Tag Archives: Longmire

‘Longmire’ canceled; book series hits new peak

longmire any other name

I’ve got good news and bad news.

Despite its status as A&E’s top-rated drama series, “Longmire” has been canceled by the cable channel.

We heard a variety of explanations given when the news broke a few days ago. A&E didn’t value the older-than-the-most-coveted-demographic age of the audience. A&E didn’t own the series and thus made less money from it.

TV is a totally screwed up industry.

So with the finish of the third season still fresh and the possibility that the series might continue on another channel or even online, we’ll mourn “Longmire” and hope for more adventures of the crusty Wyoming sheriff and his posse.

Longmire Season 2

“Longmire” the TV series had a great cast and average-to-above-average stories that settled into author Craig Johnson’s characters and settings more as the series progressed.

But the series never topped Johnson’s stories. And I don’t think I’ve ready any 10th book in a series that felt as assured as “Any Other Name,” Johnson’s latest Longmire novel.

Sure, Robert B. Parker’s Spencer series and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books are dependably, consistently fun. And maybe Johnson just hit a high point with “Any Other Name.” But the book series feels like it’s gotten a second wind, so compelling and accomplished does “Any Other Name” feel.

Johnson can’t go too far wrong when he focuses on Walt Longmire, of course. Select members of his supporting cast bring a lot to the stories, and he includes three of them here: Walt’s longtime best friend, Henry Standing Bear; Vic Moretti, Walt’s chief deputy and sometime paramour, and Lucian Connally, Walt’s predecessor as sheriff.

Lucian asks Walt’s help in finding out why his old friend, a cop in another county, killed himself. Before long, they determine that the cop’s death was caught up in a scheme involving missing women and human trafficking.

Johnson’s writing is so heartfelt but so wry, so funny but so hard-nosed, that it didn’t seem likely that he could top his previous books.

But I really think he did with “Any Other Name.” The story has the quirky charm of all of the author’s previous modern-day westerns with a clear and concise mystery.

And it feels like Johnson had a hell of a time writing “Any Other Name.” I just hope he had as good a time writing it as I had reading it.

‘Longmire’ strong in third season

longmire cast outdoors

For readers of Craig Johnson’s series of books about Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire, the A&E TV series version of the show was something of a challenge at first.

In the first season, two years ago, so many elements from Johnson’s quirky, gritty, mystical and funny series of crime novels seemed … “off.” Longmire and longtime friend Henry Standing Bear didn’t seem old enough (in the books they’re Vietnam veterans; in the series they’re played by middle-aged hunks Robert Taylor and Lou Diamond Phillips) for the well-worn characters they are; the ever-changing roster of deputies was pared down; the relationships were streamlined and the early books’ Philadelphia subplots were gone.

But so many things were so right. Taylor and Phillips are great, gruff and sardonic by turn; Katee Sackhoff was letter-perfect as Deputy Vic Moretti, as was Cassidy Freeman as Walt’s daughter, lawyer Cady, and Adam Bartley as “The Ferg,” a deputy holdover from the books; and Bailey Chase initially seemed written just to be antagonistic as deputy Branch Connaly but quickly grew to portray a complex character.

The entire series, in fact, grew. Creators and producers John Coveny and Hunt Baldwin quickly seemed to realize they needed to import Johnson’s storylines, at least to some degree, and even more importantly adopt the mood the author invokes in his books: The stories are set in a Wyoming that is by turns beautiful, hard, cold, hot, parched, magical and gritty.

As the third season begins, I’m glad to say that “Longmire” has maintained the successful mix that Coveny and Baldwin began refining shortly after the show got on its start.

Longmire himself, as played by Taylor, is crusty and deceptively straightforward but has a real edge to him. Henry – in jail in connection with the death of the man who killed Longmire’s wife – is struggling to survive and might become a pawn in a larger game. And the deputies are in turmoil, as always.

At the same time, “Longmire” does well with its plots of the week. most recently Walt and Vic’s crusade to bring to justice the person responsible for the death of a Russian teen whose body was found in a Wyoming creek.

Her murder involved international adoption, foster parent scam artists and Walt’s smoldering sense of outrage.

I’m still missing the absence of the Philly connection in the series and I regret the mystery of Walt’s wife’s death – a complication that’s not in the books but was probably necessary to give the series more of an over-arching mystery storyline – but almost everything else about “Longmire” the TV series works.

madchen amick longmire deena

Oh yeah, one element I’m missing this season: Madchen Amick as Dena, Henry’s girlfriend. The former “Twin Peaks” star appeared last year in a few episodes. So far this year it’s been mentioned in an aside that she stole money from Henry’s safe. Here’s hoping that means she will show up eventually and that the comment isn’t a way of writing her out of the series.

 

‘Longmire” hews closer to Johnson’s books

craig johnson longmire the cold dish

When I wrote about the first season of A&E’s “Longmire” in June 2012, my natural inclination was to compare the books and TV series. I’d been enjoying the books for a couple of years and hoped for the best for the series. The best I could say – I mean that sincerely – was that the show captured the characters and flavor but not the plot integrity of author Craig Johnson’s mysteries, set in a rural Wyoming county.

I noted some differences between the series and the books. The series omitted a few characters – Sheriff Walt Longmire’s predecessor in office,  crusty old retired sheriff Lucian, notably – and added a few, including Lucian’s nephew, ambitious deputy Branch Connally, who wants to unseat Walt in an election.

Missing was the forged-in-Vietnam bond between Walt and pal Henry Standing Bear, leaving the Bear’s motivations sometimes in doubt.

Also absent were a Philadelphia connection – deputy Vic is from there, and it is home to Walt’s daughter Cady’s law practice – and the sense of the mystical and spiritual, as Henry nudges Walt toward a deeper connection with the Native American spirits of the Wyoming countryside. Also absent, to some extent, were the Crow and Cheyenne supporting characters that filled the books.

Maybe the most egregious variation from the books is how the series has dealt with the death of Walt’s wife. In the books, she died before the first story began after a battle with cancer. Martha Longmire likewise died before the TV series began, but it’s implied she died at the hands of a drug dealer in Colorado and Walt (and perhaps Henry) then killed her killer.

longmire logo

I’m glad to say, most of the way into the second season of “Longmire,” that the series has greatly improved.

Sure, star Robert Taylor and supporting cast like Katee Sackhoff were always good. But the second season – perhaps with input from Johnson himself, perhaps from a realization on the part of show creators Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny that Johnson gave them excellent material to work with and they should take advantage of it – has seen the show capture the spirit – and sometimes the letter – of the books.

The first episode of the second season, “Unquiet Mind,” echoed the “prisoners on the loose in mountainous countryside” plot of the seventh book, 2011’s “Hell is Empty.”

The third episode of this season, “Death Came in Like Thunder,” explored the Wyoming Basque community that’s a big part of the books. One of the characters omitted from the TV series is Basque deputy Santiago.

And the second season even returned to two major plotlines of the books: Cady Longmire’s serious injury at the hands of an attacker – although in the books it happens in Philly, where’s she’s practicing law – and deputy Vic’s history on the Philly PD.

The Native American spiritualism that seemed so missing from the first season was greatly felt in the second, climaxing in a scene where Walt – to atone for the killing of his wife’s killer – hooks his chest in “Man Called Horse” style and suffers in the blazing sun.

And although I haven’t seen it yet, I’m told an episode even features the TV series version of Lucian.

I can’t think of a recent TV series that improved so markedly from the first season to the second. I think if you’re a fan of the books, you’ll find more to like than just the character portrayals and tone this season. If you’re not a reader of the books, you’ll find an enjoyable crime drama unfolding on a weekly basis.

‘Longmire’ kicks off second season closer to the target

longmire logo

As a fan of Craig Johnson’s series of crime novels about Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire, I was a little disappointed with the first season of the TV series version that aired on A&E.

You can catch up with what I thought here, but it boiled down to: Not enough of Johnson’s trademark mix of tall, dark and quiet heroes and quirky plots.

longmire and vic

Last night’s second-season debut, though, was closer to the target. The episode was based in part on a Craig Johnson book, “Hell is Empty,” which puts the sheriff in harm’s way as he transports a series of prisoners – including a man who killed a child several years ago – through his county and over a mountain … just in time for a blizzard.

The single hour of television couldn’t begin to capture all of Johnson’s straightforward plot and rich characters. But it came closer than any first-season episode.

The series is also coming closer to hitting the mark in the way it portrays Johnson’s characters. I’ve got to say I’m enjoying the heck out of Robert Taylor as Longmire, for whom “less is more” truly describes his spare speaking habit. Really, the less the writers give the sheriff to say the better – and not because Taylor’s not a good actor. He’s good, but he’s perfect with a long stare and grumble

I loved “Battlestar Galactica” vet Katee Sackhoff as Walt’s deputy – and is very tentative love interest the right way to describe her? – Vic Moretti from the moment she was cast and I’m still enjoying her.

Bailey Chase and Cassidy Freeman are quite good as Walt’s ambitious deputy and daughter, respectively.

I’m growing to like the terrific Lou Diamond Phillips as Henry Standing Bear, Walt’s longtime friend and confidant. Phillips is making questionable casting palatable.

One big plus for me with last night’s episode was an injection of the Native American mythos and mysticism that marks Johnson’s books. As Walt trudged through snow to track the prisoners, Henry and other figures – including an impressive owl – appeared to him. Thanks in part to Henry, spirit guides and the connection between the Wyoming characters and the earth are present throughout the books.

I’m still not convinced I’m buying the subplot about the death, before the show started, of Walt’s wife. She died from cancer in the books and, while her passing has left a huge shadow across Walt, it isn’t the stuff of an ongoing mystery.

I wasn’t sure I was going to check out “Longmire” this second season. The season premiere definitely encouraged me to come back for more.

TV: What I’m watching, given up on and looking forward to

When I was a kid, besides going back to school and the run-up to Halloween, this time of year was a big deal for me because of the new fall TV season.

Yes, I was a TV geek.

I eagerly anticipated the fall season, which usually had at least one or two shows that I wanted to see. Besides, who could guess just how great “The Night Stalker” or “Planet of the Apes” (the TV series) might make the fall of 1974?

There’s less anticipation about the fall TV season nowadays because the TV year is so fractured – worthwhile series debut throughout the calendar year – and, speaking only for myself, I watch less TV.

Because I watch less TV, I try to make every random hour and half-hour count.

So here’s what I’m watching right now as well as what I’m anticipating, what I’ve given up on and what I’m worried about.

“Copper” is a BBC America series – the channel’s first original production – that just debuted last Sunday. It’s about cops in New York City in 1864. The city was a lawless place, full of casual cruelty to children and others who couldn’t defend themselves, and the police department wasn’t much better. Into the mix comes Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), an Irish-American veteran of the Civil War who has come back to the city to find his wife missing and his child dead. The series, which has a nice gritty tone, follows Corcoran as he investigates crimes – the murder of a child prostitute in the first episodes, for example – and patrols the grimy streets and brothels of the city.

“Justified” is returning for a fourth season sometime in early 2013 and it’s likely that our favorite Kentucky-born-and-bred U.S. marshal, Raylan Givens, and his longtime friend and sometimes antagonist, Boyd Crowder, will find themselves up against some new lowlife. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins lead a great cast.

We don’t have to wait until next year to see “The Walking Dead.” The AMC series returns on Oct. 14 for its third season. The series will be split between the prison the survivors were near in the final episode of last season and the town of Woodbury, presided over by the Governor. The first eight episodes air this year, with eight more beginning in February.

I’m not sure when “Mad Men” and “Falling Skies” will be back – hopefully early in 2013 – but I’ll be watching the two very different series. Both came off solid seasons this year.

Few series have been as enjoyable in the past three years as NBC’s “Community,” an odd and offbeat show about a group of misfits who become friends in a study group at a second-rate community college. But I’m worried about “Community” this year after the departure of creator Dan Harmon. By most accounts a genius with people skills issues, Harmon got fired at the end of last season. The cast is great and the stories – complete with blanket forts, paintball apocalypses and genuinely nice character moments – are wonderful. But can the show survive without Harmon? Or will it become another kooky sitcom like “Scrubs?”

I’m not sure I’ll be around for a second season of “Longmire,” the A&E series based on Craig Johnson’s enjoyable series of mystery novels about a Wyoming sheriff. The show looked pretty good and the cast was fine, but the mysteries were mediocre. When the show did take a page from one of Johnson’s stories, as it did in the season finale, it didn’t bring the author’s charms.

I’m not sure I’m looking forward to anything on TV quite as much as a live-action Marvel Comics series set in the “Avengers” movie universe. Luke Cage? Daredevil? S.H.I.E.L.D? Where will creative genius and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” mastermind Joss Whedon take this series? Wherever it is, I’m following.

The best part about TV is that, in any given season, some really terrific show can suddenly appear and make you glad you gave it a try. I’ve felt that way about every show on this list at one time or another.

‘Longmire’ the TV show vs the Longmire books

I’m a fan of Craig Johnson’s Wyoming-set mysteries about Sheriff Walt Longmire and the offbeat citizens of his county, so I’m more than willing to give A&E’s “Longmire” series, based on the character, a try.

Robert Taylor is really growing on me as Longmire and Katee Sackhoff is ideally cast as Longmire’s deputy, Vic Morelli. Although the show was filmed in New Mexico, the stark, beautiful scenery works for me.

There are some important differences between “Longmire” and the Longmire books, however. Realizing they’re two different animals, I’m overlooking the variances for now.

But just for the record, here’s the most obvious divergences from Johnson’s books:

Cady, Longmire’s daughter. Cassidy Freeman is well-cast as Cady, the young lawyer who plays a central role in some of the novels. But the producers of the TV show made a choice by having Cady a resident of Wyoming rather than Philadelphia as she is in the books. That would appear to eliminate the Philly subplots (more on that next). It’s easier to have a long-distance character in novels than on a TV show, when viewers might wonder, “Why are there so many scenes in which two people talk on the phone?”

Philly: There’s a strong Wyoming/Philadelphia undertone to the books. Cady has a Philly law practice. Vic is from Philly. After the book in which Cady is injured and Walt and Henry Standing Bear go to Philly to find out what happened, Cady meets and falls in love with Vic’s brother, Philly cop Michael Morelli. I’m going to miss the Philly element of the TV series.

Natives: Several of the books, especially the newest, “As the Crow Flies,” have major plots and characters that revolve around the Cheyenne, Crow and other Native American nations represented in Wyoming and Montana. The most recent episode had Walt in a sweat lodge ceremony, an element of the latest book. I’d like to see a much greater representation of indigenous peoples in the books as well as …

The mystical. Almost from the beginning, the Longmire books have featured an undercurrent of the mystical as filtered through Native legends and beliefs. The mystical elements, including spirit guides of sorts who help Walt through tough spots, add a touch most other crime novels don’t have. I wish the series had more of this.

Which brings us to Henry Standing Bear. Lou Diamond Phillips is a very cool actor and he brings a familiar face to “Longmire.” But I’m not sold on him as the in-the-flesh representation of Henry Standing Bear, Walt’s lifelong Cheyenne friend and local bar owner.

I’ve noticed at least one, maybe two, moments in the series in which Walt seemed to doubt Henry, even wondering if he was up to something. That’s a different and not entirely welcome spin on the rock-solid relationship between the characters from the  books. And Phillips isn’t really physically right for role since Henry is such a huge figure. But Phillips is a nice presence and I’m willing to wait to see if he’ll establish himself in the part.

“Longmire” is a pretty good, if unsurprising, TV cop show so far. Here’s hoping it will grow to become even more.

 

Waiting patiently for Sheriff ‘Longmire’

One of my favorite mystery novel series right now is Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series, which follows the sheriff of a sparsely populated Wyoming county as, slowly and sometimes painfully but with dry humor, he recovers from the cancer death of his wife and keeps the peace.

Johnson’s Longmire is a tough guy with a soft heart. He’s no spring chicken — Longmire and his native buddy, Henry Standing Bear, served in Vietnam together — but he’s rough and ready. Longmire is more than capable of dealing with the kooks and criminals that pass through his county.

His vulnerability is his heart. Longmire worries — with good reason — about his smart and independent daughter, Cady, and tries to figure out his relationship with Victoria Moretti, his imported-from-back-east deputy who is as rough-edged as she is tempting.

The books have their fair share of action, often involving the inhospitable Wyoming terrain and a group of surly bad guys. But the Longmire stories won’t be mistaken for “Die Hard.” Longmire can defuse a situation as handily as he can brawl his way out.

In light of the success of cable TV series like “Justified,” A&E announced last year that it would turn Johnson’s Longmire books into a series. “Longmire” debuts June 3.

I hope they get the show right. Robert Taylor seems a little too young to play Longmire, and Lou Diamond Phillips will have to convince me he is Henry Standing Bear. Katee Sackhoff couldn’t be more perfect as Vic Moretti, though. Sackhoff has the perfect mix of sex appeal and hot-headedness to play Vic.

I’ve read all of Johnson’s books and I’m looking forward to the next, “As the Crow Flies.”

And I’m looking forward to — if a little anxious about — the TV version.