How did I miss the premiere of A&E’s new Western/police drama ‘Longmire’ a couple weeks ago? I’m supposed to be paying attention to and seeking out interesting new TV shows. I guess that I’m just not currently watching anything else on that network, and never came across any ads for the series until I happened across reruns of the first two episodes over this past weekend. It’s not half bad.
Have you noticed recently that British and Australian actors have pretty much taken over the American airwaves? From ‘House’ to ‘The Mentalist’ to ‘True Blood’, ‘Homeland’ and ‘The Glades’, it sometimes feels like there are hardly any American actors playing American characters on American TV anymore. In this one, Australian actor Robert Taylor stars as Walt Longmire, sheriff of a rural county in Wyoming. Although the series is set in the modern day, he’s a prototypical Western cowboy with a no-nonsense attitude and outwardly gruff demeanor. Co-stars include Katee Sackhoff from ‘Battlestar Galactica’ as the former big city cop adjusting to the slower tempo of small town law enforcement, and Lou Diamond Phillips as the local bar owner who’s the closest thing Longmire has to a friend. (He also comes in handy when Longmire has to negotiate a contentious relationship with the Native American cops from a nearby reservation.)
The show is based on a mystery novel series by Craig Johnson that currently spans eight titles. While it doesn’t really break any new ground as far as cop shows go (it’s basically a standard case-of-the-week procedural), the series has likeable characters and an interesting setting. That’s plenty good enough to pass the time in the summer season.
In the third episode, ‘A Damn Shame’, Longmire and Moretti (Sackhoff) investigate a barn fire that left two dead horses, another badly burned horse, and one human corpse behind. Initial signs point to the ranch owner committing suicide, but Longmire smells something fishy about the situation. He suspects that the widow (‘Anne of Green Gables’ herself, Megan Follows) killed her husband for the insurance money. The only problem with this theory is that the victim didn’t have any life insurance – but the horses did.
It turns out that the victim, Ray (“Ponyboy,” C. Thomas Howell), isn’t so dead after all. Years earlier, he was a Mob accountant who embezzled a bunch of money and ran off to Wyoming to start a new life under a new identity. Having recently been discovered, he tried to fake his death and collect on the horse insurance. But the Mob isn’t fooled so easily, and a hit man takes his wife and son hostage. This culminates in a standoff where Longmire has to bust his way into the house and lay the smackdown on the assassin, but not before Ray sacrifices himself to create a distraction and save his family.
Of the three episodes that have aired so far, ‘A Damn Shame’ is probably the weakest. They mystery element is pretty predictable and not all that compelling. Still, the show has potential and I enjoy the characters. I’ll follow this one a while longer and see where it goes.