Vegas: Pilot Review

Las Vegas, 1960s. The city is taking off, the mob are arriving and someone needs to hold back the anarchy. In rides a man on a horse.

You’ll get far more out of this show if you go in with few expectations. I unfortunately settled in to watch this hoping for an interesting historical look at the founding of a city, Deadwood moved forward a century maybe, with a similar theme of criminal activity driving progress and how politics and justice sometimes fall by the way side.

Unfortunately that’s not what you get. Instead Vegas (or at least the pilot) is a basic procedural dressed up in a show girl costume. And it’s not even a terribly good procedural. The investigation has a textbook number of red herrings, relies on pretty coincidental discoveries and lacks any kind of emotional connection to either the victims or the perpetrators, all explained via ponderous exposition. That’s all rounded off with equally obvious directorial choices that are amateurish manipulative with zooming in to close up attempting to fill in the gap of actual intensity. It generally demonstrates a lack of subtlety that would embarrass even CSI Miami.

We’re gradually (and equally clumsily) introduced to the characters. At the centre you’ve got a variation on a theme of oddball investigator; a strong sense of justice who will not rest until he finds the truth and he doesn’t care who he has to offend or what rules he has to break to get there. Yada yada yada. Dennis Quaid does his best Tommy Lee Jones impression and mumbles his way through the cliché dialogue he’s laden down with, but it’s all just so familiar. On the other side of the coin is Michael Chiklis, the big crime boss who’s just arrived to build up his casino interests. Again, it’s a completely predictable performance, even the way he ‘unexpectedly’ loses his temper is unsurprising and just very dull. I expect better from these guys.

There’s a whisper of hope glimpsed in the supporting roles, but I’m not holding my breath, the sheriff’s younger brother is more likeable thanks to being able to roll his eyes at the clichés he’s surrounded by (and being played by the always likeable Jason O’Mara) and there’s some comedy from the sheriff’s girl chasing son, roped in as an extremely unlikely deputy. Carrie-Anne Moss’s assistant district attorney shows occasional flair, but is also lumbered with a painful amount of exposition dialogue that she fails to set the world alight with and an immediately boring “will-they-won’t-they” relationship with the sheriff.

Maybe if I’d gone in with low expectations, and a knowledge that the show was going to be a bog standard procedural just tied up in a period setting, then I would have been less frustrated by it. But with the cast and potential I was hoping for something more. I may well give it a couple more episodes, because the pilot was badly enough put together that it could be an exception rather than the rule, but I’m not feeling optimistic.

Vegas is on Thursday nights on Sky Atlantic

Huffington Post – I’ll keep watching, given the caliber of the cast and the solidly made pilot, and I’ll hope that “Vegas” gives these actors more to do than standing over bodies and leveling shotguns at city slickers.

The Guardian – It could do with a few more laughs, but it was the kind of show you could easily see yourself enjoying if Britain ever goes back to having only three channels

The Futon Critic ask that comments are not reproduced but have a good summary and review summed up as ‘ok, but not as good as it should be’.

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