Wednesday , September 23 2020
So how many Las Vegas teleseries do we need, anyway?

Dr. Vegas

Sunrise, sunset: seems like only yesterday I was reviewing the debut of Rob Lowe’s last short-lived series, Lyon’s Den; now, here we are with this season’s Dr. Vegas. If Lowe doesn’t watch out, he’s gonna become Robert Urich.
The second new series (alongside Father of the Pride) to be set in the bright light city, Dr. Vegas follows the exploits of Dr. Billy Grant, house doctor for a casino run by buddy Tommy Danko (Joe Pantoliana). Working out of a penthouse office with a perky nagging assistant named Alice (Amy Adams), he serves the gambling community inbetween smirky verbal banter with the hypochondriac Tommy and periodic late-night poker binges against the scary soldier from China Beach. We first meet the good doctor as he’s treating a construction worker who’s had a nail gun accident; the poor clod foolishly pulls the nail out of his chest, only to start bleeding internally. Our hero saves the guy, of course – can’t have a patient die in the first five minutes of the pilot unless it’s a moment designed to emotionally scar our man for the rest of his life (or at least the season). A few barked “stats!” and Doctor Billy is able to happily strut downstairs to the casino action.
Down there, we also get to meet Tom Sizemore’s Vic Moore, Tommy’s glowery second-in-command, and Veronica Harold (Sarah Lancaster), a statuesque blond ex-Business major who is starting out as a blackjack dealer and who’ll get to be our neophyte’s gateway into the neon world of legalized gambling. Veronica is tagged a natural by Tommy, after she successfully takes big bucks from an unpleasant heavily bankrolled player (“You gave him bad ones, yet you kept him there,” he notes), though her alcoholic father (Harry Groener – far from Sunnydale, but not, one suspects too far from a Hellmouth) wants her to become a singer. “That’s his dream, not mine,” she says. Because later taking the last of a gambling addict father’s school fund is so much less sordid than being in show biz, right?
The series piles on the Vegas standbys – drugee casino performer with a bad heart and a bun in the oven; a chip-swiping con artist; suicide attempt by Veronica’s second big loser – takes what would’ve been treated as tertiary details on C.S.I. and makes ’em predictable major plot points. Unlike Lowe’s engagingly convoluted previous series, Den, which delighted in keeping viewers on the toes with its nonstop allegiance shifting, Dr. Vegas places everything right out there for the viewer. We know that Billy is at heart a good guy and a good doctor – despite an unexplained temporary license loss – who will do the right thing even if it goes against his more ethically challenged friend Tommy (who thinks nothing of having a casino grifter roughed up just a little). We know that his assistant Alice will regularly badger him when it momentarily appears that he’s not gonna fly the straight and narrow; we know that Veronica will suffer pangs of guilt the longer she works as a blackjack dealer and will soon be given an “I’ve gotta be me” speech to deliver to her dad. We know that Vic will be hovering in the background, wishing that Robbery Homicide Division had survived. Compared to a quirkily low-rent slice o’ Vegas like fx’s late, lamented Lucky, there’s precious little here to surprise the viewer.
The most depressing thing about a show like Dr. Vegas is seeing so many good actors get wasted so cavalierly. Pantoliana is his usual enjoyably motor-mouthed self, while Sizemore remains ever watchable even relegated to the sidelines. I don’t quite buy Lowe as a doctor – his delivery remains too smirkily lightweight, even during the serious crisis scenes – but he’s fine with the one-liners. Good to see ’em dispense with the “What happens in Vegas” joke in the first ep, too.

“Vegas is change,” Tommy tells us midway into the pilot. “Roll with it or get the hell out. . .” Fair enough, Joe. I’m rollin’ the hell out. . .

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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