Hulu’s ‘Quick Draw’ launches 2nd season

By Tom Jozwik - Special to TimeOut

August 7, 2014


WAUKESHA - He may never reach iconic status like television characters Don Draper (Jon Hamm) of “Mad Men” and Michael Scott (Steve Carell) of “The Office,” but John Henry Hoyle is a fascinating personality.

Hoyle, portrayed on the Hulu Original comedy series ”Quick Draw” by John Lehr (pronounced ”leer”), is Harvard-educated in a place and era where a collegian was as rare as a Wisconsin heat wave in January. (Hulu is a website/subscription service that facilitates online viewing of shows through video streaming.)

Circa 1875, having studied criminology and comparative literature, Hoyle has become sheriff and justice of the peace in Great Bend, Kan., where he paternalistically addresses his fellow citizens as “Great Bendians” (as in, “What do you think you’re doing, Great Bendians?”).

As his areas of academic concentration and the series tagline, “It takes a brave man to be this clueless” suggest, Hoyle is a contradictory figure. His love interest, who in bygone Westerns would’ve been euphemistically called a “dance hall girl,” describes him as both “a very nice man” and a “dolt.” Thin-skinned at times, Hoyle can be oblivious to the sensitivities of others. He’s full of himself, yet dedicated to the welfare of his community, a proponent of peace who’s more adept with a gun than any figure on film since Sergeant York.

In a phone conversation, Lehr, 46 - the man who knows him best - was asked to describe Hoyle. “Well, the easiest way is book smart and street dumb,” the “Quick Draw” star, creator, writer and executive producer replied. “His social IQ?  Not very high. He has a pretty good ego; he lets everybody know he has a Harvard education.” As to whether he and Hoyle are anything alike, the sheriff’s alter ego said, “I hope I’m humbler than him.” Lehr mentioned visiting a shooting range with “Quick Draw” director Nancy Hower (who is also his co-executive producer and co-writer) and discovering that, “surprisingly, I was a very good shot - and that kind of led to (our) giving Hoyle that superpower.”

Lehr’s character is a forensic scientist in his approach to crime-solving, something unusual but not unheard of in the Wild West. “There is a lot of historical correctness to the show, believe it or not,” said Lehr, a self-described “big history buff.” Villainous recurring character Cole Younger (Brian O’Connor), the leader of a gang; criminally oriented Pearl Starr (Alexia Dox); and the shady preacher known as Deacon Jim (Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson) actually existed. So did rabies as a malady without a cure. So did the town of Great Bend, still on the map today in Lehr’s native Kansas, although Lehr readily admits he and Hower “have really fictionalized it.” (Hoyle, on the other hand, is “just a figment of my imagination” rather than reality-based.)

On the half-hour comedy program scheduled to start its second season today (the first three episodes of which I recently previewed for this article), Hoyle’s contradictory nature underscores anachronisms in the approximately Civil War era setting. “Databases” are maintained by the sheriff, “game nights” are hosted by Great Bend’s undertaker (familiar-faced  Bob Clendenin, an actor who, according to Lehr, “works non-stop”) and the community stages a “Lilac Festival.” Adding to such levity are laughable lyrics sung at heavy moments and majestic melodies sounded when the mood is light. More humor comes from sight gags, double entendres and one-liners (particularly Hoyle’s). When a lynch mob shows up at the jail with “gardening tools” after Hoyle has incarcerated Deacon Jim for a killing instead of executing him on the spot, the sheriff sarcastically cracks, “I would go home and get knives and stuff - or guns.” The lawman goes on to plead, “Let me handle this the way I’ve handled all the crimes in this town!” “With poetry?” responds one citizen. “Incompetently?” inquires another.

Allison Dunbar, who appeared regularly on both “The Sopranos” and the soap opera “Guiding Light,” portrays Honey Shaw, the aforementioned object of Hoyle’s affections and operator of Great Bend’s saloon-brothel. What’s in store for Honey and Hoyle?

“Well, Hoyle is unrelenting in his love for her,” Lehr noted. “That’s not going to change.” However, the actor added, there will be “bumps in the relationship” he likened to “the most popular girl in the school dating the nerd.”

And what’s in store for one-time “Friends” guest star Lehr, a Northwestern graduate, Los Angeles resident, husband, and father of youngsters ages 8 and 5?

“I love doing the show, I just love it,” Lehr said of “Quick Draw.” “Our entire focus is having a third season.”

In listing his TV favorites over the years, Lehr included the westerns “Bonanza,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Wild Wild West.” He explained, “Westerns were a big part of my television experience. There’s inherent action and drama to the Wild West.”

And comedy too, apparently, as “Quick Draw” will display in its 10 second-season episodes (there were eight episodes the first season). Remarkably, the show is, as Lehr said in the interview, “entirely improvised.” Scripts are devoid of dialogue.

“The actors just show up” to be briefed on whatever situation is to be enacted, and then they ad lib.