Fans of Justified, show yourselves! Where are you? Why aren’t there more of you? Have you never seen this show? Why not?
My favorite character on television is Raylan Givens. Raylan and the other US Marshals on Justifed show bad guys why crime doesn’t pay. But Raylan has a special way of doing so.
I found out about Justified because I was enamored with Timothy Olyphant’s performance as the sheriff on HBO’s Deadwood, Seth Bullock. But where Seth Bullock was all business, high morals, and cold stares, Raylan has an easy way with the ladies, a quick hand with a gun, and such a cool temper that he manages to be nonchalant even in the most dangerous situations. Here is a character in the classic mold of the All-American Cowboy. He even wears a cowboy hat.
Plus, he says things like this:
“I shot people I like more for less.”
“That’s a 10-gallon hat on a 20-gallon head.”
and “I’m going to need an ambulance, and a coroner.”
In addition, there’s Boyd Crowder, my second favorite character on TV, played with arguably more gusto by Walton Goggins (The Sheild). Raylan and Boyd have a great TV relationship. They’re on opposite sides of the law, they always seem to be at odds, and yet, they are twin souls. Something draws them to each other, and, even more importantly, something keeps them from killing each other. Perhaps Boyd is the only criminal that respects Raylan enough to survive him and so, as repayment for what Raylan considers a compliment, he lets Boyd be Boyd.
Why did the Season 4 finale only garner 4 million viewers? Why was that the highest Justified‘s ratings have gotten? If this was a horse race, would Justified show? Certainly, on viewership alone, it wouldn’t even place. But on quality, this is a thoroughbred from hearty stock. Its lead actors are those we’ve talked about. It’s based on a short story and a couple of novels by Elmore Leonard, the author who perfected crime comedy with novels like Get Shorty and Out of Sight (both of which were hit movies).
And need I remind you that it’s just generally fun and easy to watch? Sure it has slow episodes, but so do all great dramas. The relationships and dialog all seem like the kind of thing that would be talked about around a water-cooler the next day, and everyone who watches it seems to love it. So why don’t more people watch it?
Maybe there aren’t enough TV fanatics like me touting it in their columns. Maybe there aren’t enough people left in the world that want to watch a cowboy. Maybe the whole idea of a calm gunslinger who beds every woman who looks at him is outdated and feels cliché to many people, even if it’s done well. Maybe the uncomfortable race relations it depicts in its backwoods Kentucky setting make people uncomfortable. Maybe it’s just too violent for most people. Maybe. But when you look at The Walking Dead, you see a lot of the same possible turn-offs, and that show keeps breaking its own ratings records.
I might never know why Justified isn’t everyone else’s favorite show. I may be blinded to its flaws, as so many women are to Raylan’s. I do know one thing, though. I know that I will continue to watch, and that I am not alone when I say I am thankful that FX has decided to renew the show for a fifth season. If you haven’t watched the show, or you don’t like it, I want to know why! Leave a comment, let’s discuss.
Catch Justified tonight at 10pm on FX.