By Guest Contributor Jordan St. John
Since last year, I have been trying (begging) some of my fellow Black People (BPs) to watch Justified on FX. This season, I have redoubled my efforts. I follow my favorite television series with the dedication some people reserve for sports, weaves and tracking their loved ones on Facebook. Yes, I will still watch it if there is no one to discuss it with but it’s just not the same. Unfortunately, my attempts play out like this:
Me: Try one episode. You don’t even have to watch the first season.
BP: Girl, I don’t know.
Me. It’s got some of the best writing on TV. I mean, it’s based on Elmore Leonard characters
BP: Yeah … What is it even about? Isn’t Justified that ad with the man in the cowboy hat?
Me: Yes. Timothy Olyphant. He’s like a modern gun slinger in Kentucky …
That is about the time I get cut off with a look and we move on to other topics – the weather, Chris Brown, Charlie Sheen, etc. I admit a show whose theme song features bluegrass may be a hard sell but its Gangstagrass, dammit.
Apparently my uninterested friends are not alone. After a strong premiere, ratings for the show’s second season in the all important 18-49 demographic have slipped considerably. In other words, the young and middle aged viewers that advertisers covet are not tuning in and cable executives like what advertisers like. Justified still has pretty solid ratings for FX and managed to score a third season but the show isn’t pulling huge audiences. I don’t have a racial breakdown of the numbers but I can guess they don’t include a ton of black people.
The series follows trigger happy Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens (Olyphant) who is back in his native Kentucky after what he viewed as a “justifiable” shooting. He joins the local deputy team and quickly gets caught up in all the things he thought he left behind – his ex wife, his con man father, the Dixie Mafia, and a sordid cast of small town crooks. Yes, Justified is partly about a white cop in a cowboy hat shooting rednecks and sleeping with pretty blondes but what I appreciate is the fact it doesn’t use that focus as an excuse to neglect black southern experiences.