Marshaling Laughs

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Ever since I watched HBO’s “The Sopranos,” I’ve been convinced that TV dramas can be as funny as sitcoms (see also: “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men” and even “The Wire”).

I recently marathoned the first three seasons of FX’s “Justified,” which follows the goings-on of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant, above left) and a rotating cast of criminals in Kentucky. Yet again, I found myself laughing more than I expected.

Comedy in a drama (particularly a violent one) is most often used to provide relief from otherwise tense or suspenseful situations. Like when a “Justified” character “disarms” a bad guy by chopping off his arm.

Humor is also written into this crime show’s DNA: The sharp and witty writings of Elmore Leonard, who created Raylan, serve as inspiration.

Last night’s season 4 premiere added a true comedian to the show’s ranks: Patton Oswalt (above right), as Constable Bob Sweeney, who thinks he’s much more of a badass than he actually is. So far, the role isn’t entirely comedic (Oswalt plays it in a way that suggests a hidden darkness) and that’s OK — in a drama, a little bit of comedy goes a long way.

Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
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Shauna Miller · January 8, 2013