Part CBS’ “Jesse Stone” movies, part Marlboro Man ad, “Longmire” is an odd throwback of a series — a highly conventional cop drama/modern-day Western, without much in the way of wit or risk. FX has demonstrated there’s some fecundity in the genre with “Justified,” and while this A&E hour is also based on a series of books, the show’s so earnestly old-fashioned one suspects the audience drawn to it would view even episodic fare on CBS and TNT as tailored to young whippersnappers.
Australian actor Robert Taylor plays the square-jawed Wyoming sheriff, who has been taking his work a little less seriously since his wife died a year earlier. His brooding ways haven’t been lost on everyone — including his feisty city-slicker new deputy Vic (“Battlestar Galactica’s” Katee Sackhoff); other deputy, Branch (Bailey Chase), who’s running for sheriff against his boss; and pal Henry (Lou Diamond Phillips), who runs the local bar and prods Longmire to get back on the horse, as it were, in terms of women.
In the premiere, an unknown guy turns up murdered in the wilderness — which shouldn’t happen very often in these parts, but for series purposes will likely have to — triggering an investigation. Not that the whodunit really matters all that much, playing like a by-the-numbers mystery.
Yes, there’s a long and storied history of laconic lawmen, but it’s never a terrific idea to have a central character who’s less compelling than his sidekicks. Even a bit of tension with authorities at the local Native-American reservation feels borrowed from a half-dozen other works.
“Might be old, but it still gets the job done,” Walt mutters to Vic, and while he’s referring to an antique gun used in the slaying, it’s pretty clear the statement packs a double meaning.
A&E has hewed closely to crime with the smallest of twists in its scripted efforts, but even by those standards “Longmire” feels low on firepower. (Not surprisingly, the reality-heavy network will premiere another unscripted cop franchise, “Cajun Justice,” a few days later.)
Frankly, if A&E was going to try this sort of show, it probably should have gambled on something of the 19th-century variety. Because as it stands, to put it in Western terms, “Longmire” is all hat, and no cattle.