A low-rent “Justified” is not exactly a bad thing during the summer, but that’s about what A&E’s new series, “Longmire,” amounts to.
Based on a series of mystery novels written by Craig Johnson, “Longmire” stars Robert Taylor (Agent Jones in The Matrix) as Walt Longmire, a grizzled sheriff of a small Wyoming town. Longmire, who has a remarkable resemblance to a Lee Majors’ character, is an old school sheriff; he doesn’t carry a cell phone, doesn’t bother with computers, and hands out Hound of the Baskervilles as training material.
When the series opens, Walt is struggling to get back on his feet after the death of his wife under undisclosed circumstances (clearly, the circumstances surrounding the death of his wife will act as a series’ long arc). Once he crawls out of bed and gets back to work, he’s faced with the prospect of running a re-election campaign against his deputy, a sort of know-it-all cowboy type (Bailey Chase, Graham Miller in “Buffy”). His other, more loyal deputy is played by Katee Sackhoff in button-down collared shirts, an out-of-town transplant not yet comfortable with the ways of Wyoming. The county that Longmire is Sheriff of also abuts an Native American Reservation, and Walt’s old friend Henry Standing Bear, played by Lou Diamond Phillips, serves as a liaison to the Native Americans when he’s not tending bar.
“Longmire” — which debuted last week with A&E’s highest ratings ever for an original program — is a slow-moving, formulaic procedural bookened by an ongoing storyline, but it has the comfortable worn-in feel of a USA Network show set in the dusty plains of Wyoming. The murder investigations are seedy (so far, one dead prostitute, one dead stripper) and unfold predictably, Walt is gruff but likable, and while the storytelling is meandering, it’s written well enough to keep your attention.
It’s easy watching, but what it is missing — like most procedurals of this nature — is a compelling villain, a Big Bad to keep you coming back. As it is, “Longmire” is a decent enough show to fill the time, but not exactly a show worth seeking out.