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The Best Hour in Television History?

Posted on March 30 2010 8:47 pm
David Forsmark is the owner and president of Winning Strategies, a full service political consulting firm in Michigan. David has been a regular columnist for Frontpage Magazine since 2006. For 20 years before that, he wrote book, movie and concert reviews as a stringer for the Flint Journal, a midsize daily newspaper.
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Timothy Olyphant as US Marshall Raylan Givens in FX’s “Justified”

When I was first married, we basically watched prime television on one night– Thursday.  First stop CBS for Magnum P.I., then over to ABC for Taxi and Barney Miller, and ending up on NBC for Hill Street Blues.  Other than that, it was mostly sports and movies.

Tonight, ABC returns its science fiction series, V, and invades what is easily the most crowded hour of television quality in my lifetime– Tuesday night at 10PM Eastern.  If it lives up to the quality of its Fall run, V makes no less than 4, count ’em FOUR, terrific television shows competing in the same time slot.

V takes on FX’s terrifically entertaining show Justified starring Timothy Olyphant as a trigger happy U.S. Marshall. CBS’s surprising smash hit The Good Wife which is the best show that deals with politics on TV right now, and TNT’s Southland which is possibly the most realistic cop show ever made without the help of David Simon (Homicide and The Wire).

THIS is why God gave us DVRs.

Last Fall, when V gave us good looking alien invaders who offer peace and universal health care in exchange for obedience, it was such a good anti-collectivist statement that liberal critics cried foul while conservative critics cheered as both took it as a direct slap at the Obama agenda.

I don’t think it was meant that way, but it is a timely show about Americans standing up for freedom and individualism in the face of smooth talking and popular tyrants.

Fx’s Justified features Timothy Olyphant in a classic star turn as the coolest gunslinger on TV since Steve McQueen in Wanted Dead or Alive.  U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens is a Kentucky-born cross between Dirty Harry and Wyatt Earp.  Of course Olyphant had good preparation for the role playing Seth Bullock, the real life western sheriff of Deadwood.

Justified (as in justified shooting) is based on an Elmore Leonard short story about a hotshot federal marshall who is banished to his old Kentucky home after been too mean to the bad guys in the big city.  So far, the show has far exceeded its source material.

Justified is everything you’d want a show like this to be– cleverly plotted with sharp dialogue, good acting, and tense confrontations that generally lead to bad guys getting theirs.

I discussed the superb new CBS Show, The Good Wife in depth a few weeks ago.  This show about the publically wronged wife of a philandering politician who gets her life back by joining a high-powered politically connected Chicago law firm is a great antidote to Law and Order and its liberal reflex to every “ripped from the headlines” plotline.

In the week after the episode’s smartest character revealed himself to be a gun-loving Sarah Palin fan, the show had Alicia Floreck working to defend a couple who wanted their insurance company to pay for surgery on their “unborn baby.”  As in a past show when a gun control advocate suddenly wanted one for personal protection, it was a liberal who was stung with hypocrisy charges when it was revealed that the mother was a “community organizer” who had led pro-abortion rallies.  Then again, it was a heartless insurance company that was the bad guy here, so there was something for everyone.

Also, as someone who does campaigns for a living, I have to note that the political campaign heating up on this show is the most realistic  I’ve seen in a dramatic show since the mayoral campaign in The Wire.  It’s great to see a show this politically and dramatically complex be a top 10 hit on broadcast TV.

Speaking of realism, watching the cop show Southland often feels like you’ve been allowed to go on a ride-along with the LAPD.  NBC cancelled this fine show to make room for the failed Jay Leno 10PM experiment, and TNT snapped it up, making it a fine companion to The Closer—and perhaps it stood as a sharp rebuke on the network dominated by politically correct Law and Order?

John Wells, producer of E.R. and Third Watch makes Southland seem like an update of The New Centurions—especially when the tough sergeant Sergeant tells his young trainee, “You’ve got a front row seat to the greatest show on earth,” that’s straight out of the lexicon of cop-scribe Joseph Wambaugh.

And if that’s not enough, if it weren’t for the fact that the enormously entertaining White Collar– part of USA networks’s very appealing lineup of throwback thrillers which includes standouts Burn Notice and In Plain Sight– is on hiatus, there would be FIVE worthwhile shows in this slot.

White Collar takes a page from the movie Catch Me if You Can, about a straight laced older FBI agent who takes a young con man under his wing and puts him on the straight and narrow.

Don’t get all nostalgic with me about the Golden Age of Television.

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