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Tonight’s ‘Justified’ & 'Killer Women’ set to duel for viewers

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FX and ABC want to make one thing simple…if you are in the crosshairs of “Justified’s” Raylan Givens or “Killer Women’s” Molly Parker then good luck, because you’ll need it. Tonight two programs centered on dueling lawmen (and women) prepare to fight for your attention, but only one really has the backing of critics.

January means midseason TV and one of TV’s finest midseason shows is FX’s “Justified.” The Emmy winning series starring Timothy Olyphant returns for its fifth season tonight; its first since the passing of literary icon Elmore Leonard.

Leonard, who is responsible for the world of Raylan Givens, “Get Shorty,” “Out of Sight” and a plethora of other hits, sadly passed away in August of last year and his shoes at not easily filled. What defined an Elmore Leonard adaptation as a hit or a miss was if the person in charge understood the material left in their care. “Justified’s” Graham Yost falls into that category.

In yesterday’s review of tonight’s premiere Variety’s Brian Lowery reminded his readers that the noted showrunner “has wryly described the writing staff’s guiding philosophy as “What would Elmore do?,” It’s a philosophy that works, but that doesn’t mean Yost and his team also can’t take a few liberties with its source material.

“Justified” comes from Leonard’s “Fire in the Hole” short story in which Walton Goggins’ fan-favorite Boyd Crowder doesn’t make it out alive. However Yost and team not only loved Goggins’ performance in the show’s pilot, but the actor himself and he’s been a series regular since season 2.

As Channel Guide Magazine points out in yesterday’s preview, the show wouldn’t have been the same otherwise.

“To say Boyd has proven to be an essential part of the show is almost a ludicrous understatement. In addition to just being compelling to watch, the character has shown the flipside of the coin to Raylan’s character, and their uneasy at best relationship never proves less than fascinating.”

Boyd isn’t your typical villain, but he will do anything to protect his friends and family. As a result, this season he will be a man on a mission after his beloved Ava (Joelle Carter) was jailed in last season’s finale. Between Boyd’s new vendetta and “Justified’s” new big bad Michael Rappaport, Raylan’s life isn’t going to get easier.

Over on ABC, Tricia Helfer makes her (latest) return to series TV with “Killer Women,” an eight-episode series that if successful could be back for more in 2015. Helfer plays Molly Parker, one of only two female Texas Rangers, who is as sexy as she is tough.

Of course, this isn’t a new formula, but as today’s reviews are pointing out at least the network (for once) isn’t trying to hide that.

“Nah, this is the story of a beautiful gal who wears tight jeans, loves her lovin’, packs a gun and isn’t afraid to use it.” - New York Daily News

“Shot with more style than the premise suggests (and counting “Modern Family’s” Sofia Vergara among its producers), “Women” is mindless fun, perhaps, but unlikely to make a killing.” - Variety

As Variety mentioned, the series is from the Emmy nominated Vergara, which was a big reason ABC decided to roll the dice on giving it a pick-up. ABC is very female-skewing, as if you couldn’t tell with a roster of shows including “Revenge,” “Nashville” and “Grey’s Anatomy” and as a result they know what clicks with their viewers.

“Killer Women” doesn’t pretend to be more than it is and as long as it doesn’t come in below the numbers of its timeslot’s former inhabitant (the recycled “Lucky 7”) then it already has the odds in its favor.

“Justified” returns tonight at 10 p.m. EST on FX and “Killer Women” debuts tonight at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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