After the jump, my column from Sunday's Beacon Journal on the FX series, premiering tonight. Recommended.
I almost immediately fell under the spell of Justified, an FX series premiering at 10 p.m. Tuesday. But that tends to happen when I see something with Elmore Leonard's name attached.
OK, it didn't happen with Be Cool. But Justified is far better than that misfire, and embraces Elmore's blend of humor, intriguing characters and tangled events that resemble life more than an artificially blended plot.
Justified stars Timothy Olyphant of Deadwood as Raylan Givens, a federal marshal who has appeared several times in Leonard's work, including the short story Fire in the Hole, the basis for the series premiere, and the novels Riding the Rap and Pronto. (James LeGros played Givens in a TV-movie version of Pronto.)
The title refers to a word that pops up a lot in conversation with Givens, especially when the talk involves bad guys Givens has shot. Such shootings are always legally justified to Givens, even if his superiors do not completely agree.
The ambiguity of one such shooting leads to Givens being sent into exile at the marshals' office in Kentucky, which also happens to be Givens' home turf. There is no shortage of bad people in Kentucky, and one of them is a guy Givens knew back when: Boyd Crowder, skillfully played by The Shield's Walton Goggins. It doesn't take long for Givens and Crowder to cross paths. Still, in three episodes made available for preview, they are not on the only path the show wanders down. And Crowder is far from the only person with whom Givens has history.
I like the show for many reasons, from the acting to the dialogue to the way it lets a story unfold like a Leonard novel. That means even the smart people do dumb things, and the dumb people have an excellent chance of getting maimed or killed.
Credit the accomplishments of the series to Graham Yost, who is an executive producer and show-runner as well as writer of the first two episodes and the sixth. (There are 13 scheduled.) He also has gathered other good writers, and solid directors. In fact, Yost is on a roll right now, since in addition to Justified he had a hand in The Pacific, the new World War II miniseries on HBO.
But I talk about The Pacific elsewhere. Here let me say again that Justified will, well, justify your viewing investment.