girl: Best Sister!

(04) – Man Up: Ping-Pong Man!

(05) – Up All Night: Great Cast!

(06) – Playboy Club: Chocolate Bunnies!

(07) – Prime Suspect: Majestic Scripts!

(08) – Whitney: Saucy Comedienne!

(09) – Free Agents: Stand-Up Comics!

(10) – Allen Gregory: Jonah Animated?

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Emmy Thumbs

That’s thumbs both up and down, as it looks like the voting academy finally started to recognize that basic cable programs are pretty much kicking TV’s ass right now. Yes, Mad Men had gotten tons of accolades (and deservedly so), but TNT, FX and USA have been pumping out quality programming with interesting characters and solid casts without getting their due. I’m still burning over the fact that The Shield got their attention in the first season but then fell off their radar after that despite six seasons that raised the bar every year. But we shouldn’t cry over spilt blood.

This year’s list of nominees did provide some surprising nods that put a big smile on my face. But as always, there were some jaw-dropping announcements that just made me shake my head. So for this week’s TGIF, how about Ten Emmy Thumbsfive up and five down?

(01)Justified: Walton Goggins got screwed over so many times on The Shield that I lost count, and I was afraid that his dynamic performance on Justified was going to be overlooked as well. But thankfully voters woke up and nominated him along with series lead Timothy Olyphant and the amazing Margo Martindale (who might have given the single best performance on television this year).

(02)Louis CK: Not only did he grab nods for his show and his acting, but his comedy special picked up two nods as well. Denis Leary had to watch The Job get ignored before hitting it big with Rescue Me; let’s hope Lucky Louie opened the door for a long ride with Louie.

(03)The Good Wife: a strong show that appeals to men and women, and Alan Cumming got a well-deserved nomination along with star Julianne Margulies.

(04)Robot Chicken: Some of the absolutely gut-bustingly funniest shows on TV are buried in the Adult Swim section of the Cartoon Network. Seth Green continues to amaze.

(05)Parks And Recreation: The pendulum on Thursday’s NBC comedy block has clearly swung to the newer half of the evening, with Community and P&R really stepping up their game. Amy Poehler is great but Nick Offerman should have been a no-brainer nominee.

(06) – Um…where are the nominations for The Closer, Castle, The Walking Dead, Treme, Fringe and just about anything sci-fi related?

(07)Modern Family – great show with a great cast. But did every single adult cast member deserve a nod? You couldn’t slide in anyone from Community or Parks and Recreation? Have you not seen Children’s Hospital?

(08) – Category Blunders! Since when is SNL a comedy series and not a variety show? Kristin Wiig gets a supporting comedy actress nod? Hosts of the show are guest actors? How about people like Mary McConnell and Cloris Leachman, who are cast members in the shows they were nominated for as guests?

(09)The Good Wife – like Modern Family, a good show, but let’s get real. Christine Baranski and Josh Charles are good actors, but…the best? There are at least ten people on Sons of Anarchy alone that blew them out of the water, and that show was completely overlooked again this year

(10)Mariska Hartigay. Really? Really?

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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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Lights Out for Lights Out

FX, why do you do this to me?

You promote a series heavily and I watch it and get invested in its characters, and then you kill it. FX announced that it has cancelled the freshman boxing drama Lights Out, only two episodes away from the end of the first season (a new episode airs tonight). Bad ratings? I guess the judges’ cards will show that Patrick “Lights Out” Leary lost on points.

The cast has been almost uniformly excellent, featuring a breakout performance from Holt McCallany and strong support from Stacy Keach, Pablo Schreiber, Catherine McCormack and Billy Brown (as conflicted champ “Death Row” Reynolds). Reg E. Cathey (like Schreiber, an alum of The Wire) dazzles as Don King inspired promoter Barry Word, and guest roles have been showcases for powerful actors like Bill Irwin, Eamonn Walker and the great David Morse. Sure, the teenage girls are a bit annoying, but isn’t that also realistic?

If there was a weak point, perhaps it was the strong focus upon Leary’s drive to get another shot at the title, a plot element that has been accelerated to at such a rapid pace that we are almost upon it after eleven episodes. I don’t know if they planned to have the fight take place by the end of the season or planned to make the fight the centerpiece of the next season – I guess I’ll find out in a week – but after he either wins or loses, it would appear that the momentum would shift. Of course, if you don’t have a strong and fast pace you’ll get cancelled for that, too.

Unlike Terriers, which suffered from a ridiculous marketing campaign, people knew exactly what they were tuning in for. It’s just sad that there are so many more people who want to watch celebretards cat fight or try to dance.

Welcome to America, 2011.

At least FX picked up Justified and Louie for second seasons. Here’s hoping they don’t screw that up.

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Lights Out!

It appears that FX has done it again.

Lights Out is a 13-episode story about Patrick “Lights Out” Leary, a former heavyweight champ who retired five years before but still has the itch. Not the itch an Evander Holyfield feels, a twitch in a man who doesn’t know when to quit, but a guy who walked away from it all after a controversial split decision stalled his career. His corner, including his trainer father, urged him to back off in the final round and win on points instead of going for the knockout. His med student wife, stitching him up in the dressing room after one too many beatings, tells him to make a choice between the ring and the family.  

He followed his family’s advice on both counts, but the decisions haunt him daily. Outwardly he tries to play the happily retired guy, cooking breakfast for his daughters and helping out at the gym, and you can see that he has talked himself into accepting this. But his world starts to crash – finances are not what they seem, his family lives far beyond their means, and by the time he realizes that the slope is slippery, it’s too late. No longer the champ, suffering the slight but initial effects of brain damage, he’s a square peg outside the ring. And the offers he’s getting to generate a little cash are anything but above-board. (Yes, he lives in Bayonne, New Jersey…)

Lights is played by Holt McCallany, whose very name infers toughness. One article compared his performance to the first time you saw James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano or Jon Hamm as Don Draper. A bit early for canonization, but I don’t think even the most ebullient is trying to place this show on a mantle alongside The Sopranos or Mad Men. Rather they are correctly noting that the lead actor has that instant charisma and natural charm; a presence that exudes mystery, power and secrets. Even if he might not literally be a good guy, you are (ahem) in his corner from the first scene. Like the aforementioned famous actors, McCallany has been banging around for a while, but seemingly has stumbled into the role of a lifetime. He is pitch-perfect as the man lost outside his comfort zone; juggling debt, health issues, self-doubt and the undesirable elements that circle that world.

I have rarely seen as many online ads for a new TV show as I have for Lights Out this week; perhaps FX is trying to make up for the disastrous campaign for Terriers. That show – almost universally recognized as excellent – had to build from almost nothing thanks to the symbolic but misleading promos.

I’ve only seen the pilot episode – I’m not the “A-list” guy who gets an advance 5-pack from the network – but it’s clearly way deeper than “a boxing series”. If it stays this good, you can file it alongside Justified, Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy as another edgy, daring television show made for adults. Adults who are approached as intelligent viewers who can follow the threads and nuances of the characters and the plot. I hope enough viewers return the favor and step up to the challenge.

Or you can always Live To Dance.

Episode Guide at TV.COM

Official website at FX watch the excellent backstory video

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TV Critics Award Nominees

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, another awards show drops a list of nominees. The Television Critic’s Association Awards are a little different than other TV back-slapping fests in that lead and supporting actors are combined in one field. Also, there is a category for program of the year (even though there are awards for both comedy and drama). Odd stuff, this.

Here are the nominees in five of the major categories. Some obvious and worthy nominees, but also some surprising omissions and oversights. Of course, with only five slots covering not only lead and supporting roles but also both genders, many people deserving of recognition didn’t make the cut.

Hard to predict what the television writers will go with (they tend to be more likely to vote quality over buzz than the Golden Globes or Emmys) but I’ll take a shot. I’ll note who I think will win in red and who I would vote for with an asterisk (*)…there’s really only one category where it’s split.

Of course, I’m only working with the nominees that were announced, not adding my own. For example, I can think of several shows that deserved a nod over Parenthood.  

The winners will be announced July 31st.

Individual achievement in drama:
Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad,” AMC) *
John Lithgow (“Dexter,” Showtime)
Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife,” CBS)
Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad,” AMC)
Katey Sagal (“Sons of Anarchy,” FX)

Individual achievement in comedy:
Ty Burrell (“Modern Family,” ABC)
Jane Lynch (“Glee,” Fox)
Nick Offerman (“Parks and Recreation,” NBC)*
Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory,” CBS)
Eric Stonestreet (“Modern Family,” ABC)

Outstanding achievement in drama:
“Breaking Bad” (AMC)*
“Lost” (ABC)
“Mad Men” (AMC)
“Sons of Anarchy” (FX)
“The Good Wife” (CBS)

Outstanding achievement in comedy:
“Glee” (Fox)
“Modern Family” (ABC) *
“Parks and Recreation” (NBC)
“Party Down” (Starz)
“The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)

Outstanding new program:
“Glee” (Fox)
“Justified” (FX)
“Modern Family” (ABC)*
“Parenthood” (NBC)
“The Good Wife” (CBS)

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TV *and* Not TV!

A crapshoot usually results in…crap.

We’re at the cusp of some major decision-making at the major television networks. Although a few things have leaked out already, the upfronts which are scheduled for the next couple of days will find ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS and others setting the stage for their Fall 2010 programming. Sometimes it’s not so much what they say as what they don’t say.

For example, you’re unlikely to see a formal announcement confirming Better off Ted is cancelled. But when you look at the ABC schedule, it won’t be there. Sayonara, genius comedy show.

This season sees a few iconic shows come to an end. Law and Order, tied for the longest-running night-time drama program ever, just got its walking papers…yet the network picked up Law and Order Los Angeles (or as Ray Davies and I like to call it, LOLA!). Soon the entire network will be L&O, CSI and NCIS. If you don’t like acronym drama, TFB – you’re SOL.

Lost is ramping up to its final weekend with an episode this Tuesday, some recaps on the weekend and then a two and a half hour finale on Sunday May 23rd. The next night, 24 will sign off its final season with a two-hour show before Jack Bauer and company undoubtedly head for the big screen.

Heroes has bitten the dust, although there will be a 2-4 hour special to hopefully wrap up all the plotlines. No such luck for FlashForward (which I still think would have made a nice lead in to V, which did get renewed), and Happy Town is apparently already slated to burn off and die in the summer. So much for novel ideas. Bring on the cop shows and medical dramas; America can’t get enough of people in uniforms. Even those who snog their co-workers.

Even the smaller cable networks are dicing and splicing. The once highly promoted Sarah Silverman Program has gotten the axe from Comedy Central, and Justified might be on life support at FX.

Thankfully, some quality dramas (Fringe, Castle) and comedies (Parks & Recreation, Community) survived their initial spotty ratings long enough to build a following and gain renewal. Others likely to get renewed defy all logic.

It will be an interesting week – each network has a long-standing favorite leaving the air, and NBC’s Jay Leno Show disaster leaves them with a gaping hole to fill (Parenthood is weak and The Marriage Ref is horrid, but any port in a storm, yes?). Be sure to follow the upfronts here at TV By The Numbers.

Or Entertainment Weekly’s Bubble Show Scorecard.

***

Some people get so frustrated, they want to blow up their television.

Now you’re talking!

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