The FFG on TV: Could A&E’s Longmire Actually Be Good?

If Last Sunday’s Episode Was Any Indication The Answer Is Yes

I watch a handful of different kinds of TV shows. I am not talking about comedies or dramas or reality, I am talking about DVR shows and shows I can watch anytime when I am flipping through the channels. That is really the way we all watch isn’t it? Different shows fill different needs. When it comes to scripted shows the one’s I watch fall into three categories; shows I obsess over, shows I DVR and enjoy but never think of as great and shows I know I should watch more but I always seem to forget to watch them. Technically I suppose I should have added a fourth category of sitcoms I’ll watch to kill time before primetime starts (The Big Bang Theory on TBS currently, though everything from Friends to Seinfeld to Cheers to Taxi has held that distinction at one time or another), but really that’s it. Longmire on A&E was firmly in the DVR and watch but never think it is truly great category (like most of the dramas on USA or TNT or A&E), a nice summer diversion that can eat up time on Sunday nights before True Blood and Newsroom come on HBO or more often something I can save to watch when there is nothing on on a Wednesday night. I never, in a million years, would have thought it could ever be something more than that, and I am no saying it is yet, but it sure feels like a show that is figuring itself out.

For those of you who haven’t heard of or seen Longmire the show sounds like just another cop show. Walt Longmire is the sheriff of a county in Wyoming and while you might think that would be a slow an easy life plenty of crime seems to happen there (often of the strange variety) and each week Walt has his hands full trying to figure out who done it. Like I said, sounds like a straightforward cop procedural, and like all procedurals it has a few running story lines that advance slowly underneath the weekly mystery. So why am I spending time writing about something that sounds like TNT cop drama? Because it has two things that if it can tap into a little bit better can make this show really good, and the did both last week.

First, the location can allow for believably odd stories. Last week it was about a cult leader. They didn’t go overboard, they didn’t make him David Karesh, they made him small time, with runaway girls living on a ranch his dad used to own. It was subtle and creepy and the twists worked. Wyoming can provide stories like that in a way a city simply never can. People not only can be isolated, they are isolated, sometimes by miles and miles. Isolation and distance are two story elements that few “cop” shows have at their disposal, Longmire does and while it may not sound like much if they use those elements well it could be really interesting.

One Of The 10 Best Films
Of The 1990’s

Second they have what Lone Star had. In 1996 John Sayles brought us Lone Star, a mystery that unfolded in a way that we were able to see how a cultural convergence has impacted south Texas (by the way, if you haven’t seen Lone Star do yourself a favor and rent it tonight, it is one of the 10 best films of the 90’s). In south Texas we had the two you know about (the white people and the people from Mexico) and the third that wasn’t as obvious, African Americans who came to south Texas as part of the Army, who have several bases in that part of the country. The three cultures at once coexist and yet are forever separate and as the murder mystery in Lone Star slowly unwinds both of those truths become more and more evident. Longmire has that same dynamic. In this case it is the white people, the Native Americans and the oil companies. That is such a deeper and more interesting dynamic to mine (pardon the alliteration) than LAPD bureaucracy or the Irish Mob in south Boston or pick your underlying conflict in your favorite cop show if for no other reason than we haven’t seen it before.

Of course they can’t go overboard with the clashing cultures thing or beat us over the head with it week after week. That is why, again, this last week was so good. They touched on the idea of the locals not trusting the oil companies because they are outsiders all the while not recognizing how the “locals” are viewed similarly by the Native Americans who see much of the land as stolen and yet all of those feeling remain under the surface, not quite hidden but not out in the open either.

Is Longmire a great TV show? No, not yet. It still has issues with the supporting cast (Katee Sackhoff has had some great moments, as has Lou Diamond Philips, but they still haven’t quite figured out how to use them consistently and many of the other characters who should be important seem massively under used) and the unknown Robert Taylor has been getting better and better as Longmire but has still not gotten the lead to where he needs to be, but it is always fun to see a show that seems to be figuring itself out, that seems to be moving not just in the right direction, but in the best possible direction. Will it get there? Frankly I doubt it, but I for one am going to keep watching just in case it does.

But hey, what do I know, I’m fat and I write about movies, not TV.