Hope for Longmire fans: Warner Horizon, Netflix in negotiations

Hope for Longmire fans: Warner Horizon, Netflix in negotiations

Photo promoting earlier "Longmire" season, creatively altered by Ponick. Original image: A&E promo photo.

WASHINGTON, November 14, 2014 – For upwards of three months, outraged fans of A&E’s compelling Wild West detective series, “Longmire,” have vented their outrage far and wide, infuriated at that declining network’s decision to axe its second most popular show.

But last week, we began to learn that reports of “Longmire’s” death, as Mark Twain might have said, may be greatly exaggerated. Several short reports began to appear on the net, indicating that Warner Horizon, the studio responsible for creating the series, was getting close to finding another home.

READ ALSO: Update: Longmire Fans still hoping for a new home

Over the last few hours, these reports have become more specific. According to at least three sources, Warner Horizon is “deep in negotiations” with Netflix, which may cut a deal to start filming Season 4 of the show some time in February 2015, with episodes to be made available for “Longmire’s” usual summer season.

Realism must intrude here. For all its gloss and glitter, the entertainment biz is a nasty one that ultimately gets down to dollars and cents, not popularity contests.

That said, both die-hard “Longmire” fans, including the Facebook-resident official fan site #LongLiveLongmire—home of the indefatigable Longmire Posse—and the principal cast members of the show, led by a fiery Lou Diamond Phillips, have kept up a steady drumbeat of outrage, pressure and encouragement, urging some other outlet to pick up their favorite series, which had left them stranded after a cliffhanger conclusion to Season 3.

Campaign poster for Longmire.
Longmire for Sheriff campaign. Promo still from Season 3 of A&E’s “Longmire”

The “Longmire” battle was joined almost immediately after it announced cancellation of the series in late August. More often than not, a cancellation notice from any network is an immediate and permanent death sentence for even the most popular of series. Or for the quirky ones that need more time to build an audience.

Audiences for these series may rise up in revolt, but they rarely have an effect on Hollywood’s and TV’s money moguls who’d whack their grandmothers for an extra nickel’s profit. “Star Trek” was one of few canceled series that found new life, both in the movies and back on TV, starting with “Next Generation.” But even that revival took roughly ten years for fans to achieve.

Similar efforts have generally failed, including the unfortunate case of Fox’s wildly original outer space Western, “Firefly,” which attracted a small legion of die-hard fans who were unable to get that network to pick up their favorite show even for a second season.

“Firefly” fans did ultimately manage to get a movie—“Serenity”—for their efforts. But nobody else picked up the show in the early 2000s, a decade that was a tad too early to benefit from the arrival of streaming video originals.

Netflix has picked up canceled series before. After learning the ropes with a much-delayed but lame comeback season of the bizarre comedy “Arrested Development,” Netflix started to find its groove with new, original series like “House of Cards,” and occasional revivals, as with their Season 4 completion of the canceled mystery series, “The Killing,” which wrapped up loose ends left hanging.

READ ALSO: ‘Longmire’ said to be getting ‘real close’ to Season 4

“Longmire,” however, would seem to show more promise for continuing after a “wrap up” season, given it previous popularity, as Deadline Hollywood notes:

‘Longmire,’ starring Robert Taylor and Katee Sackhoff, was A&E’s most-watched original scripted series of all time, averaging 5.6 million viewers in Season 3, a slight dip from Season 2’s nearly 6 million average despite a much weaker lead-in.

But that didn’t seem to matter much to A&E. Once known as the “Arts and Entertainment Network,” A&E abandoned that highfalutin’ content years ago and is increasingly eager to make a quick buck on its ever-growing backlog of so-called “reality series,” of which “Duck Dynasty” is essentially the only one worth a look any more.

Excuses given by the cable network for “Longmire’s” demise: A&E wanted to save money by producing shows in-house—which “Longmire” wasn’t; A&E wanted to move to more (and cheaper) “unscripted” series; “Longmire’s” viewer demographic skewed “old,” and advertisers are only interested in younger viewers who, at least in 2014, have less money to spend on products than the canasta-for-lunch-bunch.

Whatever the real reason or reasons for the cancellation, the “Longmire” rumor mill had been popping on and off ever since the series’ August cancellation. But short articles, often from little-known outlets, began to hint at an intensification of efforts last week.

For example, Christianity Today picked up and fleshed out a report from Wyoming News, indicating that Craig Johnson, author of the popular series of “Longmire” novels that inspired the TV series, felt things were looking up for the show. A consultant to the series, Johnson opined that the show “could be back on track as soon as the holiday season.

‘I expect to hear something about it by Christmas, which should actually work out pretty well,’ he said. ‘That would make a great present for the fans and the state of Wyoming, I think.’

The Longmire Posse would agree, something Johnson seemed pretty sure of.

“Let me tell you, the people are mad out there, and these aren’t the ones you want to make angry because they have been to the rodeo and have the buckle,” he said. “They will tell you what they think, and they never forget or forgive. At every stop I do, there are people asking when the show will be back and what happened.”

El Mitotero” (roughly “The Tatler” or “The Gossip), a blogger-reporter for the Santa Fe New Mexican took the Wyoming News report sourced by Christianity Today with a grain of salt, opining that the News might be “stretching” in its assertion that “Longmire’s” pick up was nearly a done deal.

But, citing another generally reliable New Mexico-based source, El Mitotero duly noted that positive rumors might be well based after all.

Oneheadlightink, the New Mexico film blog that correctly predicted that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice would film in the state, flat out asserted that the show is coming back to New Mexico based on the word of a few confidential sources. El Mitotero tends to trust Oneheadlightink, but you take it for what you will.

For those not following this story, BTW, “Longmire” is mostly filmed in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico though it’s set in Wyoming. Hence, the intense interest in the show’s production by residents and fans in that state.

We’ll try to stay on top of this story for our readers who, like this writer, are also “Longmire” fans. As Yogi says, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” But there is considerable hope as this week ends that this episode of “Longmire,” at least, may be headed for happier trails in 2015.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17