Tag Archives: Justified

End of Season Report: Justified, Season 6

17 Apr


Justified is a story about the hold the past maintains on the present, and the ability or lack thereof of its characters to break away from a place and a people that are embedded so deep within them that they don’t know any another way. For the people who live in rural Kentucky counties like Harlan and Bennett, removed from the outside world even while part of it, the shadow of the past hangs heavily over every decision and every action. The question Justified asks is whether these people are unable to change because the past has predestined them not to do so, or because the self-perpetuated belief that they can’t change is buried so far within them that they truly believe they can’t, even when they can.

Change and free will are so antithetical to these characters that in the sixth season it almost feels as if they’re just wound up like toys and put on a track, bound to continue straight away even that means crashing into each other. By halfway through the season, there are no surprises, and everyone knows the score. Avery has a shitload of money in a safe, Boyd is going to attempt to take that money, one way or another, and Raylan is going to attempt to stop him. Boyd knows that Raylan and Avery know he plans on stealing the money, but this doesn’t deter him in the least. If anything, it motivates him more. Boyd knows he’s being teased and baited; Raylan at one point shows him the vault, and they both know what’s going on. Raylan is triggering Boyd’s animal instinct to desire that quality of cash and Boyd gets the requisite sniff of money. Boyd is self-aware. He knows he’s being set up. But it simply doesn’t matter. Stealing money is what he does.

The specter of Raylan’s potential death hung over the finale, both because of conventions of the western and crime genres which Justified inhabits and because we’ve been trained to expect that ending from many recent prestige dramas featuring antiheroes. But Raylan never was a traditional antihero in the same vein as some of TV’s other famous members of that category (Walter White, Tony Soprano); while he disobeyed his bosses and went around the law, he was generally good, honest, trustworthy, and never out for himself in the way the Sopranos and Whites of the world were. He didn’t deserve to die. For all his worry about his ability to change, he was never the same as his father. He just didn’t know it yet.

Raylan’s entire existence was defined by his desire to not become his father and he was able to finally get out from under this obsession before it cost him in the end. He won his battle and ended the hold his father, dead since the fourth season, had on him.  Raylan’s obsession with catching Boyd and putting him away, showing that he was the opposite of his weasely criminal father, was at fever pitch in the final season. The one-last-big-score theme was as resonant for him as it was for Boyd, only his score was Boyd. Art and others warned him multiple times that he if he ddin’t step back in time, it might be too late, and it did seem as if the ground work was all set up for him to tragically die just before he could get out to Miami and his daughter.

Raylan may never have gone so far as to have a death wish but he consistently put himself in more risk than necessary in his pursuit of the filth that stood in for his father. Raylan less needed to change his actions than change his perception of himself of someone who could live a stable life outside of constantly facing death, and his daughter gives him a pretty good motivation to do so.

Boyd gives Raylan a chance, in the finale, to face him, and to finish him off rather than send him to prison. Raylan declines. It may have been a tough decision, but for all of Raylan’s quick-draw reputation, it was always what Raylan was going to do. Though all his frustration, including his blood feud with Boyd, that’s never who Raylan was. When Raylan in that moment, lives up to who he knew he can be and stands down, he’s ready to move on.

Eva is over the course of the series Justified’s most tragic character. Unlike Boyd and Raylan, she was thrown into this whole criminal-lawman struggle not of her own volition, although she was eventually swept up by Boyd’s powerful charisma enough to become almost as enthusiastic about thieving as he was. Her time in prison actually taught her a lesson, not just in terms of the consequences of her criminality (unlike most of the male criminals who seem to have been in and out of prison over the course of their lives, the harshness of prison was a real eye-opener for Eva), but in the truth of who Boyd really was. Boyd really and truly did love her, but that was beside the point. He was always going after the money.  However much he loved Eva, he loved the money or what it represented, more.

Eva initially came by criminality second-hand, via her husband, Boyd’s abusive brother, who she killed. Soon, she met Boyd and was swept into the tide of crime through his sheer force of personality. Eva was taken by the magic, by the promise of freedom, by the Thelma and Louise/Bonnie and Clyde/Butch and Cassidy feeling of two against the world. Prison taught her reality. The second turning point came in the final season when Boyd received reward money through a sting Raylan set up to tempt Boyd to go after Avery’s larger stash. Eva tried to persuade Boyd that even with the reward money they had enough to get out, to leave Kentucky and set up shop wherever they wanted free and clear. If he really cared about her, if what he wanted was really what she wanted, to get out, to be free, this was the chance.

He thought about it, but in the end, as both he and Raylan knew, there was no way he was leaving that money. That moment was a blessing in disguise for Eva, even though it didn’t seem that way at the time. She was finally free of Boyd’s power; unlike Raylan and Boyd, she didn’t have the long familial history of crime in her bones. If she managed to survive the ordeal, which was certainly not a given, the hold of the past was broken for Eva, who, seemingly on the edge of dying or at the least going back to prison for most of the final season, was able to have an unlikely happy ending.

And as for Boyd, well he gets off easy as well. If he doesn’t, like Raylan and Eva, get to actually break the cycle of the past, he gets a reset, a rewind to another point in his personal timeline, where he’s back to a level of religiosity which we saw early in the series. Boyd will be taking over that prison in no time. Boyd, for all his oozing charisma and for all his high talk, Boyd is who he is. Boyd always was a criminal, and he probably always will be. His desires exist only as far as his next big score.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2014 edition: 31-28

13 Feb

Four more shows on my list. A great show coming off its worst season, a cancelled show coming of its best, a new show, and a consistently good but not great sitcom.

Intro here and 43-40 here and 39-36 here and 35-32 here.

31. Jane the Virgin – 2013: Ineligible

Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin is an excellent new entrant to the TV sphere. The first word that comes to mind as emblematic of the show is delightful. Jane is more than that – it’s funny, clever, heartwarming, and emotion-packed, but on the whole, in the wake of so much heavy, humorless, prestige television, like the recently covered AMC’s The Walking Dead, Jane the Virgin is a real pleasure to watch. The writers traipse across the world of telenovelas and soaps with a winking meta-eye, but in the course of that wondering, develop a world of characters we care about. The best of these are Jane and her family, including her mother, grandmother, and recently discovered father, all of whom (except occasionally Jane, who is occasionally a little too sainted) are riddled with believable flaws, and then strung together by love and the ability to see past these flaws for the bigger picture. Gina Rodriguez delivers an absolute breakout performance as Jane who centers the show. The overall vision is occasionally muddled; from episode to episode, the tone can be inconsistent, veering more serious, or more humorous, more real, or more absurd, but on the whole, Jane the Virgin is a treat.

30. The Mindy Project – 2013: 30

The Mindy Project

The Mindy Project has struggled to find itself, with many minor problems over its first couple of seasons. The one major problem was the show’s utter inability to develop solid supporting characters, which continues to this day. The show got one thing really, really right though, and it had the smarts, like The Bridge which I wrote about earlier, to recognize what the core of the show should be when it appeared even if it wasn’t part of the initial plan. In the first two seasons, Mindy went through a series of love interests, several which were more appealing than most of the other regular characters on the show, until she finally started dating Danny. While I’ve often complained about the cheap and unsatisfying strategy of going to the main-characters-dating-each-other well, Mindy is an example of a show in which that trope simply works. Mindy and Danny as the core of the show are strong, both as individual characters and in their relationship. The show is still constantly struggling to work around them. Side characters are in and out, the show has struggled to make meaningful plots using Jeremy, the only other remaining character from the premiere, while Adam Pally, who had been the best tertiary character outside of Morgan, is leaving. The Mindy Project has the Mindy and Danny relationship, however, despite all that, and that counts for a lot.

29. Justified – 2013: 5


Justified has been, over the course of its life, a great, not good, show, and it pains me to put it so low. Unfortunately, in this golden age of television, one slip, like this past weakest season of Justified had, and so many other show are ready to jump right ahead. The fifth season, after a promising start, was largely a disappointment. The writers didn’t really know where they wanted to go, and it showed. Justified relies on its antagonists to provide a strong contrast for our heroes; like the better seasons of Dexter, the antagonist is in some part, a vehicle against which Raylan Givens measures himself. The rival Crowe family, led by Wendy, a lawyer trying to go legit, and her brother, Darryl, part somewhat competent and somewhat incompetent crime boss, and the Kendal, a boy torn in the middle. Justified specializes in both competent and incompetent criminals, and it seemed as if it couldn’t make up its mind about which one Darryl, the lead antagonist should be. Eva’s prison side plot had potential but felt disjointed throughout. While even this inferior season had occasional highlights, including the performance of surprisingly excellent kid actor Jacob Lofland of Mud as Kendal, the season on the whole was a letdown.

28. The Bridge – 2013: 40

The Bridge

The first season of The Bridge was a mess. There was potential, and some things worked, but it never quite came together. The two main actors were fine, and the idea of exploring the border between Mexico and Texas and the drug trade which overwhelms everything else in the area was promising. That exploration though seemed to just be a stalking horse for a psychopathic serial killer with a personal vendetta against one of the protagonists, which was a disappointment. The second season, though, exhibited a rare quality. The creators clearly went back, saw plainly what worked and what didn’t, and doubled down on what worked, while slowly peeling away what didn’t. This seems like an obvious approach, but it’s shocking how infrequently it happens, either because writers don’t see what’s wrong with their shows, don’t want to see, don’t want to risk messing up what they have, or feel unable to improve it. The reporter side characters, a highlight of the first season, had much larger parts, while Charlotte and creepy Linder, obvious weak points, were slowly written out. Rather than one freak serial killer, the season dived into the murky corruption and government rivalries and tensions at the heart of the Mexican-American relationship. Because of this stark improvement, I was particularly saddened that The Bridge was cancelled. It’s sad to see a show really finding its feet only to have its head chopped off.

End of Season Report: Justified, Season 5

9 Apr


I’m a huge fan of Justified. I ranked it #5 in my rankings of every show that I watched in 2013, which covered Justified’s wonderful fourth season. Unfortunately, while still a highly enjoyable show, Justified delivered a fifth season that was not up to the caliber of its past four seasons, and I can’t see it appearing nearly as highly ranked next year.

There’s plenty to say about the season but here are the central problems, which I’ll break down in further detail below. First, the antagonists were not as compelling as in previous seasons. Second, the season meandered and never seemed to have a strong sense of direction propelling it forwards. Third, the finale was somewhat anticlimactic and seemed more like a set up for next year’s final season big bad epic showdown between Raylan and Boyd than any sort of satisfying conclusion to this season.

There were good pieces, which I will touch upon, and as with most very high level television, it’s enjoyable episode to episode even when not as satisfying as its peak. That said, it suffers the curse fairly or not of being held to higher expectations, and it’s against those very high expectations, and not the expectations for an average series that Justified is judged.

Justified’s first season was a largely a compilation of one-off stories, slowly building the world which Justified inhabits, before ending with a multi-episode arc. Since then, each season has had a strong serial storyline which guided the season along. Seasons two and three had primary antagonists – Margo Martindale’s Mags Bennett in season two and Neal McDonough’s Robert Quarles in season three. Bennett’s superiority to Quarles as an antagonist was the largest part of what made season two superior to season three.  Season four broke that formula and worked around the search for a man who had been missing since the ‘70s but was living right under the nose of both the police and the criminal element in Kentucky, unrecognizable in the present to anyone still living. Season five revolved around the trials and tribulations of the Crowe family and in particular primary antagonist Daryl Crowe.

Daryl Crowe just wasn’t up to those previous antagonists’ standards for two primary reasons. First, he simply didn’t carry the weight and intimidation that the previous antagonists (or of course series long antagonist Boyd) did. While a certified genius compared to his Crowe brethren, he is still fairly incompetent; it was never believable he’d pose much of a threat to Raylan or Boyd or to anyone else. The show tried to take care of this somewhat by having him become an employee/minority partner of Boyd’s halfway through the season, but it was somewhat hard to believe that Boyd would even place a small amount of trust in Daryl. He wasn’t a particularly good criminal, he wasn’t a particularly scary criminal, and he just never really found a place in Kentucky or in Justified.

Second, forget Daryl’s plot role. He just wasn’t very compelling. His brother Dewey is a complete idiot, but he’s hilarious, and always lights up the screen whenever he appears. Daryl didn’t. Wynn Duffy, who I was glad to greet as a regular this past season, always spoke his piece quickly and dryly, and had a way of being as wittily direct as Boyd is loquacious. Daryl simply didn’t have the same on-screen charisma as any of these other baddies. When he was on the screen, you never felt like you didn’t want to turn away. There was nothing about him that stood out.

It’s likely related to this first issue that the season meandered and felt directionless at times. Seasons two through four ratcheted up as they went forward, building tension until reaching a satisfying climax and resolution. I could generally tell approximately where Justified was in the season by the tension of the events on screen.

It’s not to say that Justified is tied to these rules of how a season must go, but past seasons were stronger and this is one reason why. There may well be more interesting paths for a season to take, and other shows may thrive on a meandering climax-less journey, but Justified season five certainly did not.

Characters came in and out of nowhere, and for most of the first half of the season I just took it on faith because Justified had yet to not deliver, but by the finale, or really by the last few episodes, I did wonder what the plan was for the season as a whole, if it changed, and if it was developed somewhat as the season went along. It felt like the writers hit a couple of snafus and weren’t sure exactly where to go.

I love Boyd as a character but it’s beginning to feel like he gets away from slippery situations one time too often. He’s smart and he’s good, but he isn’t that smart and that good to evade both the law and rival criminal elements for this long, especially if he keeps taking on far more of a burden than he can handle, like he did this season with heroin, not to mention a cartel which was a lot harder to battle than his Dixie mafia rivals.

This is all leading to the third complaint. Ultimately by the time we got to the end of the season it felt like less of a satisfying season long conclusion than just a get-ready-for-the-final-season hurrah where the two primary characters through five seasons of the show, Raylan and Boyd, finally go head-to-head, with the implication that since it’s the final season, one of them will actually go down for good. Eva’s time in jail had some interesting character building moments, and I’m certainly not claiming it was worthless by any means, but the way it ended made it feel at least partly like it was simply a way to separate Eva and Boyd and ultimately get Eva to turn on Boyd and cooperate with Raylan.

The season ended with a chase for Daryl which was less than inspiring; no one thought Daryl would get away, and Wendy shooting Daryl was fairly predictable by the time it happened and relatively uninteresting. Boyd outwitting the cartel employees was equally anticlimactic. Although they were legitimately scary dudes, the tension was cut somewhat by the fact that Boyd had zero chance of not coming out of the situation on top. Overall, the ending of the season seemed largely like an afterthought to steer us towards season six.

The best Crowe this season other than the always delightful Dewey was actually young Kendal. Justified did pull one trick from up its sleeve – hiring a surprisingly good child actor (Jacob Lofland, who was also excellent in Mud). Some of the best moments of the season involved Raylan with Kendal, and though Raylan’s obvious connection to Kendal, being raised by some serious criminals, is hardly subtle, the scenes pack power.

Like a Faulkner novel, Justified is about the power of history, and the inability to free one’s self from it. Harlan county and its environs are composed of families who have been doing what they do, often criminal activity in Justified’s case, for generations. Boyd’s daddy was a criminal, and he became a criminal. Raylan’s daddy was a criminal, and Raylan became a lawman, but the reasons were as much because of his father’s criminal behavior as Boyd’s becoming a criminal was. Family is essential in Justified’s world as an inescapable force from which people can’t free themselves no matter how much they might want to – the Bennett’s, the Crowders, the Givens’ and others. Even third season antagonist Robert Quarles’ aggression stemmed in part from his lack of family; he was adopted by the Tonin’s but no matter what he did, could never be seen as their real son. These themes are powerful and generally handled very strongly on Justified. The Crowes, another criminal family bringing down Wendy and Kendal, couldn’t compete with those other families, but I earnestly felt for Kendal, ruthlessly manipulated by his uncle and unprotected by his mother who was unable to, until the season’s end, find the strength to separate herself from Daryl’s orbit.

Raylan’s deteriorating relationship with Art was also a highlight of the season. Art’s punching Raylan in the bar was the most satisfying cheap shot on an arrogant bastard since Mike clocked Walter White. It’s hard not to root for Raylan in the big picture but it’s also only right that his general approach to simply doing whatever he wants on the job without much concern for what’s best for the team actually starts only to rub his boss the wrong way and have consequences for Raylan. It’s good to see Art start to stand up to Raylan and stop letting him get with anything.

What it comes down to is that I hope Justified has a blast in its last season (and I don’t mean this as a pun on Boyd’s love of explosives). This is a show I want to look forward to going out at the absolute top of its game. Hopefully, this past fifth season is merely remembered as a little bit of a weak spot leading up to a powerful finale, rather than a sign that peak Justified was in the past.


Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: 8-5

10 Feb

Three dramas and an 11 minute comedy, one of the dramas a debut, and the other two a couple of veterans of the top of these rankings. 8-5 coming up.

8. The Americans

They're really Soviet!

The incredibly strong freshman drama crop of spring 2013 strikes again on this list. The Americans was a revelation, a show that was a must watch almost right out of the gate. The way Hannibal belied my tiredness of cop-genius shows, The Americans belied my tiredness of shows set in the past. Two deep cover Soviet spies conduct missions while living a life as an ordinary family with kids who know nothing of who their parents really are. Their neighbor is an FBI agent working to expose Soviet deep cover spies with no idea that a pair of spies live next door. There’s so many layers of subterfuge, both literally and figuratively; it almost seems like it could be too much and too on the nose, but it works. There are great and sometimes funny action spy set pieces which bring you in but underneath it’s a show about identity and relationships and truth and lies and the wide ground between. Get on the bandwagon now.

7. Mad Men

Don Draper, Rainy Day

This was probably the weakest season for Mad Men, at least in a while, but that being said, it’s still Mad Men, and it’s still pretty great. The weakness was largely the fault of Don’s plotlines, which felt repetitive, treading ground we’ve tread before, but slightly worse, and Matt Weiner seemed hell-bent on sending him lower than he had ever been before, which would be fine if it wasn’t simply not particularly gripping. Luckily, everyone else’s plots were there to pick us up. Peggy had a fantastic season, Betty actually became a real, interesting character, rather than a caricature, and Sally continued to develop, and had a couple of really powerful moments to shine in the second half of the sesaon. Likewise Roger and Pete, who I felt bad for for the fist time in the series, which is an impressive achievement. New characters Ted and Jim were welcome additions. An absolutely surreal episode broke up the season, and while I’m not sure how I feel about it overall it contained a Ken Cosgrove tap dance which made the episode worthwhile in and of itself. I say it again. Even non-vintage Mad Men is very excellent TV.

6. Eagleheart

Marhsal Chris Monsanto

The weirdest and almost certainly least watched show on my list, Eagleheart is a show I’ve desperately tried to convince every single person I run into to watch. Like Venture Bros., it’s absolutely not for everyone, but anyone who has any taste for absurdist humor should get on board immediately. Eagleheart is far an away the most absurd non-animated show on TV, making something like Childrens Hospital seem like The Wire in terms of reality in comparison. Chris Elliott plays US Marshal Chris Monsanto, and well, it’s just nuts, trying to attempt to explain any of the best episodes might take more than the 11 minutes the episodes take to watch. The best Eagleheart episodes change plots three or four times per episode. While normally Eagleheart episodes are disconnected, the third season was loosely strung together in an arc called Paradise Rising. The first two seasons were great, but this may be the best yet. My favorite episode Spatz, is mind-bogglingly ridiculous and equally wonderful and hilarious.

5. Justified

Raylan Givens

If it’s not already obvious, we’re getting to the crème de la crème here. Justified warmed up in its first season, hit some serious heights in its second, suffered a small comedown with its third season and followed that with an absolutely exemplary fourth season. Everything that makes Justfied work was present in the season; Timothy Olyphant’s suburb portrayal of Marshal Raylan Givens, a character that could easily become an anti-hero caricature if not played and written exactly right. The season features fantastic Elmore Leonard-inspired settings and crackling dialogue; Justified is a funny show, and a hit parade of idiot criminals and witty retorts by the more competent among them keep it crackling. The season long plot was compelling and fascinating and guest stars were spot on, including dramatic turns for comedians, which Justified does better than anyone, including Patton Oswalt and Mike O’Malley and stellar work from underrated character actor Jim Beaver. That fourth season for me elevated Justified to a near-certain TV hall of famer in my mind.

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Gerald McRaney

24 Jul

Gerald McRaney

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

Here at the Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame, we often like to celebrate character actors who don’t get their due.  But, occasionally, as today, we’re celebrating the career of an absolute TV titan whose work we still believe is underrated.

McRaney’s sheer amount of work is unbelievable.  His first TV role was in 1972 in an episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.  In the early ‘70s he appeared in episodes of Alias Smith and Jones, Cannon, The F.B.I., Sons and Daughters, The Waltons, and Mannix.  He was the last guest star to meet Matt Dillion in Gunsmoke.  He was an incredibly busy guest star in the second half of the decade as well, appearing in two episodes of Petrocelli, Police Woman, and The Streets of San Francisco, three of The Blue Knight and Barnaby Jones, and single episodes of CHiPs, Eight is Enough, Switch, Hawaii Five-0, The Oregon Trail, The Six-million Dollar Man, Baretta, The Dukes of Hazzard, and in a series adaptation of Logan’s Run.  He was in four episodes each of The Incredible Hulk and The Rockford Files.  He appeared in TV movies The Jordan Chance, Women in White, and The Aliens are Coming.

Rick Simon

After appearing in TV movies The Seal, Where the Ladies Go, and Rape and Marriage: The Rideout Case, McRaney got his first huge break, starring in detective series Simon & Simon, as Rick Simon.  Simon & Simon operated as a classic partners-are-opposites set up.  Rick was the tough, street smart, brother; he was formerly a Marine who fought in Vietnam, while his brother AJ was book smart, financially savvy and fashionable.  Rick was a free spirit who liked pick up trucks and lived on a boat in his brother’s yard.*  The series lasted an incredible 8 seasons and 157 episodes, and yet no one can still remember the actor who played AJ (Jameson Parker – and don’t act like it was on the tip of your tongue).

While busy on the series, he found time to film a series of TV movies, including Memories Never Die, The Haunting Passion, City Killer, Easy Prey, A Hobo’s Christmas, The People Across the Lake, and the sublimely named Where The Hell’s That Gold?!!?  He crossed over as Simon into an episode of Magnum, and showed up in two Designing Womens.

Major Dad

Immediately after Simon & Simon ended, McRaney showed his range by starring in his next successful show, the four season sitcom Major Dad, where he played Major John D. “Mac” MacGillis, a commander of an infantry training school who falls in love with a liberal journalist who has three daughters.  For the second time in two shows, he played a Marine.  The show lasted four seasons on CBS.

During Major Dad’s run, he still found time for TV movies, including Murder by Moonlight, Blind Vengeance, Vestige of Honor, Love and Curses..And All That Jazz (I don’t look into every one of these TV movies because the entries would become thousands and thousands of words – but I couldn’t resist this one – IMDB lists the premise as “A private investigator and her husband, who is a doctor, investigate rumors of a dead woman who was brought back to life by a voodoo spell.” and it also features Delta Burke, who is McRaney’s real life wife playing that role as well as Elizabeth Ashley), and Fatal Friendship.

He basically spent the rest of the mid-90s filming a ridiculous amount of TV movies, none of which you will have ever heard of, but which I will list, because as I’ve said many times, TV movies have the best names.  Scattered Dreams, Armed and Innocent, Motorcycle Gang, Deadly Vows, Someone She Knows, Jake Lassiter: Justice on the Bayou (this may be the best name of this list), Not Our Son, The Stranger Beside Me, Nothing Lasts Forever, Home of the Brave, A Nightmare Comes True, A Thousand Men and a Baby (this may have now taken over as best title) and a Simon & Simon reunion entitled Simon & Simon: In Trouble Again.  He appeared on single episodes of Burke’s Law, The Commish, Diagnosis Murder, Coach, and Murder, She Wrote.

He appeared in seven episodes of Darren Star created one-season CBS primetime soap Central Park West, which starred Mariel Hemingway and Raquel Welch and he appeared in seven episodes of the much more successful CBS drama Touched by an Angel.  His recurring character on Touched, Russell Greene, was spun off onto his own CBS drama, Promised Land, which lasted three seasons, and which I don’t even remember existing.  The show was the story of Greene and his family traveling throughout the United States in their airstream trailer, even though everything was filmed in Utah.

The early ‘00s was possibly the least fertile period of McRaney’s career, and he still collected several series appearances and TV movie roles.  Movies included Shake, Rattle, and Roll: An American Love Story, A Holiday Romance, Take Me Home: The John Denver Story, Danger Beneath the Sea (new best title contender!), Becoming Glen, Tornado Warning, The Dan Show, Going for Broke, and Ike: Countdown to D-Day, where he played Patton.  He was in two JAGs, two Third Watch episodes, an episode of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, and two West Wings.

George Hearst

In 2005, he made his first of 13 appearances on David Milch’s HBO western Deadwood, where he played George Hearst, a villainous mining baron who unites the town of Deadwood against him.  In 2006, he starred in cult CBS post-apocalyptic series Jericho as Johnston Green, Mayor of Jericho, father of main character Jake, and again, a military veteran.

In the past few years, McRaney, now in his 60s, has been as in demand as ever.  He was in two episodes of Women’s Murder Club and a CSI.  He co-starred in JJ Abrams’ short-lived spy drama Undercovers in 2011, as CIA handler Carlton Shaw, who brought back the two main characters into the agency.  He played a recurring judge in five episodes of USA’s Fairly Legal, who had a grudge against main character Kate for switching from law to mediation. He was in two episodes of Netflix’s House of Cards as Raymond Tusk, a wealthy industrialist and long-time friend and confidante of the president.  He was in two episodes of Justified as Josiah Cairn, friend of the hillbillies and of Raylan’s dad, who claims to know where Drew Thompson is.  He was in five episodes of Southland and six of Mike & Molly.  Most recently he’s appeared in three of A&E western Longmire.

Phew.  That was a long one.  What’s also kind of incredible is just how few movies McRaney has been in relative to his television work, which has been more or less completely constant since 1980.  What a career, and it shows no signs of slowing down.  Welcome to the Hall, Gerald.

*I erroneously originally put that Rick lived in a trailer on his brother’s property, rather than a boat.  Thank you for correcting me, commenter – my boneheaded error.

Who Are Those Guys: Justified, Season 3

3 Apr

The Man with the Hat

It’s time to try out a new feature here at The Drug of the Nation.  Episodes of TV shows are filled with tons of “that guys” – character actors, tv veterans, up and coming actors, main characters from other shows looking to branch out.  At “Who Are Those Guys” we’ll go through a season of a show and point out notable actors and actresses who appeared in that show over the course of the season, what role they played in the show, and where you may have seen them before.  There’s obviously going to have to be some discretion in the choices, as there’s more than enough noteworthy actors and actresses in any season of a show to write about, so please let me know if I miss a personal favorite in the comments.  Because there are so many, we’ll focus only on actors appearing for the first time in the season, and we’re not including main cast members.

Our first instance of “Who are Those Guys” will take on the recently finished season 4 of Justified.

Episode 1 – “Hole in the Wall”

Pattan Oswalt – On Justified, he’s Constable Bob Sweeney, a semi-competent, paranoid, old acquaintance of Raylan’s who didn’t get to be a cop, but is instead trying to make a name for himself as a constable, though no one takes him seriously.  Oswalt is best known as a stand up comedian but has started acting more recently, starred as an obsessive New York Giants fan in Big Fan and playing a well-regarded supporting role in Diablo Cody’s Young Adult.

Joseph Mazzello – True believer preacher and snake handler Billy St. Cry in Justified, Mazzello was one of the leads in World War II miniseries The Pacific (character was Eugene Sledge) and played Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz in The Social Network.

Lindsey Pulsipher – Pulsipher played Cassie St. Cyr, preacher Billy’s more world weary sister.  She appeared in History Channel’s mini-series Hatfields & McCoys, but had her biggest role previously as Crystal Norris in True Blood.  Norris portrays a redneck werepanther who Jason Stackhouse falls in love with which causes Jason to get entangled in her wacky clan.

Tom Walker from Homeland

Chris Chalk – Chalk is Jody Adair, a criminal Raylan agrees to find and bring in in exchange for some of the bond money.  Chalk has been quite the hot TV actor of late, appearing in the last couple of years as Gary Cooper in The Newsroom and brainwashed marine Tom Walker in Homeland.

Ron Eldard -Former army buddy of Boyd Crowder in Iraq, Colton Rhodes.  Eldard previously was a main cast member in a couple of failed shows, Blind Justice, and Men Behaving Badly, but may best be known for his recurring role as a paramedic early in the run of ER.

Episode 2- “Where’s Waldo?”

Beth Grant – Grant played Waldo Truth’s widow, known simply as Mother Truth, who had another man pretending to be her ex-husband.  Grant had recurring roles on Coach and Jericho but can most notably be currently seen on The Mindy Project as cranky clerical assistant Beverly.

Episode 3 – “Truth and Consequences”

Julia Campbell – Campbell plays Eve Munro, the psychic ex-wife of the mysterious Drew Thompson.  A long-time TV veteran, she might be best known for playing John Lithgow’s serial killer Arthur Mitchell’s wife during the fourth season of Dexter.

Michael Graziadei – As Mason Goines, he’s a Detroit mob henchman who kidnaps Eve Munro.  He played Constance’s lover, Travis Wanderly in the first season of American Horror Story.

Episode 5 – “Kin”

Gerald McRaney – he plays crotchety old long-time criminal Josiah Carn, who gets harassed by Raylan.  McRaney is a TV legend who starred in Major Dad and Simon & Simon and more recently appeared in recurring roles in Deadwood, Jericho, Mike & Molly, and House of Cards.

Bonita Friedericy – She portrayed hill person Mary, cousin to Raylan’s mom.  The six viewers of Chuck will know her better as Brigadier General Diane Beckman, a high ranking official in the NSA.

Romy Rosemont – Boyd’s lawyer, Sonya Gable, she goes on to orchestrate a plot to kidnap Josiah Carn.  She got her biggest TV role in the past couple of years playing Carole Hudson, Finn’s mother on Glee.  She’s also married to Stephen Root.

Mike O’Malley – Nicky Augustine, high ranking member of the Detroit mob, who is out to find Drew Thompson.  Mike O’Malley has done in a lot in his career, early on hosting Nick game shows Get the Picture and Guts, and starring in the shockingly long running Yes, Dear, and appearing frequently as Kurt’s dad Burt in Glee.

Episode 6 – “Foot Chase”

Lew Temple – Temple is one of the two goons who kidnap McRaney’s Josiah Carn.  Walking Dead fans know him as former prison inmate Axel, who hits on Carol a few times.

Episode 7 – “Money Trap”

Sam Anderson – He plays unscrupulous and condescending businessman Lee Paxton who tries to get Boyd to do his bidding.  This is extremely unlike his best known character, soft-spoken dentist Bernard, from Lost.  He also played recurring cardiologist Jack Kayson on ER and villainous lawyer Holland Manners on Angel.

Michael Gladis – Murderer and fugitive Jody Adair’s buddy and aspiring filmmaker Kenneth.  Gladis portrayed the chief in the first season of Eagleheart but is much better known for playing pretentious copywriter Paul Kinsey in Mad Men.

Shelley Hennig – Hennig plays the fantastically named Jackie Nevada, a sorority sister of Jody Adair’s wife, and a potential target for Adair who Raylan must protect. A former Miss Teen USA, Hennig starred as responsible witch Diana in the one season of The Secret Circle on the CW.

Ned Bellamy – Gerald Johns, another one of the nefarious businessmen trying to get Boyd to do favors for him.  He’s had small roles in a number of shows, but myself and the three other Treme watchers will recognize him as Vincent Abreu, the father of the man killed during Katrina whose case Toni Bernette is investigating.

Episode 8 – “Outlaws”

Matthew John Armstrong – A hitman who dresses like a cop to easily take out his targets, Raylan defeats him in a match of quick draw.  This one’s a stretch, but people who made it to the end of the first season of Heroes may vaguely remember the character Ted Sprague, played by Armstrong, a person with the ability to create radiation, who poses dangers to society and accidentally radiation poisons his wife.

Episode 9 – “Get Drew”

Daniel Buran – He plays Nicky Cush, the former owner of whorehouse Audrey’s, who is now a paranoid conspiracy nut.  Buran played villainous werewolf pack leader Marcus Bozeman who gets into fights with both Alcide and Sam on True Blood.

Episode 10 – “Decoy”

Janitor from The Breakfast Club

John Kapelos – Kapelos is Nicky Augustine’s second in command, Picker, who issues him advice.  He’s been on TV for years, but I know him best as Jerry’s possibly drug-addled accountant in episode The Sniffling Accountant on Seinfeld, as well as janitor Carl Reed in The Breakfast Club.

Epsidoe 13 – “Ghosts”

Troy Ruptash – He plays Dominic, one of the goons sent to hold Winona hostage, in the last episode of the season.  His best known role to me is a tiny one, as the real Don Draper whose identity Dick Whitman stole, in flashbacks in first season Mad Men episode Nixon vs. Kennedy.

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Jim Beaver

13 Mar

Jim Beaver

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

Today we’re celebrating the television work of Jim Beaver, a character actor who has only become more prolific with age, first acting in the late ’70s, working more frequently in the late ’80s, and whose biggest roles have come largely in the last 10 years.

Beaver’s first work came in the late ’70s, appearing in tiny roles in TV movies Desperado and something called Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders starring Jane Seymour, as well as an uncredited appearance as “diner” in an episode of Dallas.  After another uncredited appearance in a TV movie called Girls of the White Orchard as “pedestrian,” he next appeared in a Jake and the Fatman episode in 1987.  He spent the end of the ’80s and 1990 making individual appearances in Matlock, Guns of Paradise, CBS Summer Playhouse, The Young Riders, Father Dowling Mysteries, and Midnight Caller, and TV movies Perry Mason: The Case of the Lady in the Lake, Mothers, Daughters, and Lovers (that’s one title), Follow Your Heart, El Diablo, The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson (featuring a young Andre Braugher as Jackie Robinson), and Gunsmoke: To The Last Man.

He got his first multi-episode role on soap Santa Barbara as the wonderfully named character, “Andy the Rapist.”  He got his biggest role yet in two season odd couple cop drama Reasonable Doubts, which starred Marlee Matlin as a civil liberties-friendly District Attorney and Mark Harmon as an old-school cop.  Beaver appeared as Harmon’s friend and partner Detective Earl Gaddis in 14 episodes.  He showed up in another Gunsmoke movie, an episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and TV movie Children of the Dark before appearing again as a regular in two season ABC sitcom Thunder Alley.  Thunder Alley starred Ed Asner as a retired race car driver, and included in the cast a young Haley Joel Osment.  Beaver played Asner’s mentally challenged mechanic, Leland DuParte.

Beaver danced around TV for the rest of the ’90s, appearing in single episodes of Home Improvement, High Incident, Bone Chillers, NYPD Blue, Moloney, Murder One, Spy Game, Total Security, The Adventures of A.R.K. (I have no idea what some of these are), Melrose Place, Pensacola: Wings of Gold, The X-Files, and TV movies Divided by Hate and Mr. Murder (starring the great Stephen Baldwin).  He also appears as bar owner Happy Doug in seven episodes of 3rd Rock from the Sun and in four episodes of long-running soap The Young and the Restless.

He recurred in one season David Krumholtz and Jon Cryer starrer The Trouble with Normal in 2000.  From 1996-2004, he appeared in 26 episodes of soap Days of Our Lives as Father Tim Jansen, the local pastor.  Next, there was more journeying around the world of TV appearing in single episodes of That ’70s Show, The Division, Star Trek: Enterprise, The West Wing, Philly, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Six Feet Under, Tremors, The Lyon’s Den (Rob Lowe’s ill-fated post The West Wing show), Monk, and Crossing Jordan.

Whitney Ellsworth

Beaver landed the biggest role of his career in 2004, as he was cast in David Milch’s Western masterpiece Deadwood as grizzled prospector Whitney Ellsworth.  Ellsworth was the rare truly honest man in Deadwood, and unlike a couple of the other honest characters, was liked by just about everyone in town.  He’s initially trusted to manage Alma Garrett’s gold claim, and works hard to manage her successful gold operation, fighting off various concerns who want to buy it.

Episodes of The Unit and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation were next, followed by the start of his second biggest role, appearing as a heavily recurring character in Supernatural.  At 54 appearances over the course of Supernatural’s nine seasons, Beaver has shown up in more episodes of the show than anyone except the two leads, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles.  He plays Bobby Singer, a blue collar demon hunter and old family friend of main characters Sam and Dean’s family.  Over the course of the show, Singer shows the boys countless tricks of the trade for dealing with the supernatural, and becomes a father figure to Sam and Dean.

Beaver was busy elsewhere while appearing on Supernatural.  He was in five episodes of the one season Taye Diggs led Daybreak, and in eight of one season David Milch far out HBO drama John From Cincinnati as Vietnam Joe, a pot grower who helps Mexican illegals cross the US border.  He was in three episodes of Big Love and one of Criminal Minds.  He was a main cast member in 2008-09 CBS 13 episode horror/thriller murder mystery miniseries Harper’s Island, playing the sheriff of the titular island, Charlie Mills.  The gimmick of the series, which sounds kind of zany and possibly worth further investigation, is that at least one character, and as many as five, are killed every episode.

Shelby Parlow

Next were single episodes of Psych, Law & Order: LA, The Mentalist, Lie to Me, and Love Bites.  Then, he appeared in two episodes of Breaking Bad, as gun dealer Lawson, selling Walter White guns in episodes Thirty-Eight Snub and fifth season premiere Live Free or Die.  He was in an episode of Dexter’s most recent seventh season, playing Dexter love interest Hannah McKay’s lousy dad, Clint.  He’s also played an important recurring role in Justified as now Harlan County Sheriff Shelby Parlow, appearing in almost every episode this season.  Keep up the good work, Jim Beaver.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 edition: 12-10

18 Feb

Moving on through the rankings of shows I watched regularly in 2012 – this intro will explain what qualifies one for the list – 12, 11, and 10 follow.

12.  Workaholics

Anders, Adam, and Blake

Much to my shock but not dismay (what’s the exact opposite of dismay?) it seems like Workaholics is catching on for real, moving into its fourth season, which is incredibly impressive for a scripted Comedy Central show not called South Park.  Making it past a dreaded Comedy Central first season is already an achievement in and of itself, but four is a true rarity.  Unlike Bob’s Burgers, I’ve been along for the entire ride this time, though it’s as much luck that I have been watching since the beginning as anything else; one humorous commercial convinced my friend and I to watch, and we were as surprised as anyone that it was actually pretty good.  The show picked up from there, and it’s the type of show where repeated interactions with the characters improves your appreciation as you get into the chemistry between their three personalities.  When Adam does something that’s so Adam, it’s funnier the more episodes you’ve seen.  Adam is clearly the star of the show and provides many of the funniest scenes, but Blake and Anders are hardly just along for the ride.  Perhaps the best episode of the most recent season involved a contrived plot in which the three characters had to stay drunk for the entire episode, to prevent becoming hungover.  Played like Speed, but less like a parody than a loose plot to work around, the episode was hilarious throughout and contains a combination of physical comedy, pop culture references, silliness, and absurdism.

11.  Justified


I’ve said it before, but Raylan Givens, the main character in Justified, is the role Timothy Olyphant was born to play.  It’s his vehicle, and everyone else is somewhat secondary, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have chances to shine.  Still, he’s a strong enough character to carry the show largely on his own.  Justified is what a USA show could be if it didn’t have the shackles imposed on it simply by being a USA show.  Justified is limited in scope; it could never be The Wire or The Sopranos, in terms of the sheer breadth, but it does what it does very well and there’s something to be said for knowing what you’re good at and sticking to your strengths. The third season came off of the second season high with a weaker overall serial plot, particularly the primary antagonist, Robert Quarles, who was terrifying but less interesting than Mags Bennett and her largely incompetent clan.  Still it may actually say more about the resilience of the show that it was able to chug right along with an overall weaker villain and feature a season that was damn near almost as good.  The show has struggled at times to find a role for Walten Goggins, who plays sometimes villain, sometimes anti-hero Boyd Fowler, especially when he’s not working with or against Raylan, and while I’ve sometimes thought they should just not feel inclined to include Goggins in every episode, they’ve done a fairly good job of keeping his plots interesting and relevant considering.  I like the secondary characters that work with Givens at the Marshals Office, and I like that they don’t shy away from pointing out Givens’ ridiculous behavior. I expected solid but not spectacular from Justified, and while the show may not reach the breathtaking heights of Mad Man, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones, it certainly exceeded my initial expectations.

10.  Eagleheart


All three of the Adult Swim 11 minute shows on this list are absurd live action shows of a type found nowhere else on TV, but none are as truly absurdist as the least known and talked about, Eagleheart, which stars Chris Elliot as a Marshal, along with his sidekicks, Maria Thayer and Brett Gelman.  Episodes sometimes change plots twice an episode, invent things as they go along, and, in one episode, the entire plot turns out to have been an amusement park ride.  It’s ridiculous, and how ridiculous it is makes it wonderful; there is no non-aminated show more out there on television.  The best episode of the season may have been the opener in which it’s postulated that the chief, played by Mad Men’s Michael Gladis, inspired Chris Elliot’s character to become a US Marshal by impregnating his wife, and then having his son, which he made seem like Chris’s son, hiring the son to fake his death 10 years later, which caused Chris to become a marshal.  The son also pretended to be various important characters in Chris’ deputies’ lives, then faked dying, to persuade them to become marshals (Thayer’s old college boyfriend, and Gelman’s favorite restaurant waiter).  Later in the same 11 minute episode, it’s revealed that there’s a baker who makes a cake to celebrate every bloodbath caused by Chris, but all the cakes have already been made, thus predicting the future bloodbaths.  If this sounds convoluted and insane, that’s because it is, but it’s a lot funnier when watched than when explained, and if you actually expect it to make any sense, you’re watching the wrong show.  I would guess this is by far the least watched show on this list (though it may have competition with one of the next few) and I don’t know why more people haven’t found out about it, but if anyone likes absurdism, this is the place to go, and it takes just a couple of hours to watch all the 11 minute episodes of the entire series.

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Stephen Tobolowsky

3 Nov

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

An actor perhaps best known for his small role in an early ‘90s movie (Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day, you know his quote “watch out for that first step, it’s a doozy!”), he’s come back to TV over and over in numerous recurring roles and many single episodes, and because his career has been constant for over two decades, please pardon the especially long entry today as we induct Stephen Tobolowsky into the Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame.

Tobolowsky’s first credited television role was as TV Clerk in 1983 TV movie Cocaine and Blue Eyes.  He then appeared in a series of single episode roles throughout the remainder of the ‘80s including Alice, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, Cagney & Lacey, Stir Crazy, 222, Designing Women, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, and L.A. Law. Then, a series of TV film appearances in Roe vs. Wade, Last Flight Out, The Marla Hanson Story, Tagget, and Perry Mason: The Case of the Maligned Mobster.  Then, more single appearances in shows Lifestories, Down Home, Baby Talk, and Shannon’s Deal, and then on Seinfeld, as a holistic healer who diagnoses George and proscribes a tea which puts George in the hospital (Jerry accompanies George to the healer for the potential comedy value).

A few more bit roles followed, in single episodes of Picket Fences, Civil Wars, and Café Americain, as well as TV movie When Love Kills:  The Seduction of John Hearn.  Apparently this little TV movie starred Gary Cole as John Hearn, a real life ex-marine, who Debbie Bannister, played by CSI vet Marg Helgeneurger, convinced to kill her husband and her sister’s ex-husband.  The movie also featured Michael Jeter and Justified main cast member Nick Searcy.

Next, he got his first main cast role on Against the Grain, a show I can’t believe I’ve never heard of for two reasons.  First, because one of the other main cast members was Ben Affleck a good couple of years before Good Will Hunting.  Second, because the show is based on a little book by Buzz Bissinger called Friday Night Lights which went on to become a somewhat more successful show a few years later (not to mention a feature film).  I’m going to have to investigate this show more in the future, but the coach role was played by John Terry, best known as Jack’s dad in Lost (and unrelated, as far as I know to the controversial Chelsea defender).

He appeared in an episode of Harts of the West before getting another main role in a series called Blue Skies that doesn’t even have a wikipedia entry.  He did act in it next to possible future Ivanek nominee Richard Kind.  After two episodes of Chicago Hope, and two of A Whole New Ballgame, he co-starred again in the 1995 CBS sitcom Dweebs.  Dweebs seems like an earlier take on The Big Bang Theory idea or possibly the British IT Crowd.  A normal human woman, played by Farrah Forke, is hired to manage a bunch of uber nerdy software workers.  Bosom Buddies’ Peter Scolari owns the company, and Tobolowsky is an employee aside other luminaries such as Corey Feldman.  The show aired six episodes before cancellation.

Next up were single episodes of The Home Court and The Pretender along with an appearance as Principal Flutie in the unaired pilot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Tobolowsky was back in a regular series in 1996 with Mr. Rhodes, starring comedian Tom Rhodes, and yet again, bizarrely, Farrah Forke.  The show co-starred Lindsey Sloane and Veronica Mars’ Logan, Jason Dohring, and lasted 19 episodes.  After four straight failed series, Tobolowsky spent the last few years of the 20th century guesting in a number of series.  These included three episodes of Murder One and Snoops and single episodes of The Naked Truth, Promised Land, The Drew Carey Show, The Closer (the less heralded Tom Selleck one), Suddenly Susan, Vengeance Unlimited, Mad About You, The Practice, That ‘70s Show, and Odd Man Out, along with TV movie Don’t Look Under the Bed.

He recurred in 2000 in one season USA mystery show Manhattan, AZ, as a small town veterinarian who also works as a regular doctor (hey, it’s a really small town).  After that it was back to one off appearances in Any Day Now, Hollywood Off-Ramp, That’s Life, Bull, The Lone Gunmen, Roswell, Malcolm in the Middle, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Oliver Beene, Stephen King’s Dead Zone, Las Vegas, The West Wing, Married to the Kellys, It’s All Relative, According to Jim, Will and Grace and Complete Savages (seriously, this only covers about four years) and TV movies with amazing names like Alien Fury: Countdown to Invasion, The Gene Pool, On the Edge, Black River, The Day the World Ended, and Twins.

He appeared in five episodes of CSI: Miami as Assistant State Attorney Don Haffman.  He became likely one of if not the only person to appear in both series titled The Closer (the more famous Kyra Sedgwick one this time) and showed up in Curb Your Enthusiasm as Jeff’s conservative brother-in-law Len Dunkel.  He followed this by guesting in Reba, Ghost Whisperer, and Desperate Housewives.  He was in 9 episodes of Deadwood, mostly in the second season as Commissioner Hugo Jarry, a politician trying to angle for the inclusion of Deadwood into the Dakota Territory, negotiating with Al Swearengen, Cy Tolliver and occasionally Sheriff Bullock, with mixed results.

He was a regular cast member in the short-lived Big Day, a show which takes place on a couple’s wedding day, and in which he portrayed the groom’s father.  He was then in TV movie Valley of Light and episodes of Boston Legal, Raines, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and Entourage, in which he played the mayor of Beverly Hills.  He was in three episodes of HBO’s one season John From Cincinnati and one of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

He appeared in 11 episodes of short-lasting phenomenon-before-turning-terrible Heroes as Bob Bishop, a member of the evil company who also has the power to turn anything to gold, which allows him to fund the company, and is a member of the older generation of heroes that had some large conspiracy in place from years ago and well, trying to explain more about what he does, it would just make less sense than this.  He did two episodes of The New Adventures of Old Christine as a principal, one of Community as a professor, and episodes of The Sarah Silverman Program, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Defenders, and kids show True Jackson, VP.

He’s been in eight episodes of Glee as recurring character and creepy ex-teacher Sandy Ryerson (a nod to Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day I assume?).  Sandy is the former director of the Glee club and is super creepy and one of those says-he’s-not-gay-but-is-obviously-gay types who apparently has had disturbing incidents with harassing male students (yeah, it’s kind of creepy).  He’s meanwhile been in 19 episodes of the can’t-believe-they’re-on-their-sixth-season Californication.  He was in the last two seasons as movie producer Stu Beggs who dates and then marries Marcy, played by Louie recurring actress Pamela Adlon, who used to be married to Evan Handler’s character, Charlie.  He also appeared in two third season episodes of Justified as a an agent out to get Raylan Givens.

Tobolowsky is now a main cast member (though he hasn’t been in at least a couple of the first batch of episodes, so maybe he’ll end up simply recurring) on The Mindy Project as Mindy’s practice’s head and veteran doctor Marc Shulman.

Rankings the Shows That I Watch – 9: Justified

1 Nov

Justified is part of a two-some of shows, along with Terriers, which proceeded Justified on this list, that are examples of what USA shows could be without their inherent USA limitations.  They’re shows that very much feel like the “characters welcome” brand of USA show except unleashed to be a little darker, a little bit more serial and generally just feel like the creators have a little bit more control over them.

Justified is a show that grew on me over the course of the last season, which was significantly better than an already solid first season.  Part of what makes the show so enjoyable is the wonderful Timothy Olyphant, who yes, maybe always plays a type, as the tough, speak-softly-but-carry-a-gun honest guy with attitude, but plays it as well as anyone.

The show tries to posit as the second most interesting character Boyd Crowder, played by Walter Goggins, who was apparently in the Shield, a massively long show that I have not dared attempt yet.  Fowler was the primarily antagonist for most of the first season going from a work-a-day Dixie mafia leader to a crazy quasi-religious drug runner.  I knew the creators of Justified wanted to keep Fowler as a character long after the season, but I thought it would either seem forced or repetitive as shows often do when they keep around an interesting character past his or her expiration date (is Sylar still alive?), and to the show’s credit it hasn’t felt that way as Fowler has transitioned from someone seeking honest work to a gangster again, but one who ends up on the same side as Olyphant’s Raylon Givens at the end of the season.

The second season was greatly enhanced by the increased emphasis on a serial plot which was spread out over the course of the season.  The key antagonists in the second season were the Bennett clan, a Dixie mafia family who control their local county (fittingly named Bennett county).  Ma Bennett was the matriarch, and she had three sons, one of whom was the local police chief.  (By the way, I credit Justified along with Winter’s Bone for learning what the fuck the Dixie mafia is and being scared that these people could command police forces.)  The other two are mostly kind of moronic henchmen, one of whom is played by the always enjoyable Jeremy Davies, who is hilarious to hear in a southern redneck accent.  Ma Bennett is portrayed by Margo Martindale, who won an Emmy for her role (for whatever that’s worth) and actually deserved it.

Why it’s this high:  Olyphant is fantastic, the show sets a nice western tone, and Ma Bennett was a great villain

Why it’s not higher:  I greatly enjoy this show, but it lacks the scope and maybe a little bit of the depth behind Breaking Bad, Mad Men or Game of Thrones (not to give away shows coming up on the list)

Best episode of the most recent season:  “Bloody Harlan” – the season long plot more or less ends in the final episode of the second season and shit goes down.  I won’t reveal exactly what happens, but the ending is fairly final and satisfying without feeling cheap or implausible in context.