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Herc’s Seen CBS’ VEGAS, From The Writer Behind GOODFELLAS & CASINO & MICHAEL HAYES!!

A CBS procedural set in 1961, “Vegas” stars Dennis Quaid as a rancher-turned-sheriff who takes on the mobsters who continue to infiltrate his county.

The big screen’s “The Godfather” and “Bugsy” made it pretty clear that gangsters had already begun to exert their influence on Vegas way back in the 1940s, but the new TV show may want us to think that it’s portraying the start of something.

All those “Mad Men” Emmys keep bored network execs thinking about the early 1960s, undeterred by the failures of “Playboy Club” and “Pan Am,” or the barely-there audience attracted by Starz’ “Magic City.”

The main mobster, Vincent Savino, is played by Michael Chiklis (“The Shield,” “No Ordinary Family”), who carries over the shaved head he sported in his earlier series, even though I’m not sure a lot of Americans in 1961 bothered to shave their heads.

The series comes to us from “Goodfellas”/“Casino” writer/producer Nick Pileggi, who earlier gave CBS the short-lived 1998 David Caruso lawyer hourlong “Michael Hayes.”

But does the new series more resemble “GoodFellas” or “Michael Hayes”?

I have little memory of “Michael Hayes,” but “Vegas” does not much resemble the violent gangster movies Pileggi wrote for Martin Scorsese, nor does it stray far from the proven procedural format that brings high ratings to so many of CBS’ dramas.

Though the pilot deals mostly with the murder of one of Savino’s casino employees, I kept wanting to see Quaid (who seems to be morphing agreeably into Harrison Ford these days) share more screentime with Chiklis. Alas, there’s not a lot of that in episode one, and the opener’s mystery isn’t anywhere near compelling enough to make up for it.

The New York Times says:

… beneath the period details and despite a cast that includes Michael Chiklis, Carrie-Anne Moss and Jason O’Mara, “Vegas” is something profoundly ordinary: a CBS crime procedural, with all the professionalism and limited ambition that tends to imply. …

The Los Angeles Times says:

... the murder mystery that gets the story going is itself less than compelling — I was never moved to try to solve it on my own, nor did I ever really care who done it. But there is much else to see. …

The Chicago Sun-Times says:

... follows CBS’ tried-and-true crime-of-the-week formula but sets it against a larger saga chronicling a desert town’s transformation into the entertainment mecca we know today. …

The San Francisco Chronicle says:

... The murder introduces a standard whodunit into the action, of course, but the show never strays far from either the black-hat/white-hat wariness between Lamb and Savino, or from the theme of civilization versus the wilderness. … Whether you see the seams or not, though, what matters is that it all works, and we'll keep watching, if only to see Quaid and Chiklis square off against each other week after week.

The Washington Post says:

... A large supporting cast — including “Terra Nova’s” Jason O’Mara as Ralph’s loyal brother/deputy, and “The Matrix’s” Carrie-Ann Moss as an assistant district attorney — helps “Vegas” appear to be compelling and classy. And then CBS lapses into its old habit, as Lamb and company squander all this intriguing potential trying to solve their first of many cases: The governor’s niece has turned up murdered in a ditch near the nuclear proving grounds. I say nuke the sleuthing and find the courage to focus more on the characters and drama.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:

... The murder mystery is less interesting than the prospective plots involving Las Vegas politics -- the mayor and district attorney appear to be in the pockets of Savino and other casino owners -- but this being CBS, the show's procedural elements will probably dominate. …

The Boston Herald says:

… Ralph leans on his younger brother Jack (Jason O’Mara, “Life on Mars”) and his randy son Dixon (Taylor Handley) to solve the murder, and what follows is typical of these CBS shows — convoluted and nonsensical. … The overheated dialogue seems cribbed from bad film noir. …

The Boston Globe says:

… just a lot of set dressing built around what looks like will be a standard police procedural. ... with so many exciting elements — top-notch cast, setting, and writer, not to mention a fantastic-looking re-creation of the old strip — why does “Vegas” feel so dull? …

USA Today says:

... the weight of carrying the show falls on Quaid, and he carries it easily. From an early look of stunned surprise that quickly shifts to retaliatory anger, to a late-show mischievous grin when he chastises a suspect for being rude, Quaid reminds you he's a star -- and has been pretty much from the moment he hit the big screen. Don't bet on the small screen resisting.

Variety says:

... if the premise sets up a promising square-off of titans, the premiere retreats to a rather predictable, time-killing murder mystery, which serves to establish Lamb's new role, but also smacks more of CBS' stodgier procedurals than a character-driven drama. …

The Hollywood Reporter says:

... The trick to whether Vegas ultimately can reach its potential (which might not happen even if it’s a runaway hit) is getting the audience to identify with Lamb to the extent that they see the transformation of Las Vegas through his eyes. That means the ongoing cat-and-mouse game with Savino must be real and have patience. If it devolves into Lamb busting up bikers each week or a killing-of-the-week at various casinos, then it will fall short on ambition. …

10 p.m. Tuesday. CBS.

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