Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pilot Review: Vegas

Vegas (CBS)
Premiered September 25 at 10pm

While cable networks often set their shows in the past, it’s not nearly as common on broadcast network series. One reason is that creating a universe set in a different time period is laborious and expensive, and demand an immersion into that setting that requires tuning in every week. NBC’s “The Playboy Club” was an enormous failure, while the same network succeeded with “American Dreams” for three seasons a decade ago. Now, CBS, king of the procedural, is entering into the 1960s, the choice time period for new shows these days after the success of “Mad Men,” visiting Sin City again after its very short-lived 2004 series “Dr. Vegas.” The network has used movie stars like Gary Sinise in the past to headline its series, and now Dennis Quaid checks in as the grumpy unlikely sheriff who makes it his mission to fend off his city from invading gangsters and planes flying over his flock. Claims of “You don’t look like the law” and response like “I am the law here, and I will decide who’s breaking it” are only mildly effective in establishing Quaid’s Ralph Lamb as a realistic and empathetic figure. He’s hardly as charismatic as local villain Vincent Savino, played by Michael Chiklis, one step up from his unfortunate role as a super-powered dad on “No Ordinary Family” but nowhere near as productive as his career-making role as Detective Vic Mackey on “The Shield.” Jason O’Mara, who has proven extremely versatile, earning series regular roles on three series on three different networks in the past five years, gets demoted to a supporting role as the sheriff’s brother, but it’s probably fine that he’s in the ensemble. Carrie-Anne Moss also stops by television to round out the cast, which includes Taylor Handley, best known as the ridiculous Oliver from “The O.C.” The show itself manages a stylized and antique mood but isn’t terribly engaging. It seems to be like an idea that sounded good on paper but will be much more difficult to execute well on screen.

How will it work as a series? We’ve already seen several interactions between Ralph and Vincent, and the fact that Chiklis is a series regular means that he’ll be a frequent player in crime in Vegas. That could translate to Ralph trying to take him down every episode, which might get repetitive, and this series also seems like it’s going to very dark and moody.
How long will it last? The premiere numbers were excellent, putting this show on pair with the NCIS pair that precedes it and giving it a memorable launch. I’m not sure its numbers will continue as the show goes on, so I’d say that CBS will aim to invest in it but won’t necessarily make a renewal decision before assessing how much potential it really has.

Pilot grade: B-

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