Rick posted this on the WFPL Facebook page, it’s Tom Shales’ review of the new drama Justified, which is set in Harlan County, Kentucky.

Shales is not a fan.

The first impression made by the series is particularly disappointing because it was produced for the FX network, where standards aren’t artfully high but where the specialty is edgy, cryptic, potty-mouthed dramas that mutilate the old proverbial envelope (“Nip/Tuck,” “Damages”). Although “Justified” qualifies as cryptic, and its mouth is plenty potty, it definitely lacks edge, the most important quality of the three.

In fact, it can get downright sleepy between killings. It moseys. It meanders. You might want to shout, “Git along, little doggie!” The narrative stops in its tracks for long, stretched-out scenes that are remarkably uneventful. Fairly early in the premiere, Givens drops by the house of an old girlfriend, Ava Crowder, played with near-satirical sultriness by Joelle Carter in a clinging dress that knows how to cling. The two talk, and flirt, and talk. Meanwhile, in another part of town, a pair of Neanderthals stages a bizarre daylight robbery, which writer-producer Graham Yost and director Michael Dinner show in considerable detail.

Are you from Harlan County? Will you be watching Justified?


The Onion AV Club (The nonfiction critical offshoot of the satirical newspaper) has given the Justified pilot a positive review:

Pilots are not always a reliable bellwether of how a show might look down the road, but they don’t get much better than the one for Justified, the new FX series by Graham Yost. And there’s reason to be optimistic, just based on how skillfully Yost and company set the table, that we’re in for something special. Lifting the character of Raylen Givens—a U.S. Marshal with an old-fashioned way of meting justice—from two Elmore Leonard books (Pronto and Riding The Rap) and a short story (“Fire In The Hole,” upon which the pilot was based), Justified does everything a great pilot should do: It has an arresting, instant hook of an opening scene; it gives a vivid impression of the major players (especially Raylen, of course) while leaving some questions about them hanging; it has a wonderfully particular sense of time and place; it suggests the potential for endless juicy storylines over the stretch of however many seasons it stays on the air; and most of all, it’s entertaining as all get out.


Harlan County makes for a fascinating backdrop, given the historic showdowns between coal miners and their union-busting bosses. (Documented most memorably in Barbara Kopple’s 1976 classic Harlan County U.S.A., in which shots are fired on camera.) It also colors Boyd’s anarchist, freedom-fighting worldview in a way that makes sense, because he naturally sees government and corporate agents as oppressors.