Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Just Getting Warm

Last Wednesday saw the UK debut of a show I’d been excited to see ever since I heard the reaction it was getting from viewers across the pond.

FX’s Justified hit our screens far sooner than I ever expected, given the UK’s track record for being months behind the States, but hats off to the baboons over at Five for hot-shotting this fantastic show in to its schedules on its US-dedicated channel Five USA.

Wednesday night has rapidly gone from a nothing TV night to arguably the best small screen night of the week, with White Collar (Bravo @ 9pm), Sons of Anarchy (Bravo @ 10pm) and now Justified (Five USA @ 10pm) all airing new episodes.

After producing great shows like The Shield, Rescue Me and Sons of Anarchy, anything FX puts out there now, usually makes me sit up and take notice, so Justified was always going to be off to a good start with me; FX really is up there rivalling HBO now for creating some of the rawest most brilliant TV out there – with Showtime and AMC narrowly behind.

I may have had high expectations for Justified, but they were by no means betrayed by an excellent pilot episode that has me eagerly anticipating more.

Based on work from the great Elmore Leonard, Justified had an almost unfair advantage in that it was coming from the mind of one of the best and most influential writing talents of the last few decades.

Leonard’s novels Pronto, Riding the Rap and his short story Fire in the Hole (the latter providing the basis for the plot of the pilot of Justified) are the source material for Justified, all three of which feature the popular character of US Marshal Raylan Givens – the hero of Justified.

How the show will fare once they have completely exhausted Leonard’s work is at this point, having only seen the pilot which was heavily derived from his work, somewhat of a concern; but I am confident that what looks like a highly promising show can not only do justice to its wonderful source material but also expand it to even greater plains.

Raylan Givens’ Cowboy hat in Justified is filled by Timothy Olyphant, a man no stranger to cowboy hats and gun-slinging from his role as Seth Bullock in Deadwood (which I criminally still haven’t seen – but is down to be my next box set purchase).

I’ve always liked Olyphant as an actor, dating back to Scream 2, through to Go and Gone in 60 Seconds, I even found myself rooting for him as the villain in Die Hard 4.0. It’s nice to see him back in a leading role on TV and seemingly having so much fun with it - he’s ice cool as Givens and brings a quiet intensity to the role.

Olyphant aside, the best casting decision the show made was to put Walton Goggins in the pilot as Givens’ former friend-turned nemesis Boyd Crowder. Does anybody do red neck better than Goggins? Shane Vendrell in The Shield was essentially a hill-billy with a badge and he plays Crowder with his usual brand of live wire, manic twitchiness.

Given how the pilot ended for Crowder, I’m unsure of whether we’ll see more of Goggins in the show – it would be a crying shame if we didn’t, given the compelling dynamic they set up between Crowder and Givens in the pilot – all I will say is that they’d better have some equally worthy adversaries for Givens lined up for future episodes if that’s the last we see of Boyd Crowder.

Walton Goggins will soon be seen in the upcoming Predators, which looks pretty awesome, and I can’t wait to see what he does with what will no doubt be another of his trademark characters on the big screen. Hopefully this could finally be Goggins becoming the big star he deserves to be recognised as.

Elsewhere in the pilot episode, I enjoyed seeing Peter Greene back on my screen; I enjoyed a lot of his work in the 90s and his, albeit very short, role was a pleasant surprise. Greene didn’t look to be in great shape, maybe that was the point, but it was definitely shocking to see someone I would consider a big(ish) star offed before the titles.

There was also some nice comedic relief from Crowder’s useless hick gang, Jacob Pitts growing up to play one of the Harlan County Marshals and enough sexual tension between Raylan and a couple of women to keep things interesting for the show going forward in the romance stakes.

As I said previously, it’ll be very interesting watching where the show goes now, beyond Leonard’s material, but there was enough spark shown from this pilot to earmark Justified as a pretender to Sons of Anarchy’s crown as the grittiest show about ‘real’ America currently going out.

Justified Season 1 airs Wednesdays @ 10pm on Five USA in the UK and goes out on FX Tuesdays @ 10pm in the States.

Other Musings:

- I wasn’t sure if I was tripping or not at the time, but I could’ve sworn I saw Huey from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals presenting a show about pets on Sky1 the other day.

I’m all for diversity in one’s career and I could handle Huey on that gash racing show Slips on MTV or whichever ‘music’ channel it airs on but hosting a show about dogs with Liza Tarbuck!? This is the man that gave us Scooby Snacks for crying out loud!

The irony of that last comment is not lost on me.

- I’m not ashamed to admit it, I watch Glee.

Not by choice per se, but the girlfriend watches it and thus so do I. The same goes for her being forced to watch 24, Lost et al, although she does draw the line at True Blood – convincing her it wasn’t that grisly and then someone cooking a human heart soufflé in the first episode she watched with me was rather unfortunate it has to be said.

Back to Glee though and there seems to have been somewhat of a backlash recently, at least in the UK, from people who don’t watch the show who are sick of hearing classic songs ruined by people from the show. I can understand where they’re coming from if I’m honest. The singing is probably my least favourite part of the show and very wrongly those not in the know seem to think that is what the show is all about.

There are also those idiots out there who do watch the show who focus entirely on the songs, ignoring the razor sharp writing, some wonderfully observed characters and some top notch performances from a very well-cast troupe of actors.

If nothing else, what the people who hate on Glee need to realise is that the show is funny, at times: damn funny. The main laughs coming from Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester, quite possibly the greatest TV character created this decade and the wonderful supporting character Brittany (Heather Morris) – a ditzy blonde who comes out with some of the greatest one-liners and non-sequitars since Tracy Jordan.

If Jane Lynch doesn’t win some big awards – and I’m talking Emmys and Golden Globes here – for her role a Sue then there is something seriously wrong somewhere.

Seriously, if you haven’t already, try and get past the, at times, impossibly annoying singing and give Glee a chance.

- Lost started its move in to the home straight with a shocker last week, killing off 3 (possibly 4) main characters. Sayid, Sun, Jin and possibly Lapidus were all victims of The Man in Black, and inadvertently Sawyer, as a bomb ripped apart the submarine the survivors were trying to escape on.

No doubt this won’t be the last we see of any of them, but it was still shocking to see so many major characters bumped off in quick succession. It really has woken everyone up to the anything can happen nature of the show as it nears the end I think, and who is next for the chop I can only speculate.

Not that I bought it anyway, but at least we now know Desmond is still alive and my anticipation for next week’s further exploration of Jacob and The Man in Black’s past has now reached fever pitch.

- If I held my TV or not TV Awards this week, I think that the Man of the Year Award would almost certainly be going to Ty Burrell.

His work on Modern Family as Phil Dunphy is just brilliant. He is consistently the funniest thing on a very funny show and deserves far greater recognition for his performance than he’s been receiving.

- Michael Madsen guest starring on 24 was a very welcome addition to the final season of the show.

Season 8 has already seen an impressive list of guest appearances, but Madsen is probably the most high profile. Hopefully that wasn’t the last we’ve seen of him as I’d like to get a greater sense of Jack Bauer’s history before the show finally bows out.

Elsewhere as the clock slowly ticks towards its final tock, Jack has spiralled into full on Tony-mode in his quest for vengeance for Renee’s murder. This was a very wise move by the writers, giving the viewer one last chance to see Jack in the bad-ass mindset that people originally gravitated towards. I am genuinely excited to see what big shocks they have in store for the final crop of episodes.

Speaking of 24…

24 Day 8 Death Counter:

Hour 18

Episode Death Total = 0

Cumulative Season Death Total = 81

(Ongoing) Jack Bauer Kills (JBK) Total = 21

Hour 19

Episode Death Total = 0

Cumulative Season Death Total = 81

(Ongoing) Jack Bauer Kills (JBK) Total = 21

Yes, you read that correctly 2 blood free hours for 24. I get the feeling that won’t be a recurring theme though…


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