It's hard not to see FX as one of the creative bastions of cable television. Even more so than the critically acclaimed AMC, the network is really focused on the quality and creativity of its content. The network features Louie, for instance, which is in my opinion the bravest and most original series on television. It also features the excellent and perpetually underrated Justified, a neo-western set in Kentucky that examines the dynamic of cops and criminals in the rural midwest.
Speaking to TV Guide, FX president Kevin Landgraf spoke about why the show occupies such a unique niche on television. As it turns out, he feels it's because the series features a hero instead of an antihero, who have become commonplace fixtures on television.
"I think Justified does a masterful job of deconstructing Raylan Givens' character and, by extension, the iconic white-hat lawman who has been a part of American film and television for generations, all the way back to Gary Cooper and John Wayne," Landgraf said. "What's fascinating to me about the show is that, the implication of the title is that we have a very angry man, who comes from a very angry background, who has found a socially acceptable - i.e. justifiable - way to do what he really wants to do, which is kill people. And from the very beginning he has a crisis of faith surrounding that. I think it's fascinating; we'd never really examined deeply the motivations of that white-hatted hero... He's a flawed hero, rather than an antihero."
That's an important distinction to Landgraf, who remarked that the network turned down Breaking Bad because he was afraid they would be falling into the "antihero" niche.
"You just kind of have to go in the opposite direction of where the trend's going. [. . .] And the reason that I [passed on Breaking Bad], though, was that with The Shield, Nip/Tuck, and Rescue Me on the air, I was like, "Well, are we going to be an exclusively antihero-based network?" A male,white antihero-based network. And isn't that a small, fairly narrow brand? Now, if I could go back, of course I'd pick up Breaking Bad. But the reason I didn't is I've never wanted FX to get pigeonholed into a small cul-de-sac. I think our ambitions creatively are much more expansive than that."
Justified's next episode, "Outlaw," airs next Tuesday, February 26, at 10/9c on FX.