Making the world a better place, one show at a time.

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I guess you would like to know a little bit about the person making all these proclamations upon good taste and horrid characters. I'm Andrea and when I was 15 I fell in love. An hour after meeting "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" I was forever altered in the way only love can, and I never questioned for one minute afterwards that television offered me an amazing chance to experience lives and moments that I could never imagine. So now, when I'm not getting distracted by my real life, I write about TV. I also read, am finishing a Master's degree in English Literature, travel, am attempting to learn vegan cooking, am the 5th of 6 children, and drive my roommate nuts by constantly cleaning our already clean apartment. Now that we're old friends, time for you to take my opinions as the be all and end all.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Weekend Fling: Justified, Season 1

F/X Network, you hurt so good.

Justified is the answer to a question no one before thought to ask: what do you get when you mix the Bible with meth?

Set in Lexington Kentucky and the surrounding rural area, Justified follows the idiosyncratic Deputy US Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), transfered back to his home state after he shoots a drug cartel's hit-man in a restaurant.  Home is a complicated place, both personally and professionally, for our protagonist: what with his hard-drinking, baseball bat wielding, petty criminal father Arlo (Raymond J. Barry); his ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea) who is still obviously in love with him despite being married to seemingly nice-guy Gary (William Ragsdale); the local girl who could-have-been-if-he'd-stayed-in-town Eva Crowder (Joelle Carter) who has just shot her abusive husband and is now in the shit with his unsavory (in the hillbilly-mafia type way) family; one member of which is Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), an old friend/nemesis with a taste for robbing banks, ideological tenacity, explosions, and sister-in-law Eva.  Raylan's history with the residents, in addition to his tendency to shoot people, makes for an eternal headache for his boss Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) and co-workers Rachel Brooks (Erica Tazel) and Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts), but considering all the drug manufacturers, tax evaders and bail jumpers in the area, their job kinda sucked anyway, though they all seem fulfilled by it.

The more that I've talked to people about this show, the more I've realized just how hooked on it I am.  This is the first show in quite a while that I want to own so that I can loan it to friends and make them watch too.

The basis for Justified is an Elmore Leonard short story titles "Fire in the Hole" (which is also the title of the pilot, and what Boyd yells right before he blows something up), and tonally the show remains consistent with Leonard.  This is the kind of show that F/X really excels at (and that  I enjoy a great deal): a show that is dark and serious, while at the same time amiable and funny.

There is nothing lighthearted about the subject matter here.  In the context of slightly-less-than-abject poverty, minimal education, long memories and a feudal clan system, plots probing loyalty, moral responsibility, and family descend upon the viewer like pebbles into an avalanche; from seemingly isolated bad choices (on the part of people who arguably may not know any better) the inevitable, but unconsidered, consequences relentlessly unfold, though the conclusion is not forgone.  There is equal opportunity to choose the right thing as there is freedom to choose the wrong, but no one is exempt from the fall-out.  Eva might not be prosecuted for murdering her husband, but she is more than punished; Art wants a dedicated and competent Marshall in his field office, so he accepts the paperwork and ulcer that accompany having a peculiar employee; Raylan abhors his father's choices, yet isn't confused or offended by the hostility he receives for this attitude.

But as grim as I've made this sound, I promise, it isn't.  What makes the viewer able to genuinely enjoy Justified (instead of just endure along) is a wry and self-aware humor, both on the part of the characters and the general perspective of the show.  All of the principle characters are compelling and (to varying degrees) charming, able to objectively comment on their own and others' failings and ironic circumstances, and for those characters incapable of such understanding, events will demonstrate their absurdity, and sometimes they get the joke.

One of this show's great strengths is the actors' performances.  In one aspect or another each of the characters has an extremity within his/her personality, and it would be all too easy to portray these extremes extravagantly, thereby rendering stereotypes (the religious fanatic, the stoic, the abused woman) instead of people.  But the cast is appropriately restrained and artful.

My one major complaint about this show is so minor that it seems petty to even mention it, but what the hell, here it is: the opening credits.  I should be a better person than to complain about 30 seconds of a lame song in the midst of 42 minutes of wonderful show, but I'm not.  Oh well, nothing my complaints will do about it, just be prepared.

Since this network has a tendency to capture my heart and then stomp all over it, I'm terrified of writing this post, convinced that saying anything will break the spell and the executive powers who seem determined to make me upset will send out a c-word missive.  But since S2 has already started, I'm going to risk it.

The TV Girl

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