I’m pretty sure the “short-lived show” we were trying to recall, that Timothy Olyphant was on before Deadwood, was his brief guest appearance on The Office as Danny Cordray, the slick salesman who became Jim’s nemesis for a couple of episodes before abruptly disappearing (to star in Justified?).
Olyphant, of course, was terrific on Deadwood as sheriff turned hardware merchant Seth “Mister Furious” Bullock. Even though the character didn’t require a particularly broad emotional range (Barely Suppressed Simmering Rage -> Actual Expressed Rage), he did have to come across as genuinely dangerous, while also conveying enough charm to make Bullock sympathetic. Unfortunately, when Olyphant isn’t playing a guy teetering on the edge of extreme violence, he runs into problems. Seth Bullock was a good role for him because he was never, as far as I can recall, called upon to grin.
Olyphant has one of the creepiest grins I’ve ever seen. His face looks best when it’s rigid and unsmiling; when he grins, some unpleasant alchemy happens with his eyebrows and hooded eyes that makes him look like a man under the effect of some hallucinogenic who’s just remembered a really funny joke as he’s about to approach an attractive woman. On Justified, though, he seems to be moderating his expressions of levity so that his face stops just short of creepiness.