Longmire and The Death of Drama

Death of Modern Drama

What has happened to modern story telling? Fewer people read. The printed short story is barely alive. Thankfully it has seen a bit of a revival through online venues. This has become possible because of the relatively low cost of such efforts. The editors, publishers and writers are largely unpaid, doing it more for the passion of storytelling. Funny thing also is the modern attitude that writers are somehow running a charity. That for some reason their labors should go unpaid.

Even movies have become little more than 90 minutes of crash and burn action. Most of the mainstream network television has been reduced to bathroom humor, talent shows and agenda driven propaganda. The true storytelling on film has moved to the formerly upstart cable networks. In the last decade or so, great dramas have found a home on channels such as USA, TNT with even American Movie Classics (AMC) getting into the act in great ways.

One player that was showing great promise was Arts and Entertainment TV, (A&E). Recently A&E has decided to descend into the reality TV sewer inhabited by networks like the E “Entertainment” channel and those channels which once aired music videos. These are cheap to make and appeal to the prurient interest in all things celebrity or the hidden lives of others like them.

From a dollar store, buy it cheap aspect, this can be understood. However, once you develop a dollar store reputation, it is hard to groom an audience seeking anything better. A couple of recent cases illustrate this point. On July 11, 2010, A&E premiered a show called “The Glades.” The Glades was about a smart alack former Chicago detective who took a job as a detective in the Everglades of Florida. It quickly gained a loyal following and its lowest rated episode had 2.26 million viewers and ranging to over three and a half million. Not too shabby for cable TV. Season four ended on a major cliff-hanger with the lead character’s survival in question. The viewers were eager to find out the fate of Detective Jim Longworth and completely flabbergasted when it was cancelled.

Often when a popular show is cancelled unexpectedly like this, I suspect there is a hidden story that the network is unwilling to share. I figured that was the case with The Glades. Now A&E has done it again. In Longmire, based on the popular novels by Craig Johnson, it had an even more popular show. Longmire’s numbers ranged reliably from three to nearly five million viewers. Once again, not shabby at all, but that didn’t stop A&E from cancelling it and like with The Glades, on a major cliff-hanger threatening the survival of a major character. One has to wonder, what is going on at the “Arts” and Entertainment network. Are they angling to become just another cheap reality TV network that is a shell of its original mission, like MTV or VH1?

Funny thing about loyal viewers… they are indeed loyal. They were livid over The Glades, but they are apoplectic over Longmire. Their Twitter campaign #LongLiveLongmire has caught fire as they shop and lobby for a new network for Longmire and bash A&E. One has to wonder what damage A&E has done to its image among those truly interested in the “Arts.”

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