There are far too many voices crying that [insert show, movie, band, etc.] is the best [show, movie, band, etc.] ever without prefacing or at least intending to preface that statement with the caveat that such a statement is one of opinion not undeniable fact. Now if someone wanted to make that statement about something that I agree with (The Wire), I would be less inclined to argue the point than I would be when it's a show with pretty significant issues (Breaking Bad), but I do generally bristle at someone trying to assert that something as subjective as art could possibly be deemed better than everything else in its field.
While I won't say that it's the best show on television right now, or ever for that matter, I can say without a doubt that my favorite show on television is Justified. This has inarguably been the case since it raised its game in season two with the introduction of the Bennett clan, but I suspect that it probably took that place in my heart during the last half of season one when the show freed itself from the procedural, case-of-the-week bounds in which it began and blossomed into one of the richest, funniest, scariest worlds created on television.
While watching the second episode of this sixth and final season on Tuesday, I received the following pair of texts from averagegatsby (his real name shows up when he texts): "Justified is so good at introducing characters. / Also Sam Elliott sans mustache is fucking weird." Yes to both statements. While the second statement surely subconsiously suggests a handful of considerations that must be factors with regards to Elliott's newly introduced Markham, the first statement gets to the heart of why Justified week in and week out provides its audience with such a pleasurable viewing experience.
Graham Yost and his writing team are nearly unmatched in their ability to create a nearly instantaneously compelling character with a few carefully designed idiosyncrasies and an introductory situation that gets to the guts of who that character is. It surely doesn't hurt that they settled into a world initially created by Elmore Leonard--who was a producer on the show for the first few seasons and is widely regarded for creating such a colorful cast of characters--but there have been plenty of folks in the television and film industries who tried to adapt Leonard's works and failed miserably. That Yost and Company have achieved the task with such aplomb is a testament to the show. Granted, near-perfect casting and writing to actors' strengths--specifically but not exclusively Walton Goggins, whose Boyd Crowder was initially going to die in the pilot--help make the production team look pretty damn good, but their success in casting surely speaks to a wider ability to choose the right actor and tailoring the role to them.
The most magnificent thing about the show, of course, is the impressive world that they've created. Each week, they rotate in any number of characters, both new and old, and with a few exceptions--I'm looking at you, Rappaport--every time one of the old ones pops up, it feels like you're seeing an old friend. And when Choo-choo pops up, you're ecstatic to get to know him.
And it sure as hell doesn't hurt when you put the ruggedly handsome Timothy Olyphant at the middle of everything, letting him saunter around in boots and a Stetson as out-of-time lawman Raylan Givens in the messed up modern (somewhat fictionalized) world of Harlan County.
So that's my favorite show. What's yours?