Shawconnect TV critic Brent Furdyk samples the upcoming pilots for a first look at the new fall TV season
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Michael Chiklis, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jason O’Mara, Taylor Handley, Sarah Jones, Michael O’Neill
The gist: In this based-on-a-true-story drama set in the early 1960s, tough-as-nails Nevada rancher Ralph Lamb (Quaid, in his first starring role on TV) has been doing his best to avoid being caught up in the rapid growth of Las Vegas as it quickly evolves from sleepy desert town into a booming paradise of vice. When a casino worker is murdered, the mayor offers Lamb the job of sheriff, thinking Lamb’s past experience as a military police officer during WWII makes him perfectly suited to the job. Lamb reluctantly accepts and tries to solve the murder. Through the course of his investigation, Lamb encounters slick mobster Vincent Savino (The Shield’s Chiklis), a recent arrival from Chicago who has the vision to see the millions that can be made in a town where gambling and whoring are not only legal, but encouraged.
Lamb doesn’t police Vegas on his own, and has brought in his hotheaded son (Handley) and laid-back brother (Terra Nova’s O’Mara) as his deputies, while he also relies on assistant D.A. Katherine O’Connell, a rancher’s daughter who grew up next door to the Lamb spread. Although there’s a procedural element to the show, with Lamb and his deputies following leads and solving cases, the spine of the series is the budding conflict between the hard-ass sheriff and the ruthless mobster as these two unyielding men vie for control of Sin City.
It’s like… Justified meets Casino
Sample line: “I am the law here, Mr. Savino, and I will decide who’s breaking it.”
IMHO: Expectations are high, since this project is top-shelf all the way, including the formidable talents of executive producer Nicholas Pileggi (who wrote the screenplay for Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas) and director James Mangold, who’s helmed such flicks as 3:10 to Yuma and Walk the Line. Add one of the strongest all-around casts you’re likely to see on a TV series, and the stage is set for something spectacular.
Unfortunately, Vegas isn’t spectacular — although it could be. As the Stetson-topped sheriff, Quaid oozes charisma, while Chiklis brings the same cunning brutality that lay at the core of Vic Mackey on The Shield, yet the show never really takes off the way you’d hope. Where Vegas truly misses the mark is with its ho-hum procedural elements; whenever Lamb is knocking on doors, talking on the phone or questioning witnesses, you may as well be watching any of the other dozen or so crime-solving series on the CBS schedule. Although the show is trying to balance an ongoing serialized story with a procedural cop show, I’d like to see the seesaw tip a bit so the crime-solving is toned down while amping up the war between Lamb and Savino. Hopefully we’ll also see dramatic re-enactments of some of the real-life Lamb’s larger-than-life exploits, such as the time he famously arrested a gang of Hell’s Angels, gave them all haircuts and dismantled their motorcycles.
Fun fact: Since Vegas today looks nothing like it did back then, the Vegas set-builders constructed a massive exterior set recreating Fremont Street circa 1960, encompassing a replica of the original Golden Nugget and the make-believe Savoy Hotel, which serves as Savino’s base of operations.
Verdict: CBS is betting big on this one, airing Vegas in the plum 10 p.m. timeslot following megahits NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles. Factor in the timeslot, the marquee value of the cast, the trendy 1960s setting and the fact that shows about lawmen with cowboy hats are suddenly hot (Justified, Longmire, Hell on Wheels) and it’s clear that Vegas has the potential to be the season’s biggest breakout hit.
Prediction: If all those NCIS viewers stick around and like what they see, expect to see this story unfolding for quite some time.
VEGAS will premiere Tuesday, September 25 on Global & CBS