Monday, June 4, 2012

Pilot Review: Longmire

Longmire (Sundays at 10:00 on A&E)

Longmire is just what I need on a Sunday night at 10:00. After a long work week, followed by a packed-busy weekend, Longmire is the warm milk/chamomile tea/Ambien of television, sure to put one to sleep in mere minutes and ensure a productive beginning to Monday mornings.

Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) is the sheriff of a sleepy Wyoming town. He's shirked nearly all his responsibilities for the past year, when his wife passed away. The whole town is worried about him, including his deputy sheriff (Bailey Chase), who is planning to run against his mentor in the next election; his new deputy something-or-other Vic (Katee Sackhoff); his daughter, Cady (Cassidy Freeman); and best friend Henry (Lou Diamond Phillips).

That's it. Longmire is the sheriff of a town in the middle of nowhere, and there are a bunch of people worried about him. Yes, seriously, that's the throughline of Longmire. The pilot introduces a by-the-numbers mystery about a dead man found shot in the mountains with a rare shotgun, as well as some tensions with a local Native American reservation. But it's not at all interesting. This is clearly A&E's attempt to cash in on the success of FX's Justified, a much better and more successful Western procedural (incidentally, both are based on book series). But whereas Justified has a complex central figure and enough action to string the more subdued scenes together, Longmire is simple and often seems interminable. The pilot ran over 50 minutes, and each moment was like staring a general store painting of a country landscape. Nothing really happens; there's no excitement, no challenge for the audience.

The performances are mostly one-note, particularly the one from leading man Robert Taylor. Taylor is an Australian actor best known for a supporting role in The Matrix. He plays Longmire by the books. He's every bit the stoic, unemotional, possibly-alcoholic, distant Marlboro man you'd expect from a show about a Wyoming sheriff. Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) has some cute moments in the pilot's first few minutes, but she all but disappears in the episode's middle. Lou Diamond Phillips plays a Native American bartender trying to get Longmire back in the love game, but he doesn't get much to do either. That actually goes for the entire supporting cast; they are 100% given the backseat to establish Longmire as a character, even though there's not much to establish. Bailey Chase (Saving Grace) gets the most intriguing character, one that will hopefully develop well as a counter to Longmire, especially if they play up the betrayal angle of their relationship. The best scene in the entire episode is courtesy of Cassidy Freeman (Smallville) as Longmire's daughter, delivering the only emotion to be seen in the entirety of the pilot. She is delicate and careful around her father, and we get more of a sense of her character than of anyone else's in those few minutes.

I can't say that I recommend Longmire, unless you are looking for a TV show to put you to sleep. On that level, it's a success. But as entertainment, there's simply nothing to be found. It's all sweeping flatlands, snow-covered mountains and dusty roads set to a loud, twangy, obnoxious score. There's no substance, nothing to make me want to come back.

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