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Timothy Olyphant

September 8, 2012

Simplistic TV: Longmire

GENERIC

Do you want to see a terrific cable television show that is a modern day western starring a cowboy hat wearing, no nonsense lawman who is based on a character from a best selling novel?  Yeah?  Then watch Justified on FX.  Do you want to see a cable television show that has all those same attributes, but only manages to come off as a cheaper alternative?  Yeah?  Really??  Then watch Longmire.  Longmire, a freshman show on A&E, just exudes that feeling you had when you were 10 years old and your parents bought you the GENERIC Apple Dapples instead of the name brand Apple Jacks.  And while I admit to having a personal bias of favoritism toward Justified, there is no question that Longmire, as a whole, is simply just plain.

The cast and their performances are pretty plain as well.  Katee Sackhoff, most known from Fox’s 24 and SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica, is the lone bright spot on the show.  Sackhoff seems to always bring to her characters something captivating and real.  However, she is only a costar here.  The titular role of Longmire is played by Robert Taylor.  You know, the guy from that thing with the other guy…no?  Okay, yeah, I don’t know him from anything other than his role as Agent Jones in The Matrix.  And his personality is about the same here.  To be a star of a western your main character has to be a little fun.  He can be dry and badass but still wink at the camera a bit with his coolness.  Eastwood got this.  Timothy Olyphant gets this.  Taylor doesn’t.

What makes a western feel like a western is not just that it takes place out west.  As I’ve said before, westerns are mythical.  They are fairy tales about rich characters stuck in extraordinary situations facing off with one another.  They possess style and fun and don’t ever take themselves completely seriously.  That’s why Inglourious Basterds feels like a western.  Why The Way Of The Gun feels like a western.  Serenity, No Country For Old Men, Justified…they all give off that air of western.  But Longmire lacks style, rich characters, and the friction of a great face off.  Its just a very dry police procedural based in a western town.  It tries to copy the atmosphere and the gimmick of Justified, but forgets it’s most important quality.  The magic.  Kick your boots up, watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

July 20, 2012

Justified

CHARACTER

Elmore Leonard has made a career out of creating great characters.  So much so, they tend to pop back up again in other stories and films from time to time.  This cross film character appearance thing Marvel is doing with their superheroes…it was done before with Ray Nicolette in Out Of Sight & Jackie Brown.  That said, two of Leonard’s characters get more airplay than the rest.  Karen Sisco of the previously mentioned Out Of Sight and Raylan Givens.  Givens made his first appearance in a tv movie based on the Elmore Leonard book called Pronto.  He then made his reappearance on his own show Justified.

So, what makes Raylan special?  The same thing that makes the show special.  He has CHARACTER.  From his trademark cowboy hat and southern charm, to his always simmering rage and quick trigger finger.  Played brilliantly by Timothy Olyphant, The Deputy US Marshall of Harlan County is layered with CHARACTER.  But he’s just the anchor of the show.  Justified, in it’s brief stint on tv has become the show to watch if you want to see uber interesting characters and interesting performances to boot.  It might be the only show I can remember seeing where the hero’s arch nemesis is probably just as beloved as the hero himself.  That arch nemesis being Boyd Crowder.  Brought to life by Walton Goggins, Boyd Crowder is the Joker to Raylan’s Batman.  However, you respect and love his wit, his brains, and his rapport with Raylan.  The character was supposed to die in the pilot but was so good they made him a staple on the show.  Raylan and Boyd’s relationship is the life blood of Justified.   
Justified at its core is just a modern day Western set in a country town.  But the plot of the show isn’t what makes it great.  Its the placement of the amazing CHARACTERS in different situations and seeing how they react to one another.  One moment Raylan or Boyd or Dickie Bennett or Wynn Duffy or Robert Quarles or Limehouse could be smiling and laughing with you.  Then, at the drop of a hat, shoot a dozen holes right through your chest.  Its a CHARACTER driven show that is easily my favorite show on tv right now. You won’t be able to watch just one episode.  Go ahead.  Watch one…then tell me I’m wrong. 
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