Producer of FX's 'Justified' recalls 'boom' times here

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PASADENA, Calif. -- Filming the pilot episode for the upcoming FX series "Justified" in Western Pennsylvania last spring, executive producer Graham Yost came away with a specific memory of Pittsburgh while staying at the Omni William Penn Downtown.

"There were an incredible amount of fireworks going off, it seemed like every night," Yost said. "They'd echo around all the buildings and I could see them out my [hotel room] window."

While there were fireworks in Pittsburgh, there was more of a slow burn on the set of the pilot, which was largely filmed outside of Pittsburgh. Timothy Olyphant stars in "Justified" as deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens who is re-assigned to Harlan, Ky., after a broad daylight shooting in Miami that he deems "justified." Olyphant's Givens is an old-school hero, a speak-softly-and-carry-a-big-stick kind of guy.

"I like that Raylan doesn't have to yell," Yost said.

The show's setting -- Western Pennsylvania plays rural Kentucky in the pilot -- appealed to Yost.

"It's a different place to do a show," he said.

Filmed under the title "Fire in the Hole," the name of the Elmore Leonard short story the pilot is based on, the project was briefly known as "Lawman" until A&E came up with the docu-reality show "Steven Seagal Lawman."

Leonard is an executive producer on "Justified," something he said is honorary -- he's not working in the writers' room -- but he's clearly a fan of the program. He plans to write another Givens short story that he said producers of the TV show will be welcome to adapt.

Yost said there are no plans to come back to Pittsburgh for additional filming during season one; maybe in season two if the show is successful. For episodes beyond the pilot, the production crew is doing its best to make areas around Los Angeles resemble Kentucky.

"Frankly, we've been waiting for the rain to come and green up Los Angeles," Yost said. He praised the Pittsburgh crew that worked on the pilot and said he offered some of them jobs to work on the series in Los Angeles but found many were working on movies filming in Western Pennsylvania last year.

For the pilot, "Justified" used Kittanning to play parts of Harlan, and also filmed in Washington, Pa. No specific town in California has been used as Harlan.

"We just use little pieces here and there," Yost said, "because small towns in California don't look like small towns in Kentucky."

Good 'Bad' returns

The intense series "Breaking Bad" returns March 21 with secrets revealed in the season premiere.

"Breaking Bad" tells the story of a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), who begins making and selling crystal meth to support his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), and children when he's gone. He works with a former student, Jesse (Aaron Paul), who begins the new season in rehab after the death of his girlfriend in season two.

"I think it's courageous of Vince and the writing staff to take what Walt held sacred and in the very first episode, the secret's out," Cranston said. "The entire construct he was holding fast to is blown up. The brilliance of it is they write themselves into unbelievable corners and then they have to find a way to scratch and fight their way out."

Gilligan said the new season also follows another theme.

"There may be some unintended consequences," Gilligan said. "Walt this season is a little like Dr. Frankenstein in the sense that Dr. Frankenstein, with good intentions, creates a monster, and maybe we'll see a little of that with Jesse."

Nick gets a 'Rush'

Nickelodeon's "Big Time Rush," which premieres tonight at 8:30 p.m. before settling into its usual 8:30 p.m. Friday time slot, is Nick's attempt at building a Jonas Brothers-style pop band. It's Nick's answer to Disney Channel's "JONAS," albeit slightly less organic since "Rush" doesn't feature siblings. It's a wholly constructed band, sort of a latter day "Monkees."

"I think they might have said, 'Who are the Monkees?' and I think I slapped one of them," joked executive producer Scott Fellows of the show's stars, Kendall Schmidt, James Maslow, Logan Henderson and Carlos Pena, whose characters share their first names. "I think the similarity is the energy and the comedy and the spirit of it. Yes, I love The Monkees. ... Hey, if we can get half that success, we'll be excited."

In the show the four guys move from Minnesota to Hollywood after Kendall is discovered in a nationwide casting call for a new boy band.

With the popularity of "Glee" and "American Idol," music shows seem to be all the rage. Marjorie Cohn, executive vice president of development and original programming for Nickelodeon, said the online world may be responsible for influencing the popularity of music on TV.

"We always want to follow where kids are, and kids do love music," Cohn said. "I do think the Internet has been a big part of that, the way the accessibility of music, the sharing of music has all opened up. There was always singing behind the scenes anyway, so why not put it on camera?"

Comcast changes

We've previously reported that Comcast is moving most of its Standard tier channels to a digital tier in the City of Pittsburgh on Jan. 26 (channel numbers stay the same). Now the company has set Feb. 9 as the date for the migration of 11 channels to digital in Baldwin, Castle Shannon, Whitehall, Brentwood, South Park, Dormont, Clairton, West View, Avalon, Ross, Ben Avon, Bellevue, Emsworth, Franklin Park, Ohio Township, McCandless, Millvale, Fox Chapel, Aspinwall, O'Hara, Etna, Sharpsburg and Shaler.

A first set of channels migrates to digital in Canonsburg, Washington and Waynesburg on Feb. 16.

For details or questions, do not contact me, call Comcast directly at 1-800-COMCAST.

'On Q' turns 10

Tonight's "On Q" (7:30 p.m., WQED) celebrates 10 years on the air as hosts Michael Bartley, Tonia Caruso and Chris Moore look back on stories from the past decade, guests and how the show has evolved. "On Q" premiered Jan. 17, 2000.

On Wednesday at 7:30, WQED will again rebroadcast the 2002 documentary, "On Q Special: From Pittsburgh to Haiti -- Mission of Mercy."

Channel surfing

AMC is developing a miniseries written by Kirk Ellis ("John Adams") and based on Laton McCartney's book "The Teapot Dome Scandal" about 1920s political corruption surrounding the administration of President Warren G. Harding. ... FX's crudely funny "Archer" premiered Thursday as the network's highest-rated comedy series premiere in adults 18-34, drawing 1.8 million total viewers and 1.2 million adults 18-49. ... Production begins today on the fourth and final season of Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana."

Post-Gazette TV editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour. You can find more news from the press tour at Tuned In Journal. Follow RobOwenTV at Twitter or Facebook. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 or . First Published January 18, 2010 5:00 AM


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