Sunday, December 02, 2012

Safe Bet

I’ve been doing my best to like “Vegas” but the new CBS show isn’t making it easy.

How could this thing have gone so wrong? Here we have a Sixties era crime show co-created by “Wiseguy” author Nicholas Pileggi that stars two of my favorite actors—Michael Chiklis and Dennis Quaid.

I was psyched when I heard about this program: Mobsters, casinos, cowboys, the Sixties—everything a growing boy needs. Well, maybe not...

Let me say upfront that show isn’t bad—not by any means. It’s just not that good. And this is even more disappointing given the talent behind it.

For starters, the whole mob-early-Vegas storyline is pretty worn out by now, thanks to the earlier show “Crime Story” and Martin Scorcese’s “Casino.”

Quaid portrays Sheriff Ralph Lamb, a former MP and western manly man who takes on Chicago gangster Vincent Savino (Chiklis) and his merry band of psychopaths.

The battle lines are painfully clear: good old boy versus big city hoodlum; Stetsons versus fedoras; cowboys versus casinos; Winchesters versus sawed-off shotguns. And that’s about as far as we go.

It’s frustrating to watch talented these actors trying to pump life into such cut-rate material. They’re actors, after all, not magicians. I’d love to see these Quaid and Chiklis working together on something substantial.

Bust Out

The show is based on the exploits of a real sheriff named Ralph Lamb, but an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal points out that “based on” is no guarantee of accuracy…or even reality.

Now I’ve never thought I’d say this, but I’m starting to get tired of mob stories—and I’m a half-Italian from Brooklyn.

There just doesn’t seem to be much juice left in the genre of bulky guys in dark suits named Tony, Lefty, Vito, or whatever, who terrorize innocent civilians as they mangle the Queen’s English.

The Sixties time slot is getting a little overworked as well. “Mad Men” captured the cigarette-smoking, martini-swilled period very effectively and it seems to have inspired other shows, like “Pan Am,” and “The Playboy Club.” “Vegas” is showing up late for the retro party.

“Vegas” tries very hard to make us believe that we’re back in the days of hula hoops and fallout shelters, but I’m not feeling it.

I recall a scene in a diner where the camera lingers over a newspaper headline about Richard Nixon for so long it starts to feel like an elbow in the ribs—it’s the Sixties, get it? Huh? Huh? Yes, we honestly do. Now please move on.

Another show opens with the sheriff’s son rolling in the hay with a young lady and for some reason the scene is accompanied by Carl Perkins singing “Blue Suede Shoes.” There’s the elbow again, jabbing away, let us know that, yeah, it’s the Sixties. But it seems more like lazy writing.

The stories are little more than routine whodunits, more “Mannix” than “Mean Streets.” There are ongoing plotlines, but they show little promise.

The show has no guts, literally or otherwise. Sometimes you’ve got forget the odds, blow on the dice and left ‘em fly down the table. If you roll snake eyes, well, at least you had some fun before you cashed in your chips.


Ron said...

Excellent review, Rob!

You have a great talent for writing these because you highlight a lot of good information about the show/movie; giving us a clear idea about the plot, talent, and overall feel. And you do it using minimal words.

Not being a TV watcher, I had no idea about this show. But judging by and respecting your opinion, it doesn't sound all that great.

"Now I’ve never thought I’d say this, but I’m starting to get tired of mob stories."

I agree. My favorite time period of mob movies where the old ones, filmed in black and white.

Oh...and The Godfather!

Hope you had great weekend, buddy!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, not being a TV watcher is a good thing. I should probably join you. Especially if it saves me from watching mediocre shows like these.

Love them old B&W gangster flicks and who could refuse The Godfather?

Take care, buddy, and I hope all is well!

Jay said...

I haven't come across this show. Must admit that on paper it wouldn't appeal anyway, but I'm glad to know I wouldn't have been missing something good!

After all, Boston Legal wouldn't have appealed on paper, but I watched it because a very good friend whose taste I trusted raved about it, and I'm so glad I did. Actually, I can't wait until OH is ready to watch it through again with me.

Rob K said...

I've got to check out Boston Legal. My dear auntie is such a fan. Now that's two of the ladies in my life who like it! Thanks for stopping by, Jay!