'CSI' Goes West for New USA Series

Court TV's signature series is Forensic Files. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is broadcast's top-rated show and has a spin-off set in Miami. Crossing Jordan is about a Boston forensics team, while JAG is about to spawn a Navy-oriented investigative version. So why not have CSI meet the West of the 1880s?

That's the concept behind Peacemakers, USA Network's newest original series, and it does have some potential.

This cowboys-and-forensics drama is set in a time in which the telephone and electricity are still new. In one scene, a horse-drawn wagon bears a billboard proclaiming, "Edison's Newest Invention, Electric Light."

The 90-minute opener pits the town of Silver City's haves against its have-nots.

A rich land baron, Art Wanamaker — who also held interests in the Denver & Silver City Railroad and in silver mines — is slain. The apparent motive: He intended to give 10,000 acres to his Chinese mistress and his mineworkers, a plan that did not sit well with his conniving widow and her partners in crime.

Tom Berenger comes across well as the cranky Marshal Jared Stone, who prefers to crack cases the old-fashioned way — say, by spotting the killer's bootprint with a distinctive heel design.

Peter O'Meara portrays Larimer Finch, a Pinkerton detective and forensics specialist, while Amy Carlson plays Katie Owen, the town mortician.

Finch at first is an annoying dandy, with his fancy suits, bowler hat and walking stick. Stone gleefully one-ups Finch's scientific approach by learning of the paramour via "an old information-gathering technique of my own — gossip."

Finch then scores points by spotting Wanamaker's land deed as counterfeit because it's on pulp paper, and dated when that had not yet been invented.

Throughout, the main characters sprinkle clues about their backgrounds — Stone was a Civil War hero; Finch once worked for Scotland Yard.

There are some inconsistencies in the show, co-created by director Larry Carroll and writer Rick Ramage. Among them: Finch, who early on picked a lock to enter the rail car murder scene, later can't pick a rail car lock to save the imperiled mistress — instead, climbing atop a moving train.

In the closing minutes, Stone asks Katie and Finch to help him on another unsolved murder case, setting the series in motion.

Peacemakers bows July 30 at 9 p.m. then shifts to Wednesdays at 10.