SundanceTV's Hap and Leonard Is Down Home Fun

"Every time you take a shit it comes out smelling like lollipops." - Leonard Pine

SundanceTV's new series Hap and Leonard (which premieres Wednesday, March 2 at 10pm, the first episode of a six-episode run) is all about favorite good ol' boys Hap Collins (The Following'James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael Kenneth Williams of The Wire), two characters who first found notoriety in author Joe R. Lansdale's series of Hap and Leonard crime novels. Essentially, Hap and Leonard are two buddies living in the fictional East Texas town of LaBorde in the late 1980s. Hap's an ex-activist and Leonard's a gay Vietnam vet. Like, that's who they are on paper, but the main draw here is their friendship. 

Purefoy and Williams have immediate chemistry and are able to lock into the type of shared onscreen presence that makes their relationship feel lived-in even before we know all the details of their past. They're scrappy, love sassing each other, and are wont to find themselves in the kind of pulpy "fixes" that make for good best-sellers and entertaining television. And the show kicks into gear when the two learn of a car full of stolen cash that's submerged somewhere in a Texas river, and all their problems can be solved by finding it. Think Mad Dogs and Terriers (double-R.I.P.), and that's the tone happening here.


Adapted for the screen by Jim Mickle and Nick Damici (hey, three cheers for horror filmmakers coming to TV), this limited series follows the initial Lansdale book Savage Season, though there's plenty of other books to source if the show were to continueFans of small-town crime with the type of larger-than-life characters that normally populate the pages of hardback page-turners will find a fine balance of danger and humor here. The laid-back setting of an East Texas town still catching up to a progressive world provides the perfect shabby backdrop for our enlightened antiheroes to maneuver through the cozy and troublesome. Hap and Leonard are not social justice warriors, they're just willing to give and take punches for what they feel is right.

Which is not to say LaBolde is a stark and humorless place. This is a world where aging '60s activists go to jail and learn about hidden bank heist cash, where a doughy backwoods hick named Chubbs gets praised for attending therapy, an untrustworthy guy named Paco has half a burnt face, and where disco-loving villains dress like Joan Collins from The Fabulous Stains and slit throats. Plus, Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) plays Hap's femme fatale and ex-wife, the wholesome-hippy Trudy Fawst, so there's plenty of steamy opportunities here. 


This first episode, "Savage Season," benefits from established source material and familiar crime genre archetypes, so it boot scoots right past the normal pitfalls of pilots: exposition is minimal, the character dynamics are clear from the get-go, and the overall story of a hunt for stolen money at the bottom of a river is all that's needed to kick off this race for gold. After all, with only six installments, Hap and Leonard's got a story to get to. 

What we do learn about Hap and friends comes incidentally. Hap and Leonard are poor enough to work on a rose farm, unlucky enough to get fired from that job (Mexicans work cheaper), and world weary enough to look askance at Trudy's reappearance. Leonard treats Hap's cheating ex-wife with a cold rudeness aimed at someone who hurt a person he cares about. Meanwhile, Hap's large-hearted loneliness leaves him vulnerable to any sort of romantic manipulation. At the same time, she's offering the two a cut of her ex-husband's score. Neither are in the place to turn it down.


Yeah, the dialogue can get a little silly with phrases like, "Leonard knows guns like a dog knows his own ass," but at least Hap and Leonard's trying to provide some character to the world in its own unique way. Bromances usually play off an unacknowledged undercurrent of homoeroticism, so it's refreshing to see a gay character whose sexuality is no big deal to the people in the universe. Sure, Leonard's affinity for "dick" (as Hap puts it) isn't put on a pedestal either. When a family member calls Leonard a homophobic slur, Williams' response is one of wounded honesty. Action shows don't need these moments, but I appreciated the emotional justice that made the name caller appear on the wrong side of behavior. Also, James Purefoy talks pretty good Texan for a Brit.

At the end of the day, Hap and Leonard  is a product of today's vast television landscape and its many, many specific offerings. Whether you actually enjoy the show will depend on how much you already enjoy the genre of crime capers and buddies razzing one another. If you're into Mad Dogs, Burn Notice, or Better Call Saul, you'd do well to take a ride with Hap and Leonard. I for one think it's a hard thing to pull off action that's as affable and sweet-natured as this show, so these good ol' boys can count me in. 

Hap and Leonard premieres Wednesday, March 2 at 10pm on SundanceTV. Not sure if your cable provider carries SundanceTV? Use SundanceTV's channel finder to find out.


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Apr 08, 2016
I like this show but need to catch up on episodes. Where does the time go? All the actors on this show are fantastic and I've enjoyed their previous shows also.
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Mar 10, 2016
Adore the books, Joe Lansdale is a brilliant writer. Enjoying the show immensely.
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Mar 04, 2016
Yay! Just seen it and thank the gods we have something other than that shitty Marvel rubbish to watch. Gritty, bloody, murderous, funny (what's wrong with 'Leonard knows guns like a dog knows his own ass'?), poignant, etc. Bring on the next ep!
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Mar 03, 2016
Thanks for the review. I've been looking for one and didn't want to start the show if it isn't worth watching.
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Mar 02, 2016
Did someone say Christina Hendricks, nothing else needs to be said.
[Except maybe that linking her only to Mad Men and not Firefly is unacceptable]
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Mar 03, 2016
Heh! THAT'S where I recognize her from!

It's YoSaffBridge Reynolds :)
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Mar 03, 2016
Indecently people, just sayin' but for those of you that have dish network but not the package that includes Sundance, you have it right now for free for about the next five weeks...go look at channel 103 for the freebies, y'all
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