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

Tele-Tuesday: The Long Lost Family Drama

Last week, we reminisced about the popular family sitcoms of the 1980s including favorites Who’s the Boss?, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Growing Pains, and The Wonder Years.  The Ooo Factor viewers remembered even more with shows like Alf and The Hogan Family – weren’t these sitcoms great?  These television shows allowed real-life families to join around the living room TV set and watch television families work through the dysfunction in their “make-believe” lives while making us laugh.

But the family oriented thirty minute situational comedy isn’t the only thing missing from television programming today – where’s the one hour family drama?  We touched on Life Goes On and Our House last week – two one hour dramas that focused on family units resolving difficult issues like dealing with a brother’s disability or a father’s death.

The 1980s provided many great honest-to-goodness family dramas that were safe for children of all ages to watch alongside their moms and dads such as:

Highway to Heaven

Quantum Leap

We also cherished the ABC after school special in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  Remember those?  Kids learned valuable lessons like: handling the difficulties surrounding blended families after moms and dads remarry; understanding the dangers of drug use, drinking, and unprotected sex; as well as learning how to cope with molestation and rape.

Perhaps one of the most brilliant aspects of the after school special was the network’s casting of young TV heart-throbs like Scott Baio (Charles in Charge), Billy Warlock (Days of our Lives), and Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains) to play vital roles in the made-for-TV movies.

Speaking of the ‘90s, this decade didn’t take a complete detour from family programming and produced multi-year hits like:

 7th Heaven

Party of Five

Once and Again

One of our favorites was the short-lived Get Real starring Jon Tenney (The Closer), Deborah Farrentino, Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries), Eric Christian Olsen (NCIS: LA), and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) as the Green family.

Looking back, what a fantastic cast!

Mom and dad Green had their issues (for example, mom suspected dad of cheating), and the teenagers definitely had their issues (the usual sibling rivalry, secrets, and coping situations).  The Greens resembled what we’d consider a normal family today – they struggled, they loved, and they learned.  The program walked its viewers through the family decisions, as they hoped to reach a positive outcome, but didn’t always succeed. Unfortunately, this series failed after twenty episodes.

But mostly, the ‘90s began what we now know as YA television with dramas appropriate for teenagers, but perhaps not children under the age of twelve with programs including:

Beverly Hills 90210

My So Called Life

Television airs many of these YA programs today such as The Vampire Diaries, The Lying Game, Pretty Little Liars, and The Secret Circle to name a few.  While great TV, watching these shows is a tad risky for the younger audience, mostly due to the high volumes of violence and sex.

In 2010, ABC tried their hand at a family friendly drama similar to those we watched in the ‘80s and ‘90s that was appropriate for all ages, but No Ordinary Family was pulled from the air waves after a short first season.  Why didn’t this show make it?  Apparently it lacked viewers.

Why weren’t families watching No Ordinary Family?  The series started when mom (Julie Benz) and dad (Michael Chiklis) take the kids on a much needed vacation to strengthen their family unit, and they return with superpowers: the mom has super speed, the dad has super strength, the teenage son has a super brain, and the teenage daughter has telepathic abilities.  No Ordinary Family had the ever-important family dynamic, was full of motion-picture-esque action sequences, and taught morals like the importance of not cheating in school no matter the reason, yet this program fell victim to the network’s axe after twenty episodes.


Instead, shows like the Secret Life of the American Teenager, a drama that focuses primarily on teenage sex and pregnancy, last for multiple seasons.

Just something to think about…

Obviously, family television has changed over the years – is it for better or worse?  What ’80s and ‘90s family dramas did you enjoy?   Which one-hour drama does your family watch today?  Is it considered a family drama?  I’d love to hear from you!

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