By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Since its debut on the A&E Network on June 3, 2012, the television series “Longmire” has garnered thousands of fans across the globe.
No one has benefited from the exposure provided by the television show more than the Wyoming author behind the book series that inspired the show, Craig Johnson.
Although Johnson’s books about the tough-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold sheriff of fictional Absaroka County in Wyoming had already put him on the New York Times bestseller list, the show’s success raised Johnson’s profile significantly.
“There’s no way that publishers can match the amount of publicity that a film or television can garner,” Johnson told Cowboy State Daily. “I still remember sitting in a bookstore on Sunset Boulevard and looking out the window where I could see a 26-floor Robert Taylor/Walt Longmire on the side of a building looking down at me.”
And although the show only lasted six seasons – three on A&E and three on Netflix – the popularity of the characters and the books has continued, spawning an annual celebration in Buffalo (the inspiration for the series’ setting, “Durant”) as well as multiple social media fan pages.
Victims Of Success
Johnson explained that the show’s move away from its highly successful run on A&E to Netflix, and then its cancellation in 2017 on Netflix was, in a way, a result of its success.
“I’m afraid we were victims of our own success in that A&E, faced with three seasons of the highest-rated show in their network history, decided to buy ‘Longmire’ from the producing studio, Warner Brothers,” he said.
“A broadcaster can make a lot more money off a show if they own it, rather than leasing it from a studio, but Warner Brothers knew they had a hit on their hands with ‘Longmire’ and wouldn’t sell,” he said. “A&E, in a fit of pique, decided that if they couldn’t buy the highest-rated, scripted show they’d ever had—would cancel it. Which they did.”
However, Johnson said the network wasn’t prepared for the backlash it received from fans who had fallen in love with the character of Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire and his friends (and enemies).
“The result was that they lost almost a third of their viewing audience,” Johnson said, “numbers they still haven’t recouped for more than 10 years now.”
When Netflix picked up “Longmire” once again, Warner Brothers’ refusal to sell the franchise resulted in the show’s end.
“It quickly became one of the highest-rated, original-content shows they’ve ever had,” Johnson said. “Smooth sailing for two more seasons and then guess what? Netflix wanted Warner Brothers to sell ‘Longmire’ to them. Once again, Warner Brothers wouldn’t bite, but at least this time Netflix was gracious enough to allow the show a final season to wrap things up.”
Where It Gets Weird
But here’s where it gets weird, according to Johnson.
“Both Netflix and Warner Brothers probably figured that the show would linger there for a few years and then Longmire would ride off into the sunset,” he said. “Instead, it continues to be one of the top 20 most popular shows on Netflix, even five years after finishing production.
“This is Netflix, now one of the biggest producers in Hollywood with their massive budget, star-filled vehicles — and here’s our little Indian & Cowboy show chugging along, year after year as possibly the most re-viewed show in Netflix’s history,” he continued
Johnson said that there are continuing conversations about the return of the show in some form, but nothing has been solidified yet.
“There’s a constant buzz about the return of the series, a potential Season 7 or made-for TV movies, but nothing concrete,” he said. “I think what’s happened is that the show continues to be a success for both the producing entity, Warner Brothers, and the broadcasting entity, Netflix, without them doing anything. Once again, victims of our own success.”
The “Longmire” actors have moved on to other projects since the show finished production in 2017. Robert Taylor, who played the title character, appeared in the monster shark movie “The Meg,” and an episode of “Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings” on Netflix in 2019.
Katee Sackhoff, who played Deputy Victoria Moretti on “Longmire,” has returned to the sci-fi genre that kicked off her career, appearing in a recurring role in “The Mandalorian” on Disney+, and leads the cast of the Netflix sci-fi series “Another Life.”
Lou Diamond Phillips, who played Longmire’s best friend Henry Standing Bear, has appeared in television shows such as “Graves,” “Criminal Minds,” “NCIS: New Orleans,” “Goliath” and “Blue Bloods.”
And Cassidy Freeman, who played Longmire’s daughter, Cady, has held recurring roles on the shows “Doubt” and “NCIS: New Orleans” and most recently starred in the HBO series “The Righteous Gemstones.”
But Johnson has it on good authority that should the opportunity come to reboot “Longmire,” the actors would be on board. He said the only thing standing in the way of that possibility is the parent studio.
“They have an incredible and lengthy hit on their hands,” he said. “The actors are for it, the producers are for it and even I’m for it, and you’d think they’d figure it out but so far nothing has happened.”
Johnson said there has been some movement in that direction recently, though.
“I do know for a fact that a large producing entity just bought all the large sets from “Longmire” down in Santa Fe, so that’s once again got the “Longmire” world buzzing, but we’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “Keep your fingers crossed.”