Vegas (CBS) - Series Premiere: Synopsis and Review

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‘Vegas’ is a new CBS Western-drama set in the 1960’s in Las Vegas (I hope you already guessed that). That is, even though it’s been a while that Westerns were at the top of their popularity. The network is also not considering the fact that even though series such as ‘Mad Men’ (AMC) and ‘Downton Abbey’ (BBC, PBS) receive acclaim, broadcast network period dramas haven’t really been working lately; think ABC’s ‘Pan Am’ and NBC’s ‘The Playboy Club’. The other possibility is of course that ‘Vegas’ is such an amazing show that all of the above can be disregarded. We’ll see.

Vegas is executive produced by Greg Walker (‘Without a Trace’) and Nicholas Pileggi (‘American Gangster’), who also wrote the pilot together. The show stars Dennis Quaid (‘The Day After Tomorrow’) as main protagonist Ralph Lamb, a real-life rancher who served as Sheriff of Clark County from 1961-1979. The main antagonist is Vincent Savino, portrayed by Michael Chicklis (‘The Shield’). This character is based on real-life Chicago and later Las Vegas mobster Marcello Guiseppe Caifano, who was known as John Marshall during his time in Las Vegas.

Chicago mobster Savino arrives in Las Vegas to start up his own operations. Ralph Lamb is at the airport complaining because he is sick of the planes flying low over his land when landing. He gets in a fight and gets arrested, but Savino has seen what he is capable of for the first time.

The real-life Ralph Lamb
The real-life Ralph Lamb | Source

When the Governor’s niece gets murdered and the Sheriff is out of town, the mayor (Michael O’Neill, ‘The Unit’) calls in a favor to get Lamb released. Back in the war, the mayor and Lamb were in the same regiment and Lamb solved a murder case there. So now, in return for releasing him, the mayor asks Lamb to lead the investigation. He even offers Lamb money, but the only thing he wants is the planes to stay away from his ranch.

Lamb brings in his younger brother Jack (Jason O’Mara, ‘Terra Nova’) as his Deputy. It turns out that the murdered girl worked at one of Savino’s hotel-casinos. And that is already the second time that Lamb and Savino run into each other.

Suspicion goes from the girl’s boyfriend to someone she was supposedly cheating with, to Hell’s Angels who are roaming the cities in the area, to Savino’s men. In the mean time, Lamb has some more dealings with Savino, chases a motorcycle with his horse and a car by foot and, of course, solves the murder.

At the end of the day, the Sheriff of Cork County is found dead alongside a road. Of course, Savino’s got something to do with that as well, but Lamb still has to find out during the next episode. With the Sheriff dead, the mayor asks Lamb to be Sheriff for the time being.

‘Vegas’ is the second mob show of the season, after FOX’s ‘The Mob Doctor’. Apart from that connection, there are more parallels between the two shows. Both of them have a strong lead character who is more or less forced to deal with the mob. Also, I’m not a fan of either of them. They are quite low paced in terms of progress in the overall story arc, as far as you can tell after one or two episodes, respectively. And last but not least, ‘The Mob Doctor’ feels more like a medical procedural than anything else, and ‘Vegas’ feels more like a very dated (though the period setting is done great, as far as I can tell) police procedural than a show concerning the dealings between a Sheriff and the local mob boss.

Adding to that the fact that broadcast TV and period dramas don’t go that well together, and that it seems very boring to watch a police procedural in which you can predict who’s involved in the crimes all the time, I’m not convinced that ‘Vegas’ will last very long. However, on the other hand, this is still CBS, and that is the network that manages to keep millions of people watching all sorts of predictable police procedurals. So who knows, maybe this one will surprise after all.

Update: After the pilot, Sarah Jones ('Alcatraz') was added to the cast of 'Vegas', playing the daughter of one of the mobsters.

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