FX's Justified is my favorite new show of the spring. And based on its premiere's big ratings, others obviously dig Raylan Givens' brand of gun-toting justice. A few reasons why the show (Tuesdays at 10/9c) is worth your time:
FX shoots to kill with Justified
1. Elmore Leonard Inspired It
Hollywood's love affair with the prolific Leonard has ranged from excellent adaptations (Get Shorty, Jackie Brown) to bad (TV's Karen Sisco and Shorty sequel Be Cool). Justified borrowed all the best Leonard elements (cool characters and muscular dialogue) for its pilot, which is based on the short story, "Fire in the Hole." The subsequent episodes eventually find their footing in recapturing the Leonard magic week after week, and the author himself has given his seal of approval.
2. Walton Goggins Is in It
Best known as The Shield's Shane Vendrell, Goggins initially turned down the role because his character, church-bombing white supremacist Boyd Crowder, died in the pilot and Goggins thought the character perpetuated stereotypes of the South. After some cajoling of executive producer Graham Yost, Boyd is in 10 of the first season's episodes, and Goggins says he's now "the smartest guy in the room." Goggins is doing fine work delivering the chilling ravings of a neo-Nazi psychopath.
3. Graham Yost Created It
His body of work (Band of Brothers, Boomtown) speaks for itself, but Yost's humility in adapting Leonard is perhaps why this works. Yost and his writers wear bracelets that say "WWED" — What Would Elmore Do? — and are trying to be true to their inspiration even when expanding the world Leonard created. "It falls on our shoulders to come up with stories that feel like Elmore and yet are new," Yost says. "The most gratifying thing has been showing him stuff from other episodes, and his reaction has been incredibly positive. That is the most important audience reaction I can get."
Ratings: Justified rides high
4. It's Set in Kentucky
No palm trees of skyscrapers here. Following in the footsteps of Breaking Bad, which thrives in part because of its Albuquerque setting, Justified uses the grassy hills of a sleepy coal-mining town to serve as a constant reminder of the life Raylan has fought so hard to escape.
5. It's on FX
The cable network has established itself as the home for quality testosterone. Whether reinventing the cop drama (The Shield), promoting the anti-hero (Rescue Me), turning up the family-drama octane (Sons of Anarchy), making a legal show that's engaging outside the courtroom (Damages) or brazenly pushing the limits with comedy (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Archer) the FX brand is cable's one-stop shop.
6. Tim Olyphant's Hat Is Awesome
"The fact that this show has a better hat than Deadwood is enough to make me want to tune in, because that hat in Deadwood was a pretty cool hat," jokes Olyphant, making comparisons to his previous role as an old-school lawman. Leonard tells TVGuide.com the hat is one of the few things about Olyphant's portrayal that doesn't sync with his original vision, but it's a minor quibble. "Timothy likes the one he's got and he looks good in it, so let him go," Leonard says.
Are you watching the show? What do you think?