FX announced yesterday that it’s picking up “Lawman,” a modern-day Western starring Timothy Olyphant and developed/written by Graham Yost (who is best known for Speed and Boomtown, but whom I always think of as the son of the Saturday Night at the Movies guy). It’s the first series to be based on an Elmore Leonard character since Karen Sisco, which was one of my favourite flops of the last decade.
Actually, there have been surprisingly few shows based on Elmore Leonard’s work, considering that he works in genres that are very TV-friendly (crime, Western) and that his self-consciously quirky style is the type of thing that a lot of shows aspire to. Before Karen Sisco there was really only Maximum Bob, the late ’90s Beau Bridges flop that tried to do a sort of David E. Kelley take on a Leonard novel, plus the usual number of unsold pilots. In some ways, the Leonard style would seem almost more suited to TV than movies, but there haven’t been many U.S. TV shows based on novels or novellas (though that is changing), and sustaining a half-serious, half-goofy style for a whole series can be difficult; the first thing Yost said after the show was picked up was that the big challenge would be replicating Leonard’s authorial “voice” in a 13-episode season.