"The Ticket" has taken over Harlan County, Ky. It often seems that way anyway, because many characters in FX's Justified have the same names as popular sports-talk personalities from Dallas radio station "The Ticket" KTCK-AM (1310).
It's not a coincidence. This is the handiwork of VJ Boyd, a writer-producer on the show, which airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays.
Boyd's name-dropping shtick in his scripts is a shout-out to the city he grew up in and the station he still listens to.
"I do it because it's fun," Boyd says. "And I think it's fun for viewers if they're in on the joke."
Earlier this season, Justified viewers were introduced to Ty Walker, a silver-tongued devil played by Garret Dillahunt, and to Seabass, a baddie played by Scott Grimes.
Ty Walker, the station's afternoon Ticket Ticker anchor, and Sean "Seabass" Bass, co-host of Sunday's The Shake Joint, are well-known to regular listeners.
In previous seasons, buckaroo U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (played by Timothy Olyphant) met characters named T.C. Fleming (after The Ticket's Top Ten guy), Kemp (as in Jake Kemp, BaD Radio producer and Shake Joint co-host) and Donovan (as in Donovan Lewis, BaD Radio co-host).
"The first few times I did this, it was just a couple of last names here or first names there, so I don't think anyone really noticed," Boyd says. "The one that got people's attention was last season, when I did T.C. Fleming." On the show, Fleming is a computer hacker, played by T.J. Linnard, who wiped out Givens' credit.
"It's a very specific name. How many T.C. Flemings are there? I also threw in the last name Kemp in the same episode. That's when people started to notice it and talk about it. I've been able to work more of these in as I've gotten to write more episodes."
It's not just character names. In the second episode of the show's current farewell sixth season, Ty Walker paid a late-night visit to bank manager Joyce Kipling. While helping with her groceries, he asked, "What about eggs?" Dillahunt gave a menacing read to an ordinarily innocuous line, one that Ticket devotees, or "P1s," immediately recognized as one of the station's wacky, inside-joke audio segments, known in the business as drops.
The real Ty Walker, also the public address announcer for Dallas Sidekicks games, gets to claim a portion of the credit for naming the character.
"I follow VJ on Twitter and he follows me," Walker says. "After all the talk of his putting Ticket references into a show last year, I jokingly sent him a tweet saying, 'You have permission to use my name, ha ha ha.' A few months later, he sent a tweet back, with a photo of the actor's IMDB page and the character Ty Walker added to his list of credits. It's pretty cool."
So what's behind Boyd's obsession with The Ticket?
"Even though I'm out in L.A. now, I still listen to it on podcast or sometimes live," Boyd says. "They talk about things I'm interested in, like movies and TV shows that I watch and, of course, the sports teams I'm interested in. It makes me feel like I'm back home. So I wanted to give them a shout-out."
In return, Boyd got a hero's welcome last year when he sat in at the studio during a broadcast of BaD Radio, the nickname for the Bob and Dan show. "It's my favorite show on the station," he says. "It was a very surreal experience."
Not all of his private jokes are Ticket-inspired. "Sometimes I throw in a line that only my brother will get," he says. "And most of my episodes have something relating to the movie Silverado, because I'm a big fan."
One name Boyd can't claim credit for is Boyd Crowder, the charismatic villain played by Walton Goggins. Novelist Elmore Leonard, whose work inspired the TV series, invented Boyd the character.
Boyd the writer was born in Dallas and went to college at the University of Texas at Dallas. He moved to Los Angeles when he was 27 to pursue a writing career.
"I spent the first couple of years working as an assistant, which is kind of how you get your start - working in the mail room, so to speak," he says. "One of my assistant jobs was Season 1 of Justified.
"When it got renewed for Season 2, there was a spot open for a new writer, and I asked Graham Yost, who created the show and runs the show, if he'd consider me. He read my samples and hired me."
Boyd, whose other major writing credit is a graphic novel called Ghost Cop, has written two more scripts this season: Episode 8, set to air March 10, and Episode 12 in April.
"This is what I've wanted to do since I was 11 years old," Boyd says.
"I told Graham Yost, who is the best boss I've ever had, 'You made my dream come true. Now I have to come up with some new dreams.' "
David Martindale, Special Contributor