Monday, 1 October 2012

TV Review: Vegas Season 1 Episode 1 'Pilot'

From the writer of ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Casino’ comes this series about life in Las Vegas in the 1960s, how can this not be good?

Ralph Lamb, a rancher in the countryside surrounding Las Vegas is called upon to solve a murder after the local sheriff goes AWOL. Lamb, a man who doesn’t suffer fools, finds the job suits him well as he searches for the murderer of a young woman. Meanwhile Chicago gangster Vincent Savino arrives in Las Vegas to make it big for himself.

Hollywood veteran Dennis Quaid very ably plays rancher turned Sheriff, Ralph Lamb, Lamb is a quite stern man with a strong distaste for the growing popularity of casinos in his city. Preferring to remain within his own land and tend to his cattle, Lamb is aggravated to be called upon to be the new sheriff for the city, however, his keener senses of detection and justice equate to the job suiting him better than he thought. Lamb is a genuinely cool character and a version of the “no-nonsense cop” that rings truer than most, a lot of this is down to Dennis Quaid’s entertaining portrayal but the show’s natural writing helps to make the character not feel artificial. Michael Chiklis portrays the series’ main antagonist Vincent Savino, a crime boss from Chicago who has come to Las Vegas to start his own operation. Savino as a character is not fleshed out within this episode and Chiklis’ performance is quite one-note, certainly not a match for Quaid’s. Supporting the two leads is Carrie-Anne Moss as Katherine O’Connell the assistant district attorney and childhood friend of Lamb. Moss impresses in this episode and her chemistry with Quaid is great, her written material however is a little lacking as of this point in the show and I hope to see her given more to do in the coming episodes.

The rivalry between Ralph Lamb and Vincent Sorvino is a running theme in the show.

Setting the series in Las Vegas adds tremendously to its entertainment value. The stunning backdrop of the Mojave Desert complete with the glittering lights of the city itself is a story within itself, I was very glad to see that the writers are already using the desert combined with the history of the city (such as it being a former nuclear weapon test site) to intertwine into the stories each week. With such a rich history in crime and due to its uniqueness, Las Vegas has more than enough fodder to keep a television series going for years with stories to tell, the fact that this series takes place in the past means that the audience could well see some of the more iconic moments of “Sin City” take place on screen.

If you are familiar with the series ‘Magic City’ which tells the story of the Miramar Playa, a glamorous hotel in Miami, Florida, then you will most likely find the aspect of ‘Vegas’ that deals with the strip in particular quite similar. For my money ‘Magic City’ is a superior representation of life at that time in such a location but that could be down to the fact that it is given the larger boundaries of subscription television in which to tell its story where as ‘Vegas’ is sadly confined to network television’s family friendly content production.

If ‘Vegas’ were to be produced by a subscription based channel such as HBO or Showtime then it would be given the same reduction in limits applied to ‘Magic City’, doing this would make ‘Vegas’ a vastly superior piece of television. If given the same treatment as the likes of ‘Boardwalk Empire’ then it would be given the opportunity to tackle much darker storylines and in a more mature fashion. Darker storylines would be ideal for this show, even if only for the shadowy past of its setting.

As you can imagine, the casinos of Vegas feature extensively.

‘Vegas’ really has the opportunity to tell some great stories over the course of its run thanks to the history of its setting and through the progression of theme of antithesis present in the characters of Ralph Lamb and Vincent Savino. It’s the type of show that could so easily, thanks to sloppy writing or unapplied performances, become intensely boring, if it carries on like this pilot episode then ‘Vegas’ looks poised to add some variety to the current television landscape.

If you like shows like ‘CSI’ then there’s something here for you to enjoy, that familiar police procedural type of show, but if you’re a fan of more focused drama then there is also enough here to please you, such as the overarching story of Las Vegas’ corruption which will undoubtedly be an interesting tale, the question remains however as to whether ‘Vegas’ will tell it well enough.

1 comment:

  1. Michael has played such a large range of roles, but as a mob boss he is exploring his full range of characters. My only wish is that they would show more of him; such a waste of talent. I have been enjoying the show so far though. There is so much emphasis on Quaid though that a lot of the other actors get overshadowed. My DISH coworker says it’s getting decent ratings too, which I figure should guarantee even more success and money to keep it a class act show. I found out about it when my Hopper PrimeTime Anytime feature I enabled, automatically recorded it. I like the fact that I find lots of new shows to watch, since every major network show records each day.