Justifiedby John Ostrander

SPOILER WARNING: I’m going discuss last season’s Justified which means I’ll talk a bit on what happened during it. If you intend to binge watch the show and haven’t done so yet, skip the column.

Last week, FX wound up its fifth season of the Elmore Leonard inspired series, Justified. It stars Timothy Olyphant as U.S. Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens, a supporting character and sometimes star of some of Leonard’s crime novels. You may not know all his books but a fair amount were made into good movies such Hombre, Get Shorty, 3:10 to Yuma, Jackie Brown and, as mentioned, the TV showJustified.

For those who don’t know: Elmore Leonard was noted for his spare style and his way with dialogue as well as his keenly drawn characters. Like Damon Runyon, Leonard liked the seamy side of people and expressed them with unique dialogue. In his essay, “Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing” he said: “My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” One of the other rules I found interesting: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” Sounds simple but, oh, it is not.

Justified’s main character, Raylan Givens, is a U.S. Marshal and something of a throwback. He’s a bit of a cowboy, wearing a Stetson and boots and liable to shoot first and ask questions later. He gets tossed out of Florida after telling a local mobster to get the hell out of Dodge, er, Miami. When the deadline Raylan sets arrives, the marshall provokes the mobster into drawing on him (in a public place) and shoots him dead.

The killing is ruled “justified” but Raylan’s worn out his welcome and he gets sent back to where he came from – Harlan County, Kentucky – and the Marshall’s office there. He runs into old friends, enemies, family, wives, and lovers, as well as picking up a few new ones along the way. One of the most notable of his friends/enemies is Boyd Crowder, played by the inestimable Waylon Goggins. Boyd’s character is from a short story Elmore Leonard wrote, Fire In the Hole, which featured Raylan. Boyd’s dead at the end of the story but he’s been too good a character to lose for the TV show so they’ve kept him around.

Each season has generally had a central villain as the Big Bad to unite the episodes and there have been some doozies. Boyd did that for the first season but the second season was really killer, with Margo Martindale doing an incredible turn as Mags Bennett, the matriarch of a local crime family. Down home scary. Both motherly and a monster.

The next season’s Big Bad is Robert Quarles (played by Neal McDonough), a cold nasty enforcer sent down from the mob in Detroit. Not only a nasty piece of work but ultimately a bit psychotic. He wasn’t quite as good as Mags but he was pretty bad ass and an interesting change of pace. Fourth season got a little complicated with the search for an old criminal Drew Thompson and Raylan contending with another Detroit mob enforcer named Nicky Augustine.

The first and second season were great; each succeeding season hasn’t been as good but still justified making Justified part of my mandatory viewing each week. Raylan is just so damn cool. The series borrowed heavily from Leonard’s novels and stories, adapting characters and plot lines to work for the TV show.

This last season — not so much. It’s been a slog to get through. The Big Bad was the Crowe family, specifically oldest thug Daryl Crowe Jr (played by Michael Rapaport). They’re the Florida side of the Crowe clan represented in Kentucky by Dewey Crowe, a Coyote style moron who has been in the show since the first season. With things petering out for them in Florida, they go to visit cousin Dewey.

The season is as much about Boyd Crowder’s attempt to get into the heroin trade and his wife, Eva’s, adventures in prison. In fact, it’s more about the Crowders than it is about Raylan. Therein lies a part of the problem. I simply didn’t care. It didn’t matter to me if Eva got shanked in prison. I didn’t care if she and Boyd got together again. Raylan wasn’t even particularly cool. The stories were all over the place and Daryl Crowe Jr. was just a thug. There seemed to be a lot less Elmore Leonard in the show and more of the showrunners trying to figure out how to be Elmore Leonard. They forget his dictum: “Try to leave out the part that readers (viewers) tend to skip.” There was a lot I wanted to skip this year.

It’s already been announced that next season will be the show’s last. We already know part of what’s coming – the final showdown between Raylan and Boyd. Who will live? Who will die? Who will care at this point? I’m not sure it will be me. I’m not sure if I’ll be back. And that’s not giving Elmore Leonard his due.


We admit it. TVWriter™ found the stat in the title of this post surprising. Cuz we thought it would be much higher:

survey3by Andy

Every month, reports condemn the general public for downloading movies and TV shows without permission, but perhaps those industries need to look a little closer to home. A new survey among film industry professionals suggests that almost 40% have downloaded movies and TV shows illegally.

Reports, research and surveys covering piracy-related issues have been released in their dozens in recent years, with many of them painting a picture of two distinct groups of people – those who illegally download and those who pay for content.

Of course, the reality is that many people who obtain content for free also cheerfully pay for content too. In fact, some studies have found that the entertainment industry’s best customers are also illegal downloaders.

But what if there was evidence to suggest that some of those pirates were actually the very people helping to create movies and TV shows? That’s one of the intriguing findings of a survey carried out by Stephen Follows, a writer and producer with a keen interest in discovering what makes the industry tick.

“Many of the decisions in the film business are based on gut, opinion and gossip so I find it fascinating to research the topics and see what the numbers say,” Follows informs TorrentFreak.

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FARGO isn’t a TV Series, “It’s a 10-Hour Movie.”

Believe it or not, the article below is the absolute first time that reading an interview with a showrunner or a star has made our Beloved Leader, LB, change his mind and decide to give a new series a try. So let’s put our hands together for…oh, um, reportage in the U.K. Yeah, baby:

Bob Odenkirkby Ben Arnold

This is a true story. In 1998, the current TV belle epoque not even a twinkle in the eye of the US networks, a pilot was filmed for a TV series of the Coen brothers‘ churningly tense black comedy Fargo, which had been released two years previously. It was the last writing and production credit for the late Bruce Paltrow (father of Gwyneth), starred The Sopranos‘ Edie Falco and was directed by Misery actor and occasional director Kathy Bates. Set in Brainerd, Minnesota, it featured Falco as police chief Marge Gunderson, the role immortalised by Frances McDormand in the movie. The Coen brothers were not involved. The project, though strangely enticing, fizzled out.

Then, in 2012, news emerged that another telly crew had taken an interest in the world of Fargo, beginning a slow drip-feed of information about the project that indicated very good things indeed. Firstly, FX, the maverick Fox spin-off network behind brooding dramas such as Justified and Sons Of Anarchy, would be making it. Writing would be Noah Hawley, a novelist and TV writer with a CV including crime comedy-drama Bones. More convincing still, it would not feature any of the same characters from the film, and was amassing an undeniably classy cast, including Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Bob Odenkirk, Colin Hanks, US sketch comedy dons Key & Peele, and Oliver Platt.

It was also being ordered “straight to series”, the holy grail in US TV’s cautious pilot system. Finally – the coup de grâce to any naysayers – the Coens themselves, unlike with the efforts back in 1998, had read it, liked it, and signed on as executive producers. The Coens’ blessing transformed the cautious optimism about the show into outright buzz. And here we are.

“Joel and Ethan read the first script,” says Hawley. “They were very complimentary about it. Then they saw the first episode when it was completed, and Ethan said ‘Yeah, good’. Billy [Bob Thornton], of course, has worked with the Coens two or three times. He said that ‘Yeah, good’ is like a rave review from Ethan.”

Hawley’s first conversation with FX, which was negotiating with rights owners MGM about making the series, went something like this: “OK, so you’ve asked me to create a television series. This is not a television series,” he says. “That got their attention, and I talked them through how I would approach it. It’s a 10-hour movie.”

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The future of TV

Ever wonder about TV in Dubai? No, we never did either. But here’s a Dubai take on what’s happening in our favorite medium. (Notice how smartened up the language and ideas are, instead of the all-too-familiar U.S. “dumbed down.” Food for thought here, no?)

crystal-ballFar from writing an epitaph for what was once derisively known as the ‘idiot box,’ television is increasingly gaining prominence and attracting the attention of a lot of big players globally. 

Companies such as Google, Apple, Yahoo, Amazon, and of course, YouTube are spending billions of dollars in buying spunky new start-ups that promise to make television viewing even more exciting.

The traditional concept of ‘television viewing’ is undergoing a dramatic change as hundreds of thousands of youngsters are abandoning that familiar routine of sitting in front of a set and watching their favourite programmes, opting instead to watch news, films, serials and videos on a variety of devices including handsets, tablets and phablets and even when they are on the move and through a mind-boggling range of ‘channels.’

Innovation is the buzz word in television today and entertainment, hardware and software biggies are betting big on the future of the ‘tube.’ Online retailer Amazon has just launched Fire TV, its video streaming set-top box, for $99. While the price matches that of Apple TV, many are predicting that Fire TV will be a game-changer.

The online retailer is expected to embed e-commerce options into its new gizmo, enabling viewers to order products and services instantaneously when they are watching a TV show. Fire TV will allow viewers to access Amazon’s library comprising more than 200,000 films and TV serials. It will also host media players from YouTube, Netflix, Vimeo and Hulu.

Apple TV, Roku and Google Chromecast (which at $35 also comes with a Chrome browser) dominate the market for set-top boxes and streaming sticks, but Fire TV is all set to set the business ablaze with its features.

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Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie

just-say-noChapter 54 – Navigating Hollywood 101: Just Say No
by Leesa Dean

Last week, a print issue of The Hollywood Reporter showed up in my mailbox. I didn’t subscribe, yet somehow got on the list. That’s right. For FREE!! The comedy gods are either smiling at or mocking me.

The first article I noticed really hit home.  It was about the nearly universal way Hollywood executives reject pitches (or you, for that matter).  Versus saying “no” or the old school standby, “Wow. This is great!  We really really love it.  Unfortunately, we’re not doing, uh, anything that involves writing this year”, instead, they just POOF! vanish into thin air.  That’s right.  You never hear from them.  Possibly ever again.  You know, kinda like, “He said (sob), he was going out for a pack of cigarettes and I NEVER HEARD FROM HIM AGAIN.”  Only worse, cause it’s your career.  Or, in some cases, “career”.

This applies to phone calls, emails, texts and, most notably, flinging yourself into someone’s office and begging (i.e. pitching.)

The article said that most execs don’t want to burn any bridges so their logic is, if I don’t reject you, I can always hire you sometime in the future (translation: after everyone else on planet earth realizes you’re bankable). They even interviewed a therapist, Philip Pierce, who said, “Saying no without saying no is an avoidance technique that ultimately results in increased negative emotions.”  Gee, ya THINK?!

Well, I’m a pro at being rejected.  I’ve been rejected so many times, I lost count a long time ago. But you know what?  I’ve also had quite a few successes.  Rejection is part of the gig.  Bottom line: in order to get to that yes, you have to go through a million no’s (you know, the word that can not be uttered).  And most people can handle it.  Most people don’t lose sleep over it.  At worst, it merits a couple of swigs of a good stiff drink (and, possibly, sobbing into a hanky).

It’s far far worse, and yeah, even a little humiliating to not get any response.  It makes something that shouldn’t be personal, well, a little personal.  Like you don’t even rate a quick email or call back…to tell you you suck.

I learned a long time ago to give people a couple of weeks. If I don’t hear anything by then, it’s time to move on cause that’s when the metaphorical expiration date happens. The one that says: Don’t call us.  We’ll call you.  And by “call” we mean “you’ll never hear from us again.”

So Dear Hollywood Execs, next time you feel like consciously uncalling, do the humane thing and Just Say No.

5 Writing Lessons We’ve Learned From ‘Suits’

Some people have nothing but praise for the writing on SUITS. We aren’t among them. And yet…

suits-96by Brittany Frederick

[April 10th was] the Suits season finale, wrapping up its third season as the best show on television. One of the biggest reasons it has that title is the writing. Series creator Aaron Korsh and his staff are teaching a master class on how to write TV every Thursday night. Here are five writing lessons that we’ve learned from watching Suits - and be sure you tune in tonight to learn even more about how television should be done.

Lesson No. 1: Don’t BS your audience. It’s so hard to really get sucked into TV drama anymore, because most shows don’t actually follow through on the threats they make. The main cast won’t break up, because if they did, there wouldn’t be a show. That character isn’t really going to get killed off (unless you’re on The Good Wife), because if they were, the Internet would’ve probably spoiled it weeks ago. That problem you’re worried about is most likely going to get resolved in 42 minutes, or if not, it’ll be forgotten about next week. That’s not the case if you’re watching Suits. The show threatened to fire Donna and then actually fired Donna. True, she came back, but she was gone for awhile, and when she came back, it was earned. Now it’s threatening us with Mike being caught and it looks like Mike is actually busted. A show is so much more suspenseful when you know that any obstacle in the way actually means something.

Lesson No. 2: Continuity is your friend. We haven’t seen a series stick to its continuity like this in a long time, and don’t think any show’s ever used it to its advantage as well as Suits does. So many shows retcon previous facts about their characters to fit the episode of the week, or just produce something that sounds cool and justify it later. Suits, on the other hand, has been remarkably consistent – and has made active use of its history books. The character Jonathan Sitwell, who recently offered Mike a job, was part of the Hessington Oil storyline earlier this season. We’ve also seen the return of other characters like Harvey’s now-girlfriend Dana Scott and Clifford Danner, the young man who was wrongfully convicted when Harvey was with the DA’s Office. These returns, mentions to past events – it’s rewarding for the long-term viewer, and it makes the Suits universe feel like a real world, rather than a show where parts are discarded when their use is outlived.

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This article makes some very good points. It definitely has us thinking: