Saturday, August 30, 2014

Long Live Longmire!

Does the world really need any more so-called "reality" shows? The heads of A&E clearly think so, as they've chosen to cancel its highly rated scripted drama Longmire after the cliffhanger Season 3 finale. Shows such as Duck Dynasty and various incarnations of Storage Wars, however, are safe. As a longtime member of the show's fanbase (known as the Longmire Posse), I am seriously disappointed.

The modern-day Western is based on Craig Johnson's book series Walt Longmire Mysteries. (If you haven't read them, I highly recommend picking up the first book The Cold Dish). Set in fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming, the books and show follow Sheriff Walt Longmire (played by Robert Taylor) who is solving crimes and trying to keep his life together after the death of his wife. The small-town police force consists of three deputies: local rich boy and nephew of the former sheriff Branch Connally (Bailey Chase), sassy Philadelphia transplant Victoria "Vic" Moretti (Katee Sackhoff), and baby-faced, kind-hearted Ferguson (Adam Bartley). Lou Diamond Phillips rounds out the regular cast as Walt's best friend since grade school and Red Pony Bar owner Henry Standing Bear.

Longmire features more than just Walt and company solving the crime of the week; each season had one or more overreaching characters arcs. In Season One, Walt learns that not only is Deputy Branch Connally running against him for Sheriff, Branch is dating his daughter Cady. Cady also learns that her mother Martha did not die of cancer; she was stabbed to death in Denver while she was in the city getting chemo treatment. Hints are dropped that Walt may have taken a trip to Colorado to avenge his wife's death. Season Two sees Vic dealing with a stalker, Cady being critically injured in a hit-and-run car accident on election day, and the outcome of the sheriff's race. I won't be spoiling Season Three in case you haven't seen it; let's just say things get interesting.

Besides the great storylines, Longmire has solid characters; the writing left me with strong biases, both positive and negative. Walt is a tough, old-school sheriff and a basically good man, though not above the temptation of taking the law into his own hands (and possibly even taking it too far). I admire Vic's Yankee spunk and empathize with her struggle to adjust to rural Wyoming life. I openly loathed Branch from the first episode; there was just something slimy about him and his entitled attitude didn't help matters.

Lou Diamond Phillips is pitch-perfect as Henry: a protective, strong, proud Cheyenne who'll stop at nothing to help those he cares about. Henry also has a terrific dry sense of humor (when Cady describes a physically attractive male bar patron, he responds "I am not a good judge of hotness"). Henry is also deeply spiritual when it comes to his culture and a valuable assistant whenever Walt's sheriff business takes him onto the local reservation. This show has really given Lou Diamond Phillips the best chance to shine that he's had in years; he deserves much more respect as an actor than he generally gets.

My favorite deputy has always been Ferguson, known in the office simply as "the Ferg." The words that best describe Ferg's personality include "awkward" and "shy"; but rather than being portrayed as the department's resident weak link or sad sack, he's competent in his own right as a fly-fisherman and outdoorsman. He wants to please his boss and sometimes worries that he's not good enough at his job. (Think McGee during his early seasons on NCIS). Ferg never had as much screen time as I would have liked, which is a pity because rookie actor Adam Bartley showed a lot of promise. For proof, Netflix the Season One episode "A Damn Shame" and watch what happens when Ferg tries to turn in his badge. Ferg really came into his own this season, finally standing up to Walt about being overworked and under-appreciated: "I know you haven't noticed, but ever since Branch started going crazy, I really stepped it up around here. And that's not easy with you two shutting doors in my face, treating me like I'm not even a part of this department. I do everything you ask and I do a good job, but if you want me to keep doing it, you can't just throw me in the corner at this little kid's desk and ignore me."

However, all hope for the show may not be lost. Its production company Warner Horizon Television is currently pitching the show to other networks. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Walt, Henry, Vic, and of course the Ferg will find a new home. It just makes good business sense to pick up a successful drama that has a six-million strong Posse behind it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Broadway Tribute to Robin Williams

Fans the world over are mourning the tragic loss of comedian/actor Robin Williams. Arguably, his most famous role was voicing the Genie in Disney's Aladdin and its direct-to-video sequel Aladdin and the King of Thieves. The cast of the Broadway musical based on the movie ended last night's performance on a special note: by leading the audience in a sing-along of "Friend Like Me." Video here