50 best television shows set across the United States

18 of 52

Kentucky: Justified

The premise: U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens returns home to his rural Kentucky home after he gets in trouble with his bosses for acting like a renegade. Once home, he faces off against a childhood friend turned outlaw, Boyd Crowder. Raylan and Boyd often find themselves on the opposite sides of the law, but their time digging coal together makes for an uneasy respect between the two men.

The setting: Raylan returns to Harlan County, Kentucky, the place where he grew up. Harlan is a real place, nestled into the hollows (read: hollers) of East Kentucky. Most of its residents have some association with the coal mining industry, but with its decline, the poverty became a real and present danger. Justified uses the real history of Harlan County to flesh it’s characters out as real people. It doesn’t reduce them to stereotypes or exploit the “hillbilly” cliche. Harlan is as much part of the fabric of the narrative as any of the characters.

The most Kentucky thing about it: This show is a love letter to Kentucky. Everything about it honors the rich traditions of the culture and community, which is notoriously tightknit. The fact that it’s set in Harlan County is evidence of this fact. Also, the bond between the two main characters was forged in the coal mines, a sacred and cherished tradition of the place.