SundanceTV hit ‘Hap and Leonard’ wraps up first critically acclaimed season

hap and leonard michael kenneth williams james purefoy sundancetv emmy

Hap and Leonard” debuted on SundanceTV on March 2 and ended its six-episode first season on Wednesday (April 6). Will this period crime thriller make an impact at the Emmys? Sundance has been recognized by the TV academy for its miniseries “Carlos,” “Top of the Lake” and “The Honorable Woman,” but they’re looking for a breakthrough in drama series categories.

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Based on the novels of Joe R. Lansdale, “Hap and Leonard” is set in 1980s Texas and stars James Purefoy as Hap and Michael Kenneth Williams as Leonard. Hap is a laborer who went to jail for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War while Leonard is a gay veteran of the war. Purefoy is best-known for the TV series “Rome” and “The Following,” though he has yet to be nominated at the Emmys.  Williams earned his first Emmy bid last year for his supporting role in the telefilm “Bessie” after standout roles in “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire.”

Joining them as Hap’s ex-wife Trudy is “Mad Men” alum Christina Hendricks, who earned six straight Emmy noms for the AMC series but never won. She could continue her Emmy streak with a bid for this new role.

The crime drama has been compared to a couple of previous Emmy contenders, including “Justified,” which won two acting Emmys (for Margo Martindale and Jeremy Davies) over its six seasons on the air and also picked up additional acting bids for stars Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins. And Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz thinks the series is not unlike “The Rockford Files,” the 1978 Emmy champ for Best Drama Series.

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Take a read of Seitz’s review below along with other positive notices for the series:

Matt Zoller Seitz (Vulture): “It has been compared in reviews to ‘Justified,’ probably because of its laid-back characterizations, courtly drawls, and working-class to working-poor milieu. But the show it reminds me of most is the primary tonal influence on ‘Justified,’ ‘The Rockford Files,’ which was ultimately less concerned with whatever case James Garner’s private eye happened to be solving than with the oddball personalities he met along the way … The plot machinations are never the point of any scene or sequence. It’s always mainly about atmosphere, lively characterizations, and smart, attentive actors pinging off of each other from moment to moment.”

Matt Roush (TV Insider): “They may look like washed-up washouts of the late 1980s, but Hap Collins and Leonard Pine are awfully good company, though a far cry from your typical Texas good ol’ bad boys. The most pungently flavorful regional crime drama since ‘Justified’ signed off last year, ‘Hap and Leonard’ adapts Joe R. Lansdale’s novels (which I’m now eager to read) into a terrifically offbeat caper.”

Brian Tallerico (RogerEbert.com): “It’s a Southern potboiler that moves to a different rhythm than what TV fans in 2016 may be accustomed to or may even be expecting with a set-up that promises shoot-outs and wisecracking attitudes. At its best, it recalls both the charm and wit of FX’s ‘Justified’ but filtered through a different writer’s genre-bending tone that’s different from Elmore Leonard. Adapted from a series of novels by beloved writer Joe Lansdale and by the team who also gave us the film version of Lansdale’s ‘Cold in July,’ ‘Hap and Leonard’ works its strengths slowly, until you’re eager to see where these characters are headed next and how they’ll work their way out of what looks like an increasing degree of trouble.”

Robert Lloyd (LA Times): “It’s always wonderful merely to behold. Mickle works here with his frequent cinematographer Ryan Samul, who has an eye for landscape and still life and a deft touch with both natural and theatrical light. His work, which evokes the art photography of the period, feels careful and casual at once, and on its own makes “Hap and Leonard” worth a look.”

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Photo credit: SundanceTV

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