Tag Archives: FX

TV Watch: Justified

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Timothy Olyphant starred in “Justified” from 2010-15

 

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.

TV Watch: Sons of Anarchy

The best gang show on television this side of ‘The Sopranos’ has just concluded it’s second full season, and fans of this emerging masterpiece will be happy to learn that ‘Sons of Anarchy’ has just been renewed for a full third season that will begin airing in September 2010.

For the uninitiated, the show centers on the activities of a biker gang, also known as an outlaw motorcycle club (MC) called the ‘Sons of Anarchy’ which alternately is known by the nickname ‘Samcro’ or ‘Sam Crow’, a moniker loosely based on an anacronym for the official full name of the ‘Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original’ charter.

The show airs on the ‘FX’ network with in-season first run episodes coming on Tuesday nights at 10:00 pm. Prior episodes are available through the Comcast OnDemand service in the TV Entertainment section.

‘Sons’ centers largely around both the MC and family activities of three main characters. Charlie Hannum is a revelation as Jackson ‘Jax’ Teller, a young Vice-President of the MC and the son of deceased club founder John Teller.

Katey Sagal plays Jax’ mother, Gemma Teller Morrow, the matriarch of the family and the MC. Widow of the founder, she is now married to the new President of the MC. That character is Clarence ‘Clay’ Morrow, played by veteran actor Ron Perlman.

The ‘Sons’ run an automotive repair business as a cover front for their real business, a lucrative gun-running operation. They are in complete control of the small town of Charming, California in which they reside and base their operations. While somewhat of a menace to law enforcement in the town, the MC does try to keep the town clean of drugs and other illegal crime operations.

The prime conflict developing in the show is that during the first season, Jax stumbles across a sort of manifesto that his late father wrote just before his death. In it, John had been planning to take the club ‘clean’, getting it out of all illegal activities. Jax begins to see this as a birthright, as his destiny.

His mother Gemma is aware of the manifesto, but is against that direction knowing that her current husband Clay has no intention of changing course. Much of the internal family activity revolves around Gemma running interference and playing mediator between these two most important men in her life.

Clay and Jax begin to butt heads more and more regarding the direction that the MC should take, creating the core of the drama. Other interesting plot lines are developed around the main characters lives and incidents in which they and the club become involved. Story lines also develop involving the fine supporting cast.

That support is led by Maggie Siff as Jax’ love interest Dr. Tara Knowles. A former love of Jax in the past, Tara returns to town and their relationship once again takes off after a major traumatic incident, causing strain on her career and both of their personal lives.

The other MC members include Mark Boone as club Secretary Bobby Munson, Kim Coates as the wild Sergeant-at-Arms Alex ‘Tig’ Trager, Tommy Flanagan as Scottish club member ‘Chibs Telford, Theo Rossi as club Intel Officer Juan Carlos ‘Juice’ Ortiz, Ryan Hurst as ‘Opie’ Winston, William Lucking as Opie’s dad and fellow club member ‘Piney’ Winston, and Johnny Lewis as Kip Epps, a young Iraq War veteran trying to join the club.

Their principle nemesis is a white separatist organization known as ‘The League’ that is trying to muscle in on Samcro’s gun business while manipulating the local black and Hispanic gangs against one another and against Samcro.

Veteran actor Adam Arkin plays ‘The League’ organization’s clean-cut evil leader, Ethan Zoebelle, and Henry Rollins plays his right-hand man and true neo-Nazi in AJ Weston.

Law enforcement in the town of Charming walks the line between wanting to shut down Samcro but realizing that the MC may actually be the lesser of two evils.

That faction is played by Dayton Callie as Chief Wayne Unser, and by Taylor Sheridan as his Deputy Chief David Hale. From the Federal angle, Ally Walker plays ATF agent June Stahl, trying hard to shutdown Samcro and put the members behind bars.

The first two seasons have seen the development of the characters, with an interesting enough first season followed up by an even better written and more well acted second season that just ended. The first season ends with the death of a major character, something that ‘The Sopranos’ became well known for, and the second season finale will only leave fans thirsty for more next year.

At times, shows like ‘Sons of Anarchy’ slip through the cracks for many TV viewers who habitually only watch the ‘major’ networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS, HBO, and Showtime for their series. But ‘FX’ has ‘Sons’ while AMC offers perhaps the best dramatic show on television in the previously reviewed ‘Mad Men’ series.

While it doesn’t contain the ‘R’ rated language and sexual scenes of other cable shows, it remains edgy enough. In the familial struggles and the struggles of Jax to reform the MC, there is also a chance at redemption here.

If you were a fan of ‘The Sopranos’ but haven’t watched ‘The Sons of Anarchy’ as yet, give it a shot. Once you get to know the characters and follow the plot line after a handful of episodes, you will be hooked.

NOTE: This is a continuation of the ‘TV Watch’ series of television program reviews. To see all entries in the series, click on that below Tag