It's big trouble in East Texas when SundanceTV's new series Hap & Leonard premieres tonight.
Based on the bestselling series from Joe R. Lansdale, Hap & Leonard centers around the exploits of one of mystery's most unlikely pairings. Hap Collins (James Purefoy—The Following and HBO's Rome) is a draft-dodging pacifist. His best friend is Leonard Pine, a gay Vietnam Vet with a short fuse, played by a perfectly-cast Michael Kenneth Williams, late of Boardwalk Empire. The past that unites Hap and Leonard is as tragic as their present-day search for buried treasure in 1980s Texas is, by turns, hilarious and nail-biting. If you've got a Justified-shaped hole in your heart, this might be the darkly comic crime caper series you've been searching for—with a heavy Southern twist.
Lansdale, author of over forty novels—the latest of which is a new Hap & Leonard novel called Honky-Tonk Samurai—has seen his work adapted for the silver screen before. 2014's Cold in July was, like Hap & Leonard, a period-piece set in Texas, but much more firmly on the darker side of the spectrum. Prior to that, there was Bubba Ho-Tep, a hilarious horror-comedy about Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and a black man who believes he's really John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis) fighting a mummy in a retirement home.
So, yes, Lansdale does the best odd couples, whether it's people or genre mash-ups.
Anything can happen in a Hap & Leonard novel, and often does so in the same chapter. What gives Lansdale's stories their power is the authenticity he brings to the people and places of East Texas. There's a lived-in quality that can't be faked—and isn't; Lansdale often writes about what he knows, as he explains in a recent NPR interview which can be heard in full here.
If your interest is piqued, be sure to catch the Hap & Leonard premiere tonight on SundanceTV at 10 PM E/PST, and then check back in on Criminal Element immediately afterward to read our review and post your thoughts!