By Ken Tucker
Updated June 03, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT
Credit: Ursula Coyote/A&E
Credit: Ursula Coyote/A&E

Longmire, the modern-day Western-mystery series which premiered on A&E on Sunday night, is clearly a labor of love for the people who brought it to television. Based on the mystery novels of Craig Johnson, the TV Longmire was created by John Coveny and Hunt Baldwin, who also co-wrote the premiere. And if that labor of love was occasionally laborious viewing, there are certainly elements of charm, good acting, and the possibility of an improving series as it proceeds.

Australian actor Robert Taylor stars as Sheriff Walt Longmire, a Wyoming lawman whose wife died a year before the series starts. He’s a morose, strong, silent type, and we know he’s a crusty, old-fashioned, authentic dude, because he doesn’t use a cell-phone (characters frequently remark upon this with dazed disbelief) and his cowboy boots are cracked and dusty. Longmire is aided in his crime-fighting duties by Katee Sackoff as deputy Vic Moretti and hindered in those same duties by his other deputy, Bailey Chase’s Branch Connally, who’s smirky and is running to replace Longmire as sheriff in an upcoming election.

The debut episode involved solving a murder that put Longmire in contact with his friend, Henry Standing Bear, a Native American saloon owner played by Lou Diamond Phillips with just the right amount of healthy skepticism for everyone involved. I can’t say that the murder case was much more interesting than any you’d see on a show such as The Mentalist or Body of Proof, so it’s clearly the personalities that are going to make or break this show.

Producers Coveny and Baldwin are coming off just such a personality-driven crime show, The Closer, where they wrote and produced a lot of episodes. I’d already give Longmire a leg up on The Closer, if only because Longmire’s laconic, hard-bitten manner is a lot easier for me to take than Brenda Johnson’s high-strung-brittle manner as delivered with such commitment by Kyra Sedgwick.

Scheduled on Sunday nights, Longmire isn’t going to be the sort of show that’s going to satisfy viewers looking for a Game of Thrones replacement, though it may do for some when The Killing wraps up.

Did you watch Longmire? I’d be interested to know what you thought of it.

Twitter: @kentucker