That ain’t Kentucky

Last night, I chanced to see a bit of Justified, a newish American TV show that only just started in Germany in a late night slot.

I hadn’t planned on watching the show, because the trailers made it look like the sort of ultra-violent US cable show that I don’t like. You know, the sort where the alleged “hero” is so unlikable that you hope the villains would kill him already. But I’d heard that the show was supposedly set in Kentucky, so I thought that I’d give it a try, because I’ve been to Kentucky and it’s the kind of setting you rarely seen on American TV these days.

Well, the show started out not in Kentucky but in Miami with our very stoic supposed “hero” shooting someone else, most likely a villain (well, he did have bad skin), in a sort of self-defense (the other guy had a gun), sort of cold blood sequence that was so predictable that I yelled “Oh shoot him already!” at the screen. Honestly, that scene was only unexpected, if you’ve never seen Star Wars before (it’s basically a replay of the “Han shoots Greedo in the cantina scene”, only that this time both guys shoot almost simultaneously, though the “good guy” still shoots first), let alone any old western. Oh yes, and just in case you don’t get that this is basically a modern day western, our supposed “hero” is not just stoic, he even wears a cowboy hat. Because cowboy hats are suck a common sight in contemporary Florida or Kentucky, for that matter.

Next, there is some stuff about the “hero”, a US Marshall it turns out, getting in trouble with his boss for shooting someone. Then he’s transferred to Kentucky. Now I’ve been to Kentucky. I’ve even been to Lexington, the city where our “hero” is supposedly transferred to. And I looked at the screen and said, “That’s not Lexington. That’s not even Kentucky. It doesn’t even remotely look like Kentucky.”

Yes, I know that getting upset at American TV shows for not looking like the places they’re supposed to be set in is stupid, because the overwhelming majority of American TV shows are shot either in Los Angeles or Vancouver. But most of the time, the producers do manage to make the setting look at least vaguely like wherever it’s supposed to be via the clever use of stock footage and camera filters. Yes, there are obvious slip-ups and there’d probably be more, if I were more familiar with either Los Angeles or the location where the show is supposedly set (but then US shows are rarely set in parts of the US I actually recognize). But most of the time, the illusion works and if the story is good enough, I don’t notice slip-ups.

This show, however, didn’t even make the attempt. Instead we got those dusty looking hills that have provided the setting for anything from Star Trek via The A-Team to Firefly pretending to be Kentucky. Now I am willing to accept that those dusty hills are an alien planet, because I have no idea what an actual alien planet would look like. In fact, dusty hills in California are pretty high on my list of what alien planets look like, because that’s what they look like on TV. But I know what Kentucky looks like and it does not look like those dusty hills.

Since the show didn’t look appealing and the setting was so fake that they didn’t even bother, I went down into the kitchen to make some tea and do some other housekeeping tasks before switching on the TV again. I wanted to watch something else, but since that program wouldn’t start for a few minutes yet, I tuned into Justified again just in time for yet another unsurprising surprise shooting, this time in the dining room of what looked like a depression era farmhouse, complete with depression era furniture. Apparently the idea was to show that people living in the central parts of the US are so backwards that they haven’t even redecorated their homes since the depression. Sigh!

ETA: Wikipedia reveals that Justified is based on a short story and two novels by Elmore Leonard, which might account for the somewhat old-fashioned feel of the whole thing. Because even though the novels in question are from the 1990s, Leonard’s work does feel a bit old-fashioned to me. Wikipedia also claims that part of the pilot was shot in Pennsylvania (which is not Kentucky, but closer than Los Angeles), though the rest of the show was shot in California. If so, the parts that were shot in Pennsylvania were not the parts that I saw.

PS: I’ve also got an update on the PayPal versus Erotica situation over at the Pegasus Pulp blog.

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