Longmire: Old Country for Old Men

By Tim Surette

Jun 04, 2012

When it all comes down to it, Longmire is about an old sheriff sticking to the classic roots of his job and rejecting fancy new tech. And that's pretty much what the show is, too. The new A & E series is a throwback to hard-boiled detective stories (and should be, since it's based on one) and a duplicate of modern-day procedurals that have been shaped by years of television. That doesn't allow Longmire to do anything fresh, but like the title character, the old ways work and get the job done. It's just done in pretty unspectacular fashion.

Looking like a man who just stepped out of an ad for cigarettes, gruff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) is broken and stubborn like a bull that refuses to be put out to pasture. At work, he's got a new city gal named Vic (Katee Sackhoff) by his side and a young whippersnapper looking to take his job as sheriff. At home, he's got dead wife he hasn't yet emotionally buried, and he still carries her ashes around in a box. None of this is anything new to your TV set. But at least the grumpy old man who doesn't like cell phones is portrayed well. Sheriff Longmire is immediately a likeable, if familiar, guy, and through the pain that hides behind his eyes and empty beer cans he earns our sympathy. Plus he's got some cool quirks, like an affinity for picking up trash because he doesn't like looking at litter (LITERALLY cleaning up the streets!).

But how much further can we ride with Walt Longmire beyond what we've seen? That's going to be the test for the series if it wants to spur on 'til it's completely gray, and I'm not sure I see Walt changing much. In fact I'm not sure there's anything in store for this series other than "Walt Longmire outsmarts kids using old-school techniques he learned from his grandpappy." Longmire is about generational divide, and to stay true to that premise Walt will have to stay the same. That can be enjoyable for the length of a movie, but as a series it's like being stuck in the mud. Time will tell, but the pilot didn't give me any indication that the rest of the show won't be more of the same. There is room for emotional healing, however, as Longmire gradually getting over his wife's death will likely the bulk of his character's arc. And somewhere beneath all that scruff are a lot of anger and a lot of love, both waiting to draw their guns. Once Longmire taps into that, it might find something worthwhile.

One thing I hope doesn't change is the whole look of Longmire. The shots of Wyoming (actually Taos and Santa Fe as clever, more affordable stand-ins) were like country porn, so beautiful and distracting that at times I forgot to pay attention to what was going on in the foreground. And the camera work isn't limited to just replicating postcards. If you watch the pilot again, pay attention to the close-up shots of Walter's boots as he moves from place to place. Those are shots of a man with work to do, something to prove, or a journey to take. That's what we call cable-quality camera action, pardner. Subtly telling a story with pictures.

The pilot's case involved Walt solving...a murder! There's some classic detective work going on here, but nothing too exciting, and that's where Longmire needed to stand out. We followed Walt as he picked up clues and chased leads, but there was no element of participatory crime-solving on the audience's part. I just felt as if I were along for the ride. This guy handed Walt a name, this gun was only owned by a few people, this pair of pants only fit this one dude; it was pretty standard, linear stuff.

And that's why Longmire may not be worth your time in the long run. It's nothing fancy and it's far from innovative. Those who like dusty trails and simple mysteries might get into it, but with so much else on TV Longmire won't stand out. It's not a bad effort by A & E, it's just not the show that will put the network on the original programming map.

Case Notes

– Fact: Sometimes Walt Longmire looks like Brett Favre in those Wrangler Jeans ads.

– Remember that part when Longmire stormed into Henry's bar and accused him of running the brothel? That seemed like very unnecessary forced tension. They've been friends for more than three decades and Walt just takes some young cowboy's word and assumes the guy's talking about Henry? That's either totally ridiculous or enters some "Walt is totally racist deep down inside" territory (which would actually be interesting).

– What did you all think of Katee Sackhoff as Vic? She may have finally found a post-Battlestar role that works for her.

– I liked the trimmed-down dialogue, especially Walt's. He doesn't say much, but what he does say is big.

– This series will obviously be compared to FX's Justified, but that show has legs up on Longmire in two key departments: dialogue and supporting characters.

Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • LukeJavan8 Jun 11, 2012

    I'll give it a season....first episode was 'fair to middlin', and I like the cast and plot so far.

  • AnneLaural Jun 10, 2012

    I'm a big fan of the books...and book to movie or book to tv is going to have its bumps. But I thought the pilot (remember this was a pilot!) did a great job of setting the mood, the place and the characters. Did it follow the plot line of any of the books? Actually no - but it would be impossible to do that. Did it capture the geist of the series...? It's definitely on the right road. I think it has great promise.

  • gtbell Jun 10, 2012

    This is not your Grandmother's Robert Taylor nor mine either. Where did this guy come from?

    Katy Sackhoff I like a lot. Easy on the eyes, too. The others in the cast, not so much. I don't see the comparison to Justified. It's written and played differently in my book. Taos does not stand in for Wyoming in my book, either.

    The sooner they get rid of the Deputy/Politician the better. He doesn't belong in this show. Perhaps writers could give Longmire his murder to solve?

  • mattgus Jun 08, 2012


  • BarryDalton Jun 07, 2012

    if I were the femal actors in this show, I'd kick the dialogue writers in the nuts

  • logossun Jun 05, 2012

    First of all, dialogue and supporting characters did not bother me here as much as the cancer of any procedural, and that is: there will be a few new characters introduced in every episode, and without knowing anything about them, one of them did it. After that, it's all about doing the math. Justified is, in my opinion, doing so well in part because we're not wasting time with that. We know who the players are - it's what happens t/with them that is the "meat" of the show. So, I'm suggesting they go with that - I'm much more interested in Henry's and Walt's relationship and the growth of Vic's character anyway. More Fargo-like stuff is basically what I'm saying.

  • BarryDalton Jun 07, 2012

    I normally get irritated by people whining about "procedurals." I like procedurals.

    But you're right. The procedural aspect of the first episode did not work.

    Surely that's not going to be what this show tries to do as it goes forward. is it?

  • tryptz Jun 05, 2012

    I totally enjoyed this! I thought it was going to be all country music and boring accents , which yeah it was too but it was also witty ,fresh, poignant well acted and I just found another great show to follow! :)

  • JT_Kirk Jun 05, 2012

    In 2010, the state of Wyoming reports that it suffered a total of 7 murders. There are just under 600,000 people living in the state, so it was around 1.17 murders per 100,000 people in the whole year.

    No county in Wyoming has more than 93,000 people living in it, and only 2 have more than 50,000 people; the county average is just under 25,000 residents. Let's say Longmire is sheriff of a county of 33,000 people, for argument's sake.

    The only county that had more than 1 muder in 2010 was Natrona - the second-most populous county in the state, with 3 murders to its 76,000 residents - with 2 murders handled by the Casper Police and 1 handled by the Natrona Sheriff.

    The odds of Sheriff Longmire seeing another murder in his fictional county's jurisdiction over the next year should be approximately 1 in 1,684.

    Yet how likely do you think it'll be that the show portrays a second murder in the next 9 episodes of its season? Fairly likely I bet, that's a detective show's bread and butter, after all - we don't see Law & Order or CSI-type episodes investigating robberies much anymore, everyone's gotta die in convoluted ways for it to be compelling tv.

    That's the problem I had considering watching Longmire, that potential for credibility issues, and ultimately why I didn't bother tuning in. And sure enough, the first episode pulls the murder card right out the gate. It's so unrealistic, that's what bothers me, you can't randomly use any setting for a weekly TV crime show and expect it to pass muster, not every area has even a monthly murder.

  • AnneLaural Jun 10, 2012

    I'm with Phyllis - the series is based on Craig Johnson's books - a fantastic, intelligent and funny series about murder and about a changing world. It's also called fiction for a reason. If you find reality television entertaining (instead of insipid) then you were right not to watch this. But I'm not sure you get to critique something you "didn't bother tuning in..."sheesh.

  • PhyllisBratka Jun 06, 2012

    What has this got to do with anything??? Have you read Craig Johnson's books? Have you heard him speak of his background information, actually where he lives, works and writes? This author probably has the most credible knowledge and true background than most authors you will read. Not everyone needs blood and gore, spectacular crashes with fire, etc. Do we want to be a notion of "Reality TV" viewers? Sit back and enjoy the show. Afterall, it is fiction, taking place in a generally "laid-back" section of our beautiful country. Just enjoy...

  • JT_Kirk Jun 05, 2012

    Should have been "LITTERALLY" Tim. (You know, because... litter.)

  • ToddMurray Jun 05, 2012

    I also enjoyed it. It felt different and fresh. Yes, we followed Walt along and found out things when he did for the most part, but there were a few curveballs along the road. I enjoyed the deliberate pacing as well as the high stakes (risk of life and limb).

    I don't agree that they have nowhere to go with the characters. The Sheriff thus far will have ongoing issues with: drinking, depression and his dead wife; his daughter (the lovely Cassidy Freeman); his deputy running against him; and the contentious, reluctant relationship with the Tribal Police. Maybe his gruff, brusqueness ways won't change, but neither does Gibbs on NCIS and that seems to be working out pretty well (and there are worse shows to be compared with).

    Katee Sackhoff was great in this role - it suits her to a "T". Starbuck FTW! She's easily the most competent of the deputies as well as the most loyal, and she's only been there 6 mos. Looking forward to seeing more about why she's there and what motivates her.

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