Over on the cable channel FX, the drama "Justified" begins its second season this week. It's about a U.S. Marshall based in Kentucky.

But critic Eric Deggans says it's not your usual cop drama. Thats because the lead character is part of an interesting trend on FX: smart and emotionally complex working-class heroes.

Mr. ERIC DEGGANS (TV-Media Critic, St. Petersburg Times): Heres a few things Raylan Givens definitely is not: Lazy, insecure, unsophisticated or stupid.

Givens is a modern-day U.S. marshal with the soul of a sheriff from the Old West; as streetwise and smart as you might imagine.

(Soundbite of TV series, "Justified")

Mr. TIMOTHY OLYPHANT (Actor): (as Raylan Givens) Whoa-okay, I'm just going to ask you one question. Do you know how a firearm works?

DEGGANS: Here, hes just doused an angry sex offender with gasoline, trying to convince him to put down his gun.

Mr. OLYPHANT: (as Raylan Givens) The key word in firearm is fire. When the pin hits the cap, it makes the charge explode - meaning there's a spark - which should be of some concern to a man soaked in gasoline. Can't we just try to end this without you trying to turn yourself into the human torch?

DEGGANS: Played by actor Timothy Olyphant, Raylan Givens is the opposite of the stereotypes were often fed about working-class men on television. In Givens world, catching the bad guys and winning shootouts is the easy part. Mastering his life and the unpredictable moves of those he loves most, thats what keeps him up at night. And hes not alone.

Look across the wide range of dramas FX offers and you see lots of similar shades: the wisecracking, self destructive fireman Tommy Gavin in "Rescue Me;" the crafty, streetwise biker gang leader Jax Teller in "Sons of Anarchy;" and the overextended, desperate ex-heavyweight champ Patrick "Lights" Leary in "Lights Out."

(Soundbite of a TV series)

Unidentified Man #1: How far behind were we?

Unidentified Man #2: Margin of error.

Unidentified Man #1: I told Teresa we'd have the car back by tomorrow.

Unidentified Man #2: They're asking for the first two months, prepaid.

Unidentified Man #1: What about the bingo money?

Unidentified Man #2: IRS garnished it.

Unidentified Man #1: What?

DEGGANS: Either by design or accident, FX has lined up a mighty array of working-class anti-heroes; seriously flawed fellows scuffling and scraping for a living, while trying to hold their families together against the longest odds you can imagine.

To insult such men, some might call them white trash. Elsewhere on TV, they're light-hearted buffoons like "Larry the Cable Guy" or that bickering father and son from "American Chopper." But on FX, they have emotional intelligence. They have depth. And they just happen to lead some of the best, most sophisticated dramas on television.

FX seems to be slyly re-writing the rules for white, working-class characters right before our eyes. And in exchange, we get some of the best, most exciting, unorthodox figures on series television. A pretty good bargain, if you ask me.

MONTAGNE: Eric Deggans is the TV and media critic for the St. Petersburg Times.

And this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.


And Im Steve Inskeep.

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