Some shows sneak in under the radar, Longmire is so far under the radar that I thought I was tuning into a new series up until 2 minutes ago when I found out on Wikipedia that the show actually debuted in the US in March 2012, and was shown last year in the UK before I finally spotted it on 5USA last week. Mind you it’s buried in the listings, in the US it’s on A&E (whose only other drama is Bates Motel) and in the UK it was on TCM of all places. I’ve seen absolutely zero about it in any of the blogs that I follow and no publicity for it. I can’t even remember how I came to record it to be honest.
For all its lack of presence, I actually quite enjoyed the first two episodes. It’s a nicely paced, well constructed little show. It reminded me most of last year’s failed freshman show Vegas, although Longmire actually pre-dates it by a few months. The eponymous sheriff is played by relative unknown Robert Taylor (heavens, he was in Ballykissangel!) and could be Dennis Quaid’s long lost brother. They’re certainly treading familiar ground with the gruff, distant, old school cop, forced to interact with his community far more than either of them really want.
It’s not actually a period piece, but being set in the back of beyond in Wyoming and having to deal with conflicts with the native American tribal group doesn’t feel a million miles from dealing with the Mob in 1960s Vegas. It’s an original enough location, with interesting political and cultural issues to give it something to stand out from the crowd. Which is a good job because the actual stories didn’t really blow me away, fairly unoriginal variations on a theme of stories that have been done by pretty much every procedural out there. Something a bit bigger might have been a good idea, particularly for the pilot. The miniscule clues, drip feeding a backstory of traumatic events are also a tried and tested technique which is getting a bit weary.
But it’s not like I really watch any of the procedurals for the cases, I watch them for the characters and the tone, and Longmire hit them dead on. There’s a lightness to the dialogue and plot that give the characters time to breath and gives the actors a chance to establish their characters elegantly. I don’t remember too much clunky exposition and no one came across as too stereotype or single note. I’d forgotten that this was the slightly unglamorous location Katee Sackoff ended up after Battlestar Galactica (seriously, why is that amazing cast scrabbling around for mediocre roles, or buried on minor networks?) but she instantly warmed me to the series.
Longmire isn’t the kind of show that I would loudly tell people go and watch, but it is the kind of show that I would suggest to people who were looking for low level time passers. It doesn’t require a great concentration, but there’s enough there to keep the brain engaged and reward you if you do. It doesn’t seem to have lofty ambitions, which means it quietly delivers a satisfactory experience. Sometimes, that’s just what you want after a long, frustrating day. Just a bit of pleasant distraction.