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.”
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.