After six mostly-wondrous seasons, tonight it’s finally time for Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens to hang up his badge for good. It’s the series finale of the FX drama we all know and love, Lawman.
At least, that’s what we might all be saying today if Steven Seagal, of all people, hadn’t forced FX to execute an 11th hour title change for its new drama, based on an Elmore Leonard character, and come up with what turned out to be the perfect name for the series: Justified.
FX has announced the project as Lawman back in 2009, but the network renamed it in early 2010 to avoid a conflict with Steven Seagal: Lawman, a now-long-forgotten A&E reality series about Seagal’s work as a reserve deputy sheriff in Louisiana. The new title, Justified, was taken from a line in the pilot, in which Raylan’s new boss, Art Mullen, asks him about his quick-draw shooting of a mob hitman in Miami, which causes Raylan to be reassignment to Kentucky’s Harlan County. “It was justified,” says Raylan.
When I interviewed Justified creator Graham Yost earlier this year for my Daily Beast story about series finales (a story that is worth rereading before tonight’s Justified farewell), we also talked about the title that wasn’t, and how the show’s fate might have changed had it kept its original moniker.
Once FX decided on a name change, “we didn’t come up with Justified,” says Yost. “That was an FX idea and we went, ‘Okay, they like it; that’s fine.’ We couldn’t come up with anything better. The people who worked on The Shield hated that title at first. It was supposed to be called Rampart, and the LAPD basically said, ‘You will not get any help from us if that’s what you call it.’ So they came up with The Shield, and no one liked it. It became The Shield and Justified became Justified.”
Now, of course, there’s no question that Justified is far superior to the generic-sounding Lawman, which seems more appropriate for a CBS procedural. “There’s a slight question in the title, a little bit of irony, it’s the whole thing of Raylan’s story in that and so it’s great,” says Yost. “And Lawman is far more straightforward. There would have been great posters, and it might have gotten a bigger audience in some ways, or at least sampling it, but I don’t think it would’ve had the core people who really got into it.”
Then again, as Yost points out, the title might not have mattered much in the end, so long as the show itself was as compelling as Justified turned out to be: “It’s absolutely ridiculous to try and equate, but The Beatles is the most ridiculous name for a band,” he notes. “It was modeled on The Crickets, but all these associations go away.”
Farewell, Justified and/or Lawman. And — here’s a sentence no one has likely ever uttered before — thank you, Steven Seagal!