Thursday, May 26, 2011

Notes from the JUSTIFIED screening and Q & A

Natalie Zea   Tim Olyphant   Graham Yost

Margo Martindale   Walton Goggins  Erica Tazel
Got to attend the special night devoted to JUSTIFIED at the TV Academy earlier this week. They showed the second season finale and had a Q & A with members of the cast and showrunner/creator Graham Yost. I have to say, despite my years in the business, when it comes to this show I’m just a total geek fanboy. I’d dress like Raylan Givens but no Jew looks good in a cowboy hat. Anyway, I was thrilled when I got the invitation (especially after my recent post on no longer being on any lists for screenings).

I excitedly called the RSVP line and the recorded message told me to leave my name, number of guests, phone number, and affiliation. I did the first three and then said, “Affiliation? Uh… writer? Mariners? Blogger? I dunno. Hey, you invited me.”

One of those affiliations must’ve worked because I was admitted. Watching the show on the big screen was a totally different experience. There’s no disclaimer that this program might contain violence. Surprisingly, everyone in the theater was able to handle the violence without the warning.  And I thought my High Definition gave me a great picture, but wow! I gotta get me one of those ‘500 foot screens.

The Q & A was terrific. Attending were Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Natalie Zea, Erica Tazel (don’t say “who?” She plays Rachel), and goddess of goddesses, Margo Martindale. Critic Pete Hammond moderated and did a superb job – and by that I mean he didn’t make the whole evening about himself (as 99.999999% of moderators do).

We learned that the show was pitched to several places before FX bought it (This is so common – short sighted networks passing on shows that become huge hits. I bet HBO wished they had said yes to MAD MEN now.).

Walton Goggins (Boyd) was supposed to die at the end of the pilot but scored so well they brought him back. Suddenly the bullet just missed his heart. (SPOILER ALERT: SEASON TWO FINALE!) When audience members asked if Graham Yost could bring Margo Martindale back he said, “You can’t just miss with poison.”

Yost, by the way, was very articulate and funny. I never saw that humorous side of him watching BAND OF BROTHERS and THE PACIFIC. I blame the directors.

There will be a third season and Yost is a little concerned because how do you top Margo Martindale’s spectacular Mags Bennett character? If she doesn’t win an Emmy then they should disband the Academy. And seeing her performance on the big screen – she should win an Oscar too.  As for next year -- this is usually when you place that call to John Lythgow.

The original title Yost wanted was THE LAW MAN but then learned there was an absurd Steven Segal reality show premiering with that name. Olyphant joked that he saw Segal just the night before in New York at the dinner awarding JUSTIFIED the Peabody Award.

Natalie Zea (Winona) wore glasses, which, to me, defeats the purpose of Natalie Zea being there. We came to see those amazing blue eyes!

What was their favorite individual episode? A lot like #12, one liked #9 and one really favored #3.

Everyone was charming and candid. There was lots of good information, lots of laughs, and most of all, lots of recognition of the great writing by the cast. And the praise seemed sincere. They didn’t appear to be saying nice things just because they know they could get shot in any episode.

Eventually, the audience was invited to ask questions. I was just waiting for the first really stupid one and sure enough, some imbecile with a hillbilly accent pitched himself to be on the show. 

It’s always fun (and very rare) to have a shared experience watching a favorite TV show. I’m sure everyone on the panel also enjoyed the evening. What’s not to like about being showered in adulation? Thanks to the TV Academy for holding it, the actors and writer for doing it, and my friend Howard for taking pictures so my geek fanboy experience could be complete and I now have me and Margo Martindale as my wallpaper!

But please, somebody, stop me before I download the JUSTIFIED theme for my ringtone.

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