Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Yesterday’s Vegas

Fall Television is officially here!  To celebrate, Amber West and I tuned in and watched two brand new CBS pilots this week for our Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday reviews—Elementary and Vegas.

I used to like a show about Vegas a LOT—remember NBC’s Las Vegas, starring James Caan, Josh Duhamel, James Lesure, Molly Simms, and Vanessa Marcil?  Heck, even Tom Selleck starred for a few seasons after Caan left.  Now that was a good show…

But that’s not this Vegas.

Inspired by a true story, Vegas follows a sheriff and rancher as he battles a Chicago mob boss looking to take over the desert town in the 1960s.  As their personalities and lifestyles clash, these two men with completely different ideals battle head-to-head.  Who will win?  After all, Vegas is all about winning and losing…

Sheriff Lamb (played by Dennis Quaid, no introduction necessary) simply wants to tend to his ranch, but sometimes local hooligans getting into trouble stand in his way.  Alongside his brother (Deputy Jack Lamb, played by Jason O’Mara from Terra Nova and Life on Mars) and his son (Dixon Lamb, played by Taylor Handley from Hidden Palms) he manages both businesses—cattle and crime.

Quaid, O’Mara, and Handley… those are some good-looking guys, but that’s not the point of today’s post…

The Lamb Family…

As the Lambs prepare their cattle for auction, the herd is interrupted and scatters when an airplane flies low over the ranch.  The airliner is on its descent into the Nevada desert, carrying none other than Chicago mobster Vincent Savino (played by Michael Chiklis from The Shield and No Ordinary Family).  The gangster watches Sheriff Lamb as he takes on three men at the airport for ruining his morning round-up, and Savino immediately recognizes he might have an admirable foe in Lamb.  But, as a tough guy from the mob, he’s not concerned and goes about his business—running a casino floor and “taking care” of anyone threatening his plans.

The series also stars: Carrie-Anne Moss (the Matrix movies) as Assistant District Attorney Katherine O’Connell, a woman who shares a history with Lamb and who might potentially pose as a future love interest as well; and Michael O’Neill (The West Wing) as Mayor Ted Bennett, a friend to Lamb but also to the idea of what the “new” Vegas might bring into the town.

The Law/Lamb versus The Mob/Savino… good stuff!

If the pilot episode and the previews for tonight’s Vegas are any indicator, viewers will experience not only the building tension and rivalry between Lamb and Savino each week, but also a nightly crime (more than likely centered around a new murder if I had to guess)—I like that.   The setting of the new show is also pretty fantastic; the crew actually created a fictional Freemont Street at the studios in California.  The recreation is amazing, seeing the “old school” casinos like the Golden Nugget in its prime.

One thing that does concern me is the fact that Vegas is technically a period piece, taking place in 1960, and these types of shows don’t usually do very well in the ratings (just look at last year’s Pan Am and The Playboy Club).  While Vegas, Pan Am, and The Playboy Club were all inspired by actual events, this one might be different and survive a little bit longer.  After all, it’s Las Vegas and Sin City is a one-of-a-kind.  Take for instance the high-speed chase scene from the pilot, where a man on horseback chases down a man on a Harley in downtown Las Vegas.  Never thought you’d see that, now did you?  I didn’t.

Of course, it’s too early to award Vegas with anything other than the SSTV rating.  Despite the eye candy of the Lamb family, I need to see more to determine whether or not this drama will be worthy of permanent spot on my DVR.  I’m usually not big on Western-style TV with ranches and horseback riding (yes, I know I’m Texan…), but I do love mafia related stories.  The idea of watching how Las Vegas transformed into what it is today, even though it’s mostly procedural fiction, keeps me interested and I’m not giving up yet.

Did you watch Vegas?  How would you rate it?  If not, are you interested?   I’d love to hear from you!

Now click over to Amber’s blog and see what she thinks about CBS’s Elementary.  Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock.  Lucy Liu as Watson.  Modern day New York City.  Sounds interesting…

Come back next week when Amber and I take on two of the new 2012 ABC dramas—Last Resort and 666 Park Avenue 

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV): It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (Nyquil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech

Friday FabOoolousness – “Let’s Dance!”

It’s time again for Catie Rhodes and I to break down another cinematic original and its remake – this month, we discuss Footloose.

First, let’s review Catie’s summary of the 1984 film:

Footloose is the story of a big-city kid who moves to a podunk town where dancing is illegal.  The big-city kid fights to hold a school dance, a prom, and encounters resistance from both town leaders and other kids who don’t like slick, fast talking outsiders.  Footloose has it all–romance, fighting, laughs…and dancing.

And in keeping with Catie’s style, here’s a taste of the most recent, Footloose (2011):

I’ll be the first to admit that when I saw the trailer, I felt the remaking of Footloose was sacrilege.  The 1984 film is and forever will be a classic – why mess with greatness?

But it’s because of this negativity that I asked to review the 2011 remake by MTV Films.  And I won’t lie – I prepared myself for a horrible film.

The opening scene gave me goosebumps, blasting the original Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” as today’s teens danced and partied.  It almost seemed like there wasn’t a generational gap between kids today and kids twenty years ago – everyone appreciates good music.  Heck, I wanted to get up and dance with them.  Already, my opinion of the movie slowly began to turn around…

Immediately following the opening scene, five teens are killed in a horrendous car accident.  The driver, a senior football star, was also the son of the town’s reverend (Rev. Shaw Moore, played by Dennis Quaid).  This accident forces the members of the Bomont, Georgia city council to impose strict laws, forbidding teens from drinking and participating in public dancing.

The “new” Ren

Fast forward three years and viewers are introduced to the new kid in town, Ren McCormack (played by Kenny Wormald), a boy who also recently suffered a great loss of his own with the death of his mother.

The “new” Ariel

Ren immediately finds himself not mixing well with the locals and can’t quite understand why a local police officer pulls him over for disturbing the peace (he was playing his music too loud).  He attempts to befriend the reverend’s daughter (Ariel, played by Dancing with the Stars’ Julianne Hough), but she’s too busy rebelling and dating an older, rough-around-the-edges man to give Ren the time of day.

The “new” Willard

After Ren makes friends with a fellow high school boy (Willard, played by Miles Teller), he learns that the town also enforces a “no dance” ordinance.  Needless to say, Ren is miserable in Bomont.

Does this sound familiar?  It should – the 2011 film mirrors the 1984 classic throughout.  Usually I’d list the differences between the original and remake, but today we’re going to appreciate the similarities:

Ren’s car – a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, also known as a Slug-Bug around Texas
Ren’s hobby and pastime – Gymnastics
Ariel’s boots – red
Ren’s first day of school attire – a neck tie
Ren’s “blowing off some steam” dance scene – a lot of the moves were the same (but the music was way off)
Willard learns how to dance – wearing a straw cowboy hat to the music “Let’s Hear it For the Boy” by Deniece Williams
The high school students’ secret hangout – The Yearbook
Ariel’s t-shirt at the council meeting – “Dance your @$$ off”
Ren’s prom attire – dark red, almost maroon, tuxedo jacket with a black bow-tie

Can everyone see where I’m going with this?  I applaud the attention to detail in keeping the original alive.  Of course there were also a few differences, but the bottom line is what matters – the story remains the same.

Footloose is a story about a boy, a stranger from another part of the country, who moves in and changes the town people’s lives and opens their eyes to believing in their children again.

Footloose is the story of a town coming together to celebrate life, not just mourning the dead.

Footloose is the story of children finding their voice – peacefully and respectfully.

Catie mentioned the music in the original Footloose, something none of us can argue with – the soundtrack is simply amazing, featuring artists such as Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, Mike Reno (of Loverboy), Ann Wilson (of Heart), Bonnie Tyler, Foreigner, John Mellencamp, and Quiet Riot.

How does the remake compare?  The 2011 soundtrack may not be considered a classic twenty years from now, but the movie does feature many of the original’s hits – including Kenny Loggins’ and Blake Shelton’s rendition of “Footloose”, a Quiet Riot heavy metal song, plus remakes of “Hero” and “Almost Paradise”.

Catie also enlightened the rest of us with a fun fact – Kevin Bacon was not the first choice to play the role of Ren in the 1984 hit — Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe were considered first.  Can any of us imagine anyone besides Kevin Bacon playing Ren?

The “original” Ren

Similarly, Kenny Wormald wasn’t the first choice for the remake either.  Apparently Zac Efron, Chace Crawford, and Thomas Dekker all passed on the role first for one reason or another.  I was a little disappointed, especially that Chase Crawford didn’t work out, but I must say I am not at all sad after watching Kenny Wormald’s performance.  I don’t know who he is, but he’s absolutely adorable and nailed the character of Ren.

Speaking of relatively unknowns, the same can be said for Miles Teller.  Catie honored the fabOoolous performance of Chris Penn as Ren’s best friend, Willard, in the 1984 film.  But what about the 2011 portrayal of Willard?  Miles Teller may actually be the best casting of the entire film.  Sometimes I actually saw and heard Chris Penn in his performance.

Now Catie closed her post on an entirely different note, introducing the true story on which Footloose is based.  Be sure to remember and click over to her blog to read all about it.

For me, I’m just going to close with Ren’s words: “There is a time to dance.”

“Let’s Dance!”

What do you think?  Have you seen either the original or the remake of Footloose?  If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?  If you haven’t, do you want to?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.

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