I’m in two minds about Vegas, on one hand it was eminently watchable. Each episode, and the various arc storylines plodded along reliably, never outstaying their welcome or zigging unexpectedly. The cases and characters were comfortably familiar, all neatly pitched down the centre, never diverting too far into either farce nor angst, but with a pleasant thread of humour and drama to carry everything along. It’s the kind of show that you could watch on a Sunday evening with minimal excitement, but was reliably… ‘ok’.
While that hardly counts as an ecstatic endorsement, there are plenty of shows out there far far worse, that I would never sit through 20 episodes of. But the frustration with Vegas is that it should have been so much better. The location, the period, the cast and the budget should have combined to produce something a bit more special than a watchable but disposable procedural.
There were flashes and sparks of something interesting that never went anywhere. Stories about the period like the civil rights movement, the decline of the family run ranches that the growth of Vegas bulldozed through. Stories about what it was like to be a professionally successful ‘but’ unmarried female lawyer, or the resentment in the Lamb family with dad opting to stay in the army leaving his son to be raised by his uncle. These questions were in the background, but never pushed or examined in any great detail.
About half a dozen episodes from the end of the series, an opening title sequence suddenly appeared. It was the sort of thing that could easily be found on a cable drama, all slow motion falling items and style. It gave me a real kick the first time I saw it, because it hinted at what the show could have been if it had maybe been on cable, or even any channel but CBS. The final punch of that is that if it had been anywhere else, it would probably be coming back for a second season. With 11.9 million viewers (source) Vegas was the 19th most watched show this year (11th if you exclude reality and sports shows), that’s the 2nd most watched new series (0.7 million viewers less than Elementary) and ahead of things like Grey’s Anatomy, The Good Wife, Bones and Glee). It was the highest rated show that’s not coming back.
So why was it cancelled? Well, the first problem is that CBS is a tough network – fourteen of the top 20 shows are on CBS. Second problem, while Vegas’s overall ratings were very good, it only ranked 81 in ‘the demo’ (the 18-49 age range that most interests advertisers). It’s also possible that Vegas is disproportionately expensive to make, but I lacked the enthusiasm to go digging for budgets. So, CBS cancel it in the hope of finding something that’s more appealing to the people that advertisers want to sell to.
I’m torn between being sad for Vegas and wondering if it deserved its fate. I half want to say “it got 12 million viewers, what more can they want from it?”, but I’ve already answered the second half of that question. I (being firmly located slap in the middle of the desired demographic) wanted, and expected it to be better. I had hopes and expectations and they were not met. While I would probably have tuned in for a second season, it’s unlikely that it would have been with anything other than a casual interest, and if my timetable was filled up with new shows that grabbed my interest, Vegas would have been dropped pretty quickly. Hopefully the loss of Vegas will free the talent involved to go on to much better things.