The idea of the reckless lawman whose personal life is a mess, even as he’s incredibly good at his job, is one of the oldest cliches in the book. On “Justified,” Raylan’s relationship with Winona has always hinged on this idea, and the series often has seemed a bit hesitant to really embrace it, perhaps because it knows there’s very little new territory to explore here. As the series has evolved away from a character study of Raylan Givens and into something more like a travelogue of this rich, fictional world, many of the characters from Season 1 have gotten left behind. Winona, despite the fact that she’s the mother of Raylan’s unborn child, often seems like one of those characters, and when she leaves Raylan at the end of last week’s episode, there’s a sense that the show’s writers are trying to figure out what on earth they can do with her that they haven’t already done.
“Thick As Mud” is “Justified” at its finest, as it takes one of the show’s many, many tertiary characters and follows him around on the worst day of his life. Now, if you’ve read the recently released Elmore Leonard novel “Raylan,” which the writers of “Justified” stripped for parts when making the second and third seasons of the show, you probably had a pretty good idea where all of this was headed, as it pretty closely tracked the first half of that novel. But where the novel mostly focused on Raylan’s attempts to track down just who might be out there pilfering kidneys, “Thick As Mud” shifted the focus to a desperate, live-wire Dewey Crowe. Where Dewey spends the novel mostly off to the side of the narrative, unable to drive it forward, he’s almost the main character here, and that makes all the difference.
“The Devil You Know” spends too much time getting the chess pieces into place to be a wholly terrific episode of “Justified,” but the chess pieces here are so much fun to watch interact that seeing them get shoved around isn’t so bad. Yeah, it’s a bit predictable that Devil isn’t able to get one over on Boyd. (Did we really think he would?) And, yes, it makes too much sense that the giant cash haul Dickie and everybody else are after doesn’t exist anymore. (It’s only a little over $40,000 now, not the $3 million that was once there.) But this is an episode for making sure all of the right gears are turning and all of the right characters are bumping up against the perfect foils. Something big is coming, and so many schemers are plotting against one another that it’s hard not to be a little impatient for the fireworks to come.
This may be cause for a round of (non-laced) cupcakes: Ryan Murphy says Jessica Lange will be returning for the second season of "American Horror Story."
We're guessing all those trophy wins -- Golden Globe and SAG awards -- Lange nabbed for her roll as meddling neighbor Constance helped seal the deal for both parties? The "Glee" and "American Horror Story" creator appeared Monday night on Andy Cohen's Bravo late-night gabfest "Watch What Happens Live." And the rest had us clutching our pearls.
"You are recasting American Horror Story for next season. Will Jessica Lange make an appearance?" Cohen asked.
Maybe the alcohol made Murphy more revealing -- both in his answer and his attire (hardly a button was buttoned on his shirt). In response to Cohen, Murphy answered: "Yes."
Murphy has been vocal about his unusual plans for the show: with the setting, the haunting, and cast of characters changing each season. (Should familiar faces -- like Lange -- return, they'd play different roles.)
But don't get too excited. A spokesperson for 20th Century Fox, which produces the show, said no deal has been made yet.
Lange, thus far, has been coy about returning to the horror series.
-- Yvonne Villarreal
Photo: Jessica Lange holds her award during the 18th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards show at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Jan. 29. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times
It's a windfall that comes as Kurt Sutter, the series' creator and showrunner, has inked a three-year overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV and FX Productions, which together produce the FX series.
Sutter, often candid on his Twitter account, sent the following blast to users: "closed my deal for 3 more years on SOA. no headlines, no pushed schedule, no stealing from paul. thank you FX and 20th for your generosity." The tweet has since been deleted.
In addition to allowing Sutter to retain control over FX's top show, the pact also includes a script deal with the network, which would extend Sutter's lifespan there. He previously worked as a producer, writer and director on "The Shield." The pact would also give the candid showrunner the option to develop material for both broadcast and cable.
The fourth season of "Sons of Anarchy," which was its highest-rated with an average of more than 5 million viewers, wrapped in December; a fifth season renewal had already been announced in October. But the deal would extend it for a season beyond that.
When “Justified” is on top of its game, as it was Tuesday night, it can have something like a half-dozen plates spinning without missing a beat. In “Harlan Roulette,” we got to see the seedy side of a pawn shop wrapped up in things that aren’t exactly legal. We watched as Boyd Crowder dealt with Limehouse, then took back the family bar. We spent a little time with Dickie Bennett in jail. We followed Quarles and Wynn Duffy as they hatched their scheme to turn Harlan into the new oxy capital of the world. We checked in on Raylan and Winona’s hunt for a house. And, finally, we watched Raylan try to connect all of these dots, catching up to the pawn shop owner just in time to have him and a subordinate kill each other.
Hot on the heels of her Golden Globe win earlier this month, Jessica Lange found herself clutching a SAG award Sunday night after she won the supporting actress in a drama category for her work as a meddling neighbor in FX’s “American Horror Story.” Speaking of the challenge the role presented, Lange, who thus far has been mostly known for her film work, talked about adjusting to a new medium.
"It was just being completely open to the possibility of anything happening within the moment," she said. "I found that very exhilarating. It kind of kicked it up to a different level. It’s been an experience that I didn’t have before."
Lange is still coy about whether she’ll return for another season of “American Horror Story,” saying: “I’m thinking about it very seriously.”
Acting for TV is one thing. Watching it is apparently an entirely different matter. When asked whether any celebrities have told her they are fans of the show, Lange was modest.
“I don’t watch TV myself," she said, "so I don’t expect anyone else to.” With the exception of awards voters, right?
— Yvonne Villarreal
Photo: Jessica Lange arrives at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press.
One of the things that’s so great about “Justified” is that everybody on the show behaves like a real person would if confronted with their own potential death. Take Dickie Bennett, for instance. Now, Dickie’s never been the sharpest crayon in the box, but once Boyd Crowder shows up at the same prison as him, he starts scrambling to keep himself safe. What makes this fun is that Boyd is quite a bit smarter than Dickie, and at least two times wilier. That makes for scenes where Dickie gets himself locked up in solitary, clearly thinking he’ll be safer there, only for Boyd to figure out a way to get down there as well, bribe a guard, and get in to see Dickie to get the information he needs. And he does this all with a time limit hanging over his head!
In a new episode, for instance, a female character crudely describes her state of sexual arousal while looking at photos of legendary tough guy Burt Reynolds. “The line goes by really fast, and it’s really funny, but the image it conjures in your head is just outrageous,” said H. Jon Benjamin, the comedian and actor who plays square-jawed super-spy Sterling Archer. “Obviously, we have a lot of freedom.”
At a time when TV networks are pushing boundaries like never before, and the U.S. Supreme Court has been debating broadcast standards, cable channels like FX are routinely, and merrily, producing content that’s just a few shades tamer than what airs on subscription services like HBO and Showtime.
In the case of “Archer,” which begins its third season tonight, the animation tends to temper some of the edgier material, like its characters’ racist, sexist, self-destructive bed-hopping tendencies. It may also help that the characters have a genuine, if oddly expressed, affection for one another and that the show embraces a sense of the absurd. (There will be two episodes in outer space, an homage to “Moonraker.”)
Set at a spy agency called International Secret Intelligence Service, or ISIS for short, the series follows a twisted group of coworkers who dabble in global intrigue when they’re not sleeping around. Often, the two overlap. Vague about its time period, “Archer’s” characters use cellphones and modern technology, while driving ’70s muscle cars, dressing like “Mad Men” characters and battling the Cold War.
Until the final scene of the third-season premiere of “Justified,” I thought the episode was perhaps a touch too jumpy. It was working so hard to introduce characters, deal with the fallout from the end of Season 2, and catch us up with where the characters are three weeks after the end of that season that it occasionally felt a little breathless. And then Boyd Crowder strolled down the hall of the local prison, big grin on his face, and everything snapped into place. Man, it’s nice to have this show back.
The series finished its first season on Showtime in December. Based on an Israeli drama, “Homeland” features Claire Danes as a CIA agent convinced that an American Marine (played by Damian Lewis) returning after years as a POW in Iraq is a terrorist. It was produced by Showtime Presents, Teakwood Lane Productions, Cherry Pie Productions, Keshet and Fox 21. This is the series’ first Golden Globe nomination and win.
The Golden Globes are being held at the Beverly Hilton and are being televised on NBC. We'll carry all the breaking TV news and reaction here on Show Tracker.
-- Joy Press
Photo: Claire Danes arrives at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards Credit: Matt Sayles / AP
Russell Brand has made more than his share of headlines lately, due to his surprise split from Katy Perry, his wife of little more than a year. He and Perry have kept a low profile since the announcement, and reasons behind their divorce remain mysterious. But these days, he has a bigger mission on his mind. He wants to bring more spirituality and light into the world.
Brand resurfaced at the FX portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour to promote his upcoming series with a working title of "Strangely Uplifting," which will feature him performing before a live audience and riffing on politics, pop cuture and whatever else hits his mind. But his goal goes beyond being funny.
"It's about authenticity," he told reporters, excited and speaking so fast that his words almost toppled on top of each other. Saying he was "stupified by plasticity," Brand added, "There's a vapid culture that is removing us from our spirituality. All I want to do is to make people feel better than they feel right now."
The only references to Perry and his marital woes were veiled, on answering a question about how he was doing. "Because of events?," he asked, adding that he was doing quite well.
The English comedian said the goal of the show "is to examine this extraordinary country of yours from the perspective of an alien trying to understand this peculiar country." He characterized himself as Mork from "Mork & Mindy."
"It's about truth and beauty and honor," he said.
Photo: Russell Brand and Katy Perry in April at the London premiere of his film "Arthur." Credit: Joel Ryan/Associated Press