Take two genres, mash them up into a period setting and you have the ingredients for a hit television series. The new CBS series Vegas merges crime drama with western, setting it all up in 1960 Las Vegas. It was a time when the Vegas Strip was becoming a hot destination, fueled by organized crime bosses looking to make a killing in the wild, wild West. But local ranchers were wary (and rightly so) as urban creep encroached on ranch lands by highway, byway and low-flying airplanes that scattered the herds and set the ranches nerves on edge.
Based on real life Las Vegas Sheriff Ralph Lamb, Vegas stars Dennis Quaid, in a role that seems tailor made for him. Quaid’s smart-but-rough-around-the-edges persona rancher-turned-lawman Lamb like a pair of well-worn cowhide gloves. Having made a reputation as a savvy investigator during World War II, Lamb is persuaded by the Las Vegas mayor to use talents to solve the murder of the Nevada governor’s daughter. Found murdered on the grounds of the Nevada Nuclear Testing Grounds, the young woman, the mayor needs to act fast, at least on political grounds. Having been Lamb’s commanding officer in the war, he knows that Lamb is a relentless investigator, despite his rather laconic cowboy demeanor. Like I said, the role was made for Quaid.
Between the crime bosses who promise to bring to Nevada lots of revenue with glittering (and glitzy) hotels and casinos, the politicians who might be more than willing to turn a blind eye, and the Lamb’s straight ahead ethics and integrity, Vegas creates a cauldron of potential out there in the desert. Co-starring Michael Chiklis (The Shield, Fantastic Four) as just-transplanted Chicago crime boss Vincent Savino, Vegas boasts a great cast, which also includes Jason O’Mara (Terra Nova), Carrie-Ann Moss (The Matrix), and James Russo (Public Enemies).
Vegas is off to a good start; there is a lot of potential, given the period setting and veteran cast. Chiklis’ Savino makes a great adversary for Quaid’s Lamb, and their intense early confrontations during the pilot episode suggest an excellent narrative backbone for the procedural elements of crime drama, with likely a new crime to be solved each week. And I also suspect there might be some romantic sparks flying between Lamb and Moss’ District Attorney Katherine O’Connell.
Vegas premieres Tuesday night at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.
Enjoy a peek at the new series, courtesy of CBS: