‘Longmire’ And Hollywood’s Misplaced Demographic Focus

Andy Patrizio Freelance Journalist
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Hollywood is an inexplicable place, often behaving in ways that are downright detrimental to its business. We saw that last week with A&E’s decision to cancel “Longmire,” its second-most popular show behind the fast-fading “Duck Dynasty.” Despite 3.6 million viewers for its finale (and nearly two million more who watched it on DVR), the share of the coveted 18-49 crowd was a measly 0.6, which many think warranted canceling the show. But A&E never said exactly why.

“Longmire” is an outstanding show, a modern day western crime drama set in rural Wyoming (but shot in New Mexico) based on a series of novels of the same name. The titular character, Sheriff Walter Longmire, is a man dealing with the grief of losing his wife not from the cancer she was battling but a from murder, and as the series unfolded, the murder became anything but random.

While denied Emmys (“Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” are just too dominant), the show was praised for its writing, acting, cinematography, and its portrayal of Native Americans, a detail it worked hard to get right.

It had an excellent cast, led by Australian actor Robert Taylor, whom no one would recognize from his role in “The Matrix.” Taylor played Agent Jones in that movie and had two memorable scenes: the rooftop chase with Trinity at the start of the film and the rooftop battle with Neo, where he dodged two full clips of bullets before almost killing Neo. “Longmire” also featured “Battlestar Galactica” veteran Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips in probably his best role ever, and guest appearances by Peter Weller and Gerald McRaney.

Because “Longmire” skewed older, it wasn’t appealing to A&E, and that is their mistake. Two years ago, a Nielsen report said Baby Boomers controlled 70 percent of disposable income. The rest of us have the scraps in Obama’s socialist paradise.

Hollywood thinks the 18-49 demo is the one with all the disposable income. I’ve got news for you: I am in that bracket and I’m broke and so are most of my friends. My parents, now retired, live far better, and I’m not alone. Generation X (mine), Generation Y and the Millennials are often broke or stuck in low-paying jobs if not jobless and saddled with huge college debt. Yet this is the most-wanted audience.

So you would think A&E would be happy to have an older audience, since they have the money. But this seems lost on them. As an excellent article by Breitbart noted, “it wasn’t so long ago that shows catering far more explicitly to an older audience – ‘Matlock,’ ‘Diagnosis Murder,’ etc. – could do good business and run for many years. Now we’ve got a network literally throwing such an audience away.”

The funny thing is that “Longmire” was never hurting for commercials. Fans had two basic complaints about the show: the season was too short, only ten episodes, and there were too many commercials. When A&E started posting deleted scenes from episodes on its Facebook account, fans complained loudly about too darn many commercials.

Some other entertainment writers have pointed out that A&E, which is split 50/50 in ownership between Hearst Corp. and Walt Disney Co., wanted to be rid of the show because it didn’t produce the series; Warner Horizon did, which meant less money for A&E. Warner Horizon does a bunch of forgettable reality shows along with ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” and TNT’s “Rizzoli & Isles,” the latter of which has almost identical ratings to “Longmire.”

Whatever the reason for the cancellation – and I doubt there is a single one – it’s turning into another PR disaster for A&E, almost as bad as the Phil Robertson suspension. People are wondering if the network is run by idiots for cancelling a quality show while adding “Cement Heads,” a reality show about a family with a cement business.

All of this shows the management of A&E is really inept. They have killed multiple golden egg-laying geese. They ran the once-popular “Storage Wars” into the ground with incessant overexposure and allowed its biggest star, Barry Weiss, to leave and do a horrendous spin-off that I couldn’t bear to watch. It overexposed “Duck Dynasty” in much the same way, which led to its decline even before the Phil Robertson fiasco. Then they rewarded fans of “The Glades” with a cancellation after the fourth season ended on a major cliffhanger, just like “Longmire” did.

The consensus is “Longmire” will end up on the Time Warner network TNT, or perhaps TBS. The show has a large, loyal audience who are hopping mad right now and will undoubtedly reward a new network with significant viewership. And if they skew older, well, be glad, TNT. They are the ones with the money.