The Real Reason Why 'Justified' Was Originally Canceled

timothy olyphant speaks onstage during 'justified' panel, television critics association press tour january 2015 in pasadena
Why the Original 'Justified' Series Was CanceledFrederick M. Brown - Getty Images

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Justified: City Primeval, starring Timothy Olyphant, is the highly anticipated reboot of the FX series Justified, which ran for six seasons from 2010 to 2015. With the new limited series set to premiere in summer 2023, some fans are wondering why the original Justified was canceled in the first place.

While the western crime drama is a TV classic that fans didn’t want to end, the truth is that Justified was never canceled. In fact, FX wanted more. In 2014 when John Landgraf, then president and general manager of FX Networks, was asked about ending the show, he revealed it wasn't his decision. "I would have liked to have more Justified. It’s one of my favorite shows," he said. Instead, creator Graham Yost and Olyphant, both executive producers, made the call, according to Landgraf.

Justified Wasn't Cancelled, It "Rode Into the Sunset"

timothy olyphant speaks onstage during 'justified' panel, television critics association press tour january 2015 in pasadena
Timothy Olyphant at a Justified panel discussion in 2015Frederick M. Brown - Getty Images

The original Justified series was based on the novella Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard, who was an executive producer on the show until his death in 2013. In the novella and the show, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Olyphant) returns home to Kentucky and faces off with his foil, the criminal Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). The TV series expanded the story by a lot (the entire plot of the novella was covered in the pilot episode, except that Boyd dies in the novella). However, Raylan's life in Kentucky and ongoing conflict with Boyd in the series are extensions of the plot threads Leonard established in the novella. And that expanded story reached its conclusion.

"We just sort of felt like if this chapter of Raylan’s life was about Raylan and Boyd, that we can only take that story so far. And, yeah, that was basically it. We didn’t want to outstay our welcome," Yost said at a Television Critics Association winter press event in 2015. He also revealed that he and Fred Golan, a writer as well as an executive producer on Justified, had been pondering the ending of the series since the third season.

Olyphant drew a distinction between an abrupt cancellation, such as the one he experienced as the star of Deadwood in 2006, versus a series reaching its natural ending, as Justified did. “Usually, when things end, I’m not the first person to find out," he said at the same 2015 TCA event. "So, that’s been lovely. And I think it’s been wonderful to just be able to see the finish line and enjoy it."

So, there you have it. The original Justified ended on its own terms. Or, as showrunner Michael Dinner put it in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, "we rode it into the sunset," a fitting choice of words that Raylan himself might have uttered in his gentle Southern drawl.

Why the Justified reboot, then? The new limited series coming this summer will be based on another Leonard novel, City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit, and will focus on a later chapter in the life of Raylan Givens, who like Olyphant, returns a little grayer and a littler wiser, but still wearing a cowboy hat.

Though Raylan was not originally the protagonist in City Primeval, which is set in Detroit, the story is a natural fit for the character, who this time will be chasing sociopath Clement Mansell (Boyd Holbrook), aka The Oklahoma Wildman. With a different book serving as the source material—plus a new city and new characters to explore—there's a whole new story to tell.

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