TV Networks have been struggling a while to produce a western as good as Deadwood was but with ratings that won't force the former's kind of early demise. The solution, it seems, is to a) modernize the setting, and b) base it on a successful book (or series of). CBS nailed it with the Jesse Stone TV movies, while F/X surpassed that with the wildly addictive Justified. Was there any doubt others would give it a shot? The thing that has to be said right off the bat is that even though it isn't as original as the two previous examples,Longmire is just as darn-tootin' good.
A&E's new offering (by the way, I haven't fogiven them for canceling Breakout Kings) comes from Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire novels and introduces Australian thesp Robert Taylor as the titular Malboro man. Alhtough the net publicized him as "The Matrix's Robert Taylor", be not fooled, this man is pretty much an unknown in these here North American parts, and may God brand me like steer if it isn't what works best about the whole thing. This character doesn't come with the ator's baggage, it introduces its own right off the bat. Of course we know what to expect -a gruff, broken, no-nonsense lawman- but this one knows he's out of touch with his time. He picks up litter right off the sidewalk (with his hands...), brushes off his shoes when walking into a house, and believes that The Hound of the Baskervilles should be law-enforcement required reading. THIS guy is on my watchlist as potentially the most interesting new character this year.
Backing him are deputee Katee Sackoff whom I can't believe has such a hard time finding a job after being so brilliant in Battlestar Galactica, and eternal try-out Lou Diamind Phillips who's in his 3rd decade of trying to find a niche on TV (why DID Wolf Lake fail? it was pretty good!). Both characters present a puzzle to the viewer: starting out as clichéd and expandable but slowly being given all sorts of twists that make you feel they could be just as interesting as the headliner himself IF A&E remembered to hire the caliber of writers that made The Beast such a refreshing oddity a few years back (DAMN that was a good show...).
Perhaps the weak point if the show is the procedural aspect that we've SO much of thanks to CBS and the new wave they started with their uber-successful CSI franchise. If the producers of this new entry remember to keep the focus on their characters instead of trying to find a more clever weekly mystery than the shows that pioneered the current infection, than maybe Walt Longmire will stay long enough to give Raylan Givens a run for his money at the Emmys. If not, I will seriously question A&E's very reason for being.