Tuesday , December 5 2023
U.S.A.'s new Wild West forensics series.


When USA Network started advertising its detective/western series, Peacemakers, the hype-men were all over the “Western C.S.I.” comparison (it’s a top-rated show – who can blame ’em?) Yet when I first heard of the new Tom Berenger series, the first show that popped into my head was Hec Ramsey.
Part of the old Sunday night NBC Mystery Movie bloc that also gave us Columbo, Quincy and MacMillan and Wife, Ramsey starred former Paladin Richard Boone as a canny Old West lawman as adept with forensic sleuthing as he was gun-fighting. The series ran for two years in the seventies and is not as well remembered as some of the era’s more durable mystery series, but its central premise – cowboy coppers utilizing this newfangled science stuff to unravel murder cases – was the same. The biggest thematic difference: where an elder Boone took the role of forensic cheerleader in the earlier series, Berenger’s established lawman is the one who has to be tutored in this new means of law enforcement by the young ‘uns.
Set in the 1880’s in a typical backlot Colorado mining town, Peacemakers centers around the trio of Marshal Jared Stone (Berenger), former Pinkerton man Larimer Finch (Peter O’Meara) and comely mortician Katie Owen (Amy Carlson). It’s Finch, a missionary’s son who has been trained at Scotland Yard, who comes equipped with all the scientific knowledge: when the town’s founder is discovered garroted in a private railroad car, he’s sent to Silver City to investigate the case. This leads to the inevitable territorial pissing with town Marshal Stone, who has also begun to investigate the murder, though since we’re watching the pilot, we’re pretty certain that the two’ll mend this breach before the initial ninety minutes are up.
Stone may not know much about fingerprinting, but he’s observant enough to recognize a unique boot print at the scene of the crime. And while Silver City may be out in the boonies, as one sign boasts, it’s also “the only town west of the Mississippi with its own telephone exchange.” Clearly, we’re in that rarefied realm of television westernland where no one shows the least bit of resistance to progress and the town’s sole black man is allowed to shoot a thuggish white henchman without anyone saying a thing about it.
Still, I bought Berenger as the laconic pipe-smoking Marshal, and O’Meara as the callow new age detective (Carlson’s perky mortician was a stretch, but she’s more watchable than, oh, Kim Delaney’s grumpy Florida C.S.I.er). The premiere tips its hand midway into its ninety-minute story, but even then I remained intrigued as our protagonists teased out murder and motive. In sterling western tradition, the latter revolves around a land snatch (insert Blazing Saddles quote here), and there’s a pretty nifty train chase ‘n’ fight in the climax to boot. And, yes, we do get a suitably bloody forensics scene, too, something you’d have never seen in the old NBC Mystery Movie days.
All in all, a diverting summer offering. And if you must go with the C.S.I. comparison, it sure beats watching the third rerun of that David Caruso’s spin-off’s first season. . .

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

Check Also

BotCon: A Look Back at ‘Beast Wars: Transformers’

"You're not standing there doing a voice; you're doing a character."