Peacemakers: Pilot (2003) TV Review

With the mammoth (and I think unexpected) success of TV Tech Cop show “C.S.I.” and its 20 other imitators spread across the 4 networks, it was inevitable that some clever writer would pitch this idea: “It’s C.S.I. but in the Wild West!” That, in a nutshell, is the premise of “Peacemakers”, an original USA Network TV series. Set in the 1880s, when the West was still wild — although not too wild, since phones are available (?) — “Peacemakers” stars Tom Berenger (“Sniper 2”) as Stone, a Marshal in the booming mine town of Silver City, Colorado.

After a murder involving a land baron, Stone gets unwanted help from Pinkerton agent Finch (Peter O’Meara, “Band of Brothers”). Also helping out with all the latest and greatest forensics science (at least “latest and greatest” in the 1880s) is town mortician Katie Owen (Amy Carlson, TV’s “Third Watch”), a medical school dropout. Other regular cast members include Bellamy Young as Twyla Gentry, the town’s intrepid Lois Lane-type, and Barbara Tyson as the local prostitute with a heart of gold. The other fiery smart woman in the pilot is Fay Masterson as the wife of the dead land baron.

I should say right now that I’m not a big fan of Tech Cop shows. I have seen about 30 minutes worth of “C.S.I.” in all the time it has been on, and I have not bothered to watch any second of the imitators. What can I say, I don’t find watching “cops” clicking on computers or peering into microscopes to be all that exhilarating. So with that in mind, you’ll forgive me if I don’t find the idea behind “Peacemakers”, with its ancient recreation of forensics science, to be anything to get excited about.

In truth, we don’t really see all that much — at least not in the pilot. It remains to be seen if the writers can keep coming up with “roll back” versions of what we know today as forensics. And although the pilot involves a murder investigation — the often-used crime in all the Tech Cop shows, I believe — what about future episodes? Surely they can’t keep throwing out bodies to be investigated. After all, this is just a small Wild West town with what amounts to half a “block” worth of citizens. Which probably means future episodes will involve other types of crimes. I hear horse thievery was big back then. Obviously there’s more than a little revisionist history going on, but that’s to be expected.

Best of all, it’s good to see Tom Berenger back in the saddle as a hardened ex-Civil War hero who takes his job seriously, but not too seriously. Although slightly bigger around the midsection (if you know what I mean), Berenger still makes a terrific leading man. I also liked that Stone is smart enough to take advantage of Finch’s clearly superior science. As Finch, Peter O’Meara looks the part of the egghead, but his character is stereotypically Stuffy and Snobbish — i.e. British. Always ready with an insult directed at Stone or the town, the Finch character needs to mellow out a lot more or he’s going to be very dislikeable.

Supporting player Amy Carlson isn’t in the pilot episode long enough for her performance to have any impact. Bellamy Young, on the other hand, makes an impression in her brief scenes with potential love interest Stone. There’s also a black character that keeps following Stone around, apparently trying to watch his back. No mention is made of who he is, or why he’s so concern with Stone’s safety. I guess that’s what future episodes are for.

There are a number of other things to like about the 90-minute pilot episode. Condescending Englishman Finch turns out to be more physically capable than he looks. And as mentioned, after some initial head butting, Stone and Finch ends up working pretty well together — probably too well, in fact. There is also some humor to be found, like when Finch calls Stone by way of a primitive telephone system, then telling Stone to hurry over to his lab instead of just telling him over the new fandangle invention. Things like that will give audiences bits and pieces of “inside” entertainment only possible with hindsight.

On the negative side, “Peacemakers” will probably end every episode (as it did with the pilot) with one of those “wrap up scenes” where the heroes gather with the villains in one location and explain how this or that crime was committed. Via flashback we’ll see the crime happening, how, and why ala “C.S.I.” Really, I could have done without that. Then again, fans of “C.S.I.” probably love that stuff, and this show is definitely aimed at them.

CAST: Tom Berenger …. Marshal Jared Stone
Peter O’Meara …. Detective Larimer Finch
Amy Carlson …. Katie Owen
Bellamy Young …. Twyla Gentry