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Another laconic lawman arrives on cable

By Ellen Gray, Philadelphia Daily News –

Forget “Men in Black.” It’s men in hats who are making a comeback these days.

The History Channel scored record ratings for its six-hour epic “Hatfields & McCoys,” which it promoted by sending out hats meant to appear as if they’d been riddled with bullets. Then there’s Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) wearing a big hat (and carrying a big gun) in FX’s “Justified” and Dennis Quaid sporting a multigallon chapeau as a 1960s rancher/sheriff in CBS’ new fall drama “Vegas.”

Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) wears a cowboy hat, too, which seems appropriate since he’s a sheriff in Wyoming, the main character in a series of mystery novels by Craig Johnson as well as the title character in “Longmire,” which premieres Sunday on A&E.

A recent widower, Longmire is also the latest in a long line of slightly damaged fictional detectives, a man who’ll drive five hours to deliver bad news in person, only to find himself tearing up like a rookie when the moment arrives. Old-fashioned enough to eschew cell phones, he doesn’t have much use for ballistics testing, either. Naturally, he’s constantly showing up his newest deputy, Victoria “Vic” Moretti (“Battlestar Galactica’s” Katee Sackhoff), who’s quick to remind him that she was “working homicide in Philadelphia for five years” before she joined his department.

Pilots are tough things, and although most of the other characters in “Longmire” are a bit too eager to introduce themselves and everyone else — we know that Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) is Walt’s best friend because he says he is, and that Walt’s daughter Cady (“Smallville’s” Cassidy Freeman) is, well, his daughter because someone reminds him — I’m willing to cut it a little slack for now.

Taylor, an Australian actor who looks and sounds as if he stepped out of an old Western, makes an appealing sheriff, and the area in northern New Mexico that’s doubling for Wyoming is every bit as scenic. “Longmire,” which is premiering after the Season 3 opener of another accessible cop series, “The Glades,” is an entirely respectable alternative for anyone who’d rather not spend Monday morning rehashing the latest outrage on “Mad Men.”

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