September 26, 2012

TV: Vegas (CBS, Tue 10)

Vegas is a perfectly adequate CBS police procedural that will fit in just fine with the NCIS shows on Tuesday night. The sole novel element is that this one's a period piece, set in 1960 Las Vegas.

Vegas is only just beginning to grow into Sin City, and in anticipation, the mob is starting to move in. Vincent Savino (Michael Chiklis) has been sent by the Chicago mob to guard their interests, working out of the Savoy casino.

Meanwhile cattle rancher Ralph Lamb (Dennis Quaid) is asked to serve as acting sheriff and solve the murder of the governor's niece, who just happens to work at the Savoy, and whose body has been found dumped in the desert outside the city. (There actually was a real Ralph Lamb, who served as sheriff of Las Vegas for almost 20 years, though the circumstances of his getting the job are entirely fictionalized here.)

Ralph quickly assembles the CBS-required team of loyal assistants, in this case his brother (Jason O'Mara) and son (Taylor Handley), and you can pretty much predict the beats from there. By the time it's over, Ralph's been appointed the new sheriff, and it's clear that he and Vincent will represent good and evil, fighting for the soul of the new Vegas.

Quaid and Chiklis are very good in their roles (though Quaid is about 25 years older than the real Ralph Lamb was), and Carrie-Anne Moss gets surprising mileage from never smiling as the assistant district attorney. In what is likely to be a recurring role, the always reliable Michael O'Neill plays the mayor, who was Ralph's commanding officer during the war.

Were this a cable drama, I would be hopeful that we were in for a drama about the ambiguous nature of good and evil, and the fine line that often separates them. But this is CBS, so I don't expect the show to be any more than a case-of-the-week procedural, with perhaps some small element of ongoing story as Ralph investigates the disappearance of the previous sheriff.

Not a show I'm likely to return to, but if you enjoy the predictably comforting ritual of the crime formula, and a lot of people do, then this show will make you perfectly happy.

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