It’s regarded as some of the actor Timothy Olyphant’s best work, but he was ultimately part of the reason why Justified was canceled.
The show is based on the character created by author Elmore Leonard in several books and short stories—US Marshall Deputy Raylan Givens who has his own, Wild West-style methods of upholding justice. It ran for six seasons, premiering on March 16, 2010, until April 14, 2015, and received widely positive reviews from critics. TV Guide critic Matt Roush said, “The show is grounded in Olyphant’s low-key but high-impact star-making performance, the work of a confident and cunning leading man who’s always good company.” While HuffPost said the show contained some of TV’s best-written dialogue, explaining, “What this quality of dialogue accomplishes…is crafting Harlan County as its own character, a place where wit and strategy are currency, weaponry, and protection in a bleak economic landscape.” The author himself ranked Justified as one of the best adaptations of his work. So, it came as a shock when, in January 2014, the show was canceled. Here’s why Justified was canceled and what we can expect from its reboot, Justified: City Primeval.
Justified was canceled due to the decision of showrunner Graham Yost and the show’s star, Timothy Olyphant but FX’s studio head took some convincing.
“I would have liked to have had more Justified. It’s one of my favorite shows,” FX Networks CEO John Landgraf told reporters on January 14, 2014, per The Hollywood Reporter, noting that he reluctantly accepted the decision from the duo to wrap up the series. “We talked about it a year ago. They felt that the arc of the show and what they had to say would be best served by six seasons instead of seven,” he said. “Regretfully, I accepted their decision.”
“A lot of it was just figuring out how much story we had left,” Yost said, later in the afternoon. “Our biggest concern is running out of story and repeating ourselves. This was a long conversation. There were financial incentives to keep going, but it really felt, in terms of story, that six years felt about right.”
After some intense speculation that we’d see Raylan and his signature hat return to fight crime, a reboot of sorts was confirmed in January 2022 in the form of Justified: City Primeval, which premiered on July 18, 2023. Reflecting on the decision to bring the series back, Olyphant told The Hollywood Reporter in an article published July 18, 2023, that, “If this one doesn’t work, we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves. I understand if people are saying, ‘What are you doing, dude? Why are you bringing him back? It was such a good ending!’ But hopefully they’ll get a kick out of this one as well.”
According to a press release, the revamped Justified story goes: “Having left the hollers of Kentucky eight years ago, Raylan Givens now lives in Miami, a walking anachronism balancing his life as a U.S. Marshal and part-time father of a 14-year-old girl. His hair is grayer, his hat is dirtier, and the road in front of him is suddenly a lot shorter than the road behind. A chance encounter on a desolate Florida highway sends him to Detroit. There he crosses paths with Clement Mansell, aka The Oklahoma Wildman, a violent, sociopathic desperado who’s already slipped through the fingers of Detroit’s finest once and aims to do so again. Mansell’s lawyer, formidable Motor City native Carolyn Wilder, has every intention of representing her client, even as she finds herself caught in between cop and criminal, with her own game afoot as well. These three characters set out on a collision course in classic Elmore Leonard fashion, to see who makes it out of the City Primeval alive.”
Eric Schrier, president, FX Entertainment, expressed his excitement of the cult show returning. “Justified was one of the most critically acclaimed shows of the past decade and an adaption of Elmore Leonard’s work that was so colorfully brought to life by Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, Graham Yost and the entire team of producers, writers, directors and cast,” he said. “To have this group come together again with Tim as Raylan in a new and different Elmore Leonard story is thrilling.”
The president of Sony Pictures Television Studios, Jeff Frost and co-president, Jason Clodfelter added: “When Justified concluded, the love and affection for this exceptional series only grew and left audiences craving more Raylan Givens,” he said. “The iconic Elmore Leonard was one of the premier authors of our time and no one has quite captured his tone and authenticity as well as this Justified team.”
Drawing from Leonard’s celebrated novel City Primeval, we find Raylan in a new city, Detroit, with new cast of characters. “It’s a totally different cast. It’s a totally different world, and yet, it’s still the same show. It’s still the show. It was really gratifying to see an audience be right there with us,” Olyphant continued to the Hollywood Reporter. “We know the sandbox we’re playing in. Even when we’re coming up with ideas and storylines, we still know where it’s going to shift: it’s going to shift to this tone, to this world. That’s the game we’re playing. We had two really great ideas going for us. We had the book, that gave us something to jump-start the conversation, and even anchored us at times. And then the writers had the idea of throwing Raylan’s kids in there. Those two things are the essential ingredients that make this thing work.”
Justified: City Primeval is available to stream on FX/hulu, with new episodes dropping each Tuesday night.
Fans of U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens of the hit TV series Justified are in for a major treat with the first Raylan Givens book in Elmore Leonard’s series. The unstoppable manhunter with the very itchy trigger finger stars in Pronto , a crime fiction gem from “the greatest crime writer of our time, perhaps ever” (New York Times Book Review). The Grand Master justifies the overwhelming acclaim he has received over the course of his remarkable career with an electrifying thriller that sends the indomitable Raylan racing to Italy on the trail of a fugitive bookie who’s hiding from the vengeful Miami mob.
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