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TV IS THE NEW CINEMA - Meat & Potatoes

Thompson on Hollywood By David Chute | Thompson on Hollywood September 4, 2013 at 1:29PM

The satisfying contemporary Western procedural "Longmire" (A&E), from the novels of Craig Johnson, managed to squeeze a second season-ending cliffhanger out of the very same underlying mystery it turned to last year, the questions surrounding the death of the title character's beloved wife. If 'hangers are mandatory, you make use of what you've got.
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Robert Taylor as Sheriff Walt Longmire
A&E Robert Taylor as Sheriff Walt Longmire

The satisfying contemporary Western procedural "Longmire" (A&E), from the novels of Craig Johnson, managed to squeeze a second season-ending cliffhanger out of the very same underlying mystery it turned to last year, the questions surrounding the death of the title character's beloved wife. If 'hangers are mandatory, you make use of what you've got.

That on-going thread, like the shorter one, in the second season just ended, about a campaign for re-election that pitted small-town Wyoming  Sheriff Walt Longmire against one of his deputies, are used to loosely stitch together a show that is not fundamentally serial, not a "novel for television." Rather, this companionable show is a solidly produced and well-acted crime-of-the-week anthology series of stand-alone stories -- "The Casebook of Walt Longmire."

Lou Diamond Phillips, Katee Sackhoff
A&E Lou Diamond Phillips, Katee Sackhoff

And we're comfortable with that. Not every program needs to be a Third Golden Age classic, a "novel for television." 

Most of the shows people like best resemble baggy old flannel shirts that in spots are almost worn through. The iconography of "Longmire" is deeply familiar: dusty pick-up trucks and broken-in boots, rim fire cartridges and the thorny politics of the local Rez. New Mexico stands in handsomely for Johnson's Wyoming and makes a spacious backdrop for the relaxed authority of series star Robert Taylor, new to us but a well-worn veteran actor in his native Australia.

The ace supporting cast includes "Battlestar Galactica" valkyrie Katee Sackhoff (who slouches even more eloquently than Taylor) and the lean and stalwart Lou Diamond Phillips, the Native tavern owner who is Walt's oldest friend. Ratings have risen steadily and "Longmire" has been renewed for a third season. Every show on TV should be at least this good.


This article is related to: TV, TV Reviews, Television, Reviews, Reviews, TV IS THE NEW CINEMA


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.