Like Rodney Dangerfield, soft-spoken Wyoming game warden and all-around everyman Joe Pickett (For All Mankind’s likably laconic Michael Dorman) deserves more respect than he gets. Something of a local laughingstock because he once arrested the governor for fishing without a license, Joe is too easily disregarded as a pushover schmo. But as we soon intuit in a new contemporary Western mystery from Spectrum Originals, maybe that’s by design.
“I think you like being underestimated,” muses a wily survivalist (Mustafa Speaks) who trusts Joe above the arrogant or clownish cops who patrol the modern, quasi-wild West. A family man with modest ambitions, Joe doesn’t carry the biggest gun—he’s not that great a shot, anyway—and he’s more at home with the wildlife he protects than with what passes as society. These traits, as well as a tendency to go rogue to get justice, are what make him such an appealing underdog hero in more than 20 terrific novels by C.J. Box (whose books also inspired ABC’s Big Sky).
I mean it as the highest compliment when I suggest that anyone who followed Longmire from cable to Netflix will find a kindred spirit here. From the early episodes, this also appears to be following the outlines of Box’s disciplined storytelling more faithfully than the bizarrely baroque Big Sky.
His shady predecessor (an enjoyable David Alan Grier) keeps telling Joe to “learn how to bend,” but that’s not his way. Especially once a poacher who threatened his family, including two beloved daughters, turns up dead on his woodpile. With taut action, considerable humor and real warmth between Dorman and Julianna Guill as his wise ex-lawyer wife Marybeth, this not-so-ordinary Joe (which will stream later on Paramount+ once Spectrum’s exclusive window expires) is one to watch.
Joe Pickett, Series Premiere, Monday, December 6, Spectrum On Demand