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5 Shows like Justified: Gritty Drama Series

Andy McKendry itcherThere’s something special in shows like ‘Justified.’ They tell stories that aren’t easily replicated, and they contain larger than life characters. Here are my suggestions of what to watch if you loved the Timothy Olyphant helmed neo-western including ‘Deadwood’, ‘Aquarius’, and ‘The Shield.’ ~ Andy Mckendry

The Tall Drink of Water Raylan Givens

TV shows like ‘Justified’ shoot fast and ask questions later, they’re action packed, exciting, and contain compelling stories. Timothy Olyphant starred as the hard-bitten US Marshall Raylan Givens, a man who acted with impunity, and whose actions were of course always justified.

For fans of TV series like ‘Justifed’ I’ve curated some of my favourite stories that fill the hole left by our favourite quick on the draw US Marshall.

‘Deadwood’ (HBO, 2004 – 2006)

There hasn’t been a show before or since ‘Deadwood’ that has characters that can swear quite as eloquently. HBO’s western genre piece tells the story of a rural two-bit town in the post-Civil War years.

Timothy Olyphant stars as Seth Bullock, another character who is quick on the draw. It’s a show that explores the competing forces of civilisation and the freedom to be the rugged individual that characterised the Wild West.

Similarity Match: 90%
The stories are quite different, the setting perhaps less so, but in both ‘Deadwood’ and ‘Justified’ Timothy Olyphant flexes his lawman muscles, he’s quick on the trigger, and for the most part is on the right side of the law.

‘Aquarius’ (NBC, 2015 – )

At the centre of ‘Justifed’s’ story is a conflict between the outlaw Boyd Crowder, and the US Marshall Raylan Givens. It’s a dichotomy that we’re all familiar with, especially in cop shows.

NBC’s 2015 David Duchovny (‘The X Files’, ‘Californication’) vehicle ‘Aquarius’ contains a similar narrative crux. The story is set in the ‘60s, and it follows a cop as he investigates a cult led by Charles Manson.

Similarity Match: 85%
Perhaps the ‘60s setting is more suited to fans of AMC’s ‘Mad Men’, but Duchovny’s character is a similar cool, calculating, and relaxed figure to Olyphant’s US Marshall Raylan Givens.

‘The Shield’ (FX, 2002 – 2008)

A long time favourite of mine, ‘The Shield’ tells the story of a group of rogue cops. It’s a tale loosely based on the true LA Rampart Scandal and it follows the story of Vic Mackay, a plain clothed detective who heads up an elite anti gang unit.

It also stars Walton Goggins who you’ll recognise as ‘Justified’s’ chief outlaw Boyd Crowder. It’s an excellent piece of TV and one that’s just as compelling as FX’s Timothy Olyphant vehicle.

Similarity Match: 80%
‘The Shield’ is far darker than ‘Justified’ but both contain gripping stories of good guys versus bad guys – it’s just harder to define whose who in ‘The Shield’.

‘Sons of Anarchy’ (FX, 2008 – 2014)

Kurt Sutter’s motorcycle gang opus became tired and contrived towards the end of its run but at times it was one of the most exciting drama series on TV. Based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, ‘Sons of Anarchy’ told the story of a group of biker outlaws in a small Californian town.

It was a show that had just as much emphasis on place as ‘Justified’ did. But the tale in ‘Sons of Anarchy’ was one of criminality, not righteousness. Charlie Hunnam took the reigns and the narrative follows his rise to prominence in the MC. Walton Goggins also appears in ‘SOA’.

Similarity Match: 75%
There’s a certain irony in the fact that the MC’s hometown is called Charming – ‘SOA’ is perhaps most like ‘The Shield’ but its outlaw perspective is a perfect foil for ‘Justified’s’ tale of US Marshalls.

‘Terriers’ (FX, 2010 – )

There wasn’t enough room for the two of them, FX cancelled ‘Terriers’ and went with ‘Justified’ instead. However much I love their choice I still feel like ‘Terriers’ was too short lived.

Its first season was strong; its story humorous, and its characters well drawn. Donal Logue, who also appeared in ‘SOA’ starred alongside Michael Raymond-James as two fast talking private investigators. It has since become something of a cult TV show with fans hoping for some kind of Netflix revival – it’s not likely.

Similarity Match: 70%
‘Terriers’ contains a similar sort of investigative tale to the one found in ‘Justified’ but it has a much lighter tone.


My Thoughts

There are plenty of series like ‘Justified’ but none that quite managed to bridge the gap between dark procedural drama and light hearted yet menacing exchanges between cops and robbers. I’ve yet to see a TV show (or film for that matter) that contains characters that are quite so verbose.

Out of all of the shows similar to ‘Justified’ that I’ve listed above I would recommend watching ‘The Shield’ for its darker take on the police drama format. But I would suggest watching ‘Deadwood’ if you’d like to explore the Western genre on TV further.

Let me know what you think with a comment below.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do and what I′ve always done. As a child I wrote on walls with a crayon. Now I write for websites. I write for my blog where I post reviews of films, TV, and occasionally write short stories and I also run a writer and illustration collective. Whatever I do involves words, and plenty of them. I’m an avid cinephile, a screenwriter, and I love telling stories. I have an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University, UK, and I work on a freelance basis and drink far too much coffee.
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