CBS’s Vegas: A Diamond in the Rough

Michael Chiklis as casino boss Vincent Savino and Dennis Quaid as Sheriff Ralph Lamb from CBS’s period crime drama VegasVegas, the new show staring Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis on CBS Tuesday nights, seems to be getting better and better each week. There have only been a handful of episodes so far, but the culture clash between the sleepy ranching town and the budding gambling haven is rich for storytelling. The face-off between Dennis Quaid’s reluctant sheriff, Ralph Lamb, and Michael Chiklis’s up and coming mobster, Vincent Savino, is well done.  The ’60s sets and wardrobe are fun to watch and so far the crime-solving has been aces. It’s a true diamond in the rough.

The cast is stellar, and besides Quaid and Chiklis, we meet:

Carrie-Anne Moss as Assistant District Attorney Katherine O’Connell n CBS’s VegasCarrie-Anne Moss, of Matrix fame, who plays the honest assistant district attorney, Katherine O’Connell. Her character and Quaid’s grew up on adjoining farms, and judging from the lingering glances between the two, there may be something more between them in the future. I say she’s honest because her boss, District Attorney Rich Reynolds (Michael Reilly Burke), meets with and takes money from the mob.

Jason O’Mara as Deputy Jack Lamb in CBS’s VegasJason O’Mara from Band of Brothers plays Sheriff Lamb’s brother and deputy, Jack Lamb.  You may also remember him as the evil Billy Croelick on The Closer or Detective Sam Tyler on the short-lived, but excellent, U.S. version of Life on Mars. His character has been underutilized so far, but I have great hope, especially considering his totally inappropriate crush on Mia Rizzo…

Sarah Jones as Savino’s casino accountant Mia Rizzo on CBS’s VegasSarah Jones, formerly Detective Rebecca Madsen on Alcatraz, plays Mia Rizzo, Savino’s counting-room chief and daughter of one of the other Chicago mob bosses, Johnny Rizzo (Michael Wiseman). Sent there to keep an eye on Savino, she keeps her cards really close to the vest and I think she’s only going to be loyal to herself, daddy or not.  

There are some potential issues with the show. If they don’t change things up a bit down the road, a weekly bout between Quaid and Chiklis could get monotonous, but we’re not there yet. The writers will also have the continuous challenge of explaining why these mobsters just don’t knock off Sheriff Lamb. The last sheriff didn’t last long. Saying it’s too soon to kill another sheriff without arousing Fed suspicion can only last so long. Especially since the cars that get blown up every week and the high body count would also pique fed interest.

The cast still seems like it needs to gel a little further, but sometimes that happens with new shows.  

Overall, I think the show has legs.

The fresh character introductions are deepening the story possibilities, like Savino’s wife, who doesn’t want to be married to a mob boss, but doesn’t seem to mind spending his mob money, or the complicated Mia. I’m also intrigued by the storyline of Savino trying to get into legitimate business with the Tumbleweed casino, although I don’t see how he can manage it without some mob involvement. (After watching six seasons of The Sopranos, I consider myself a mob expert.)

CBS has announced that it has picked up the entire season of Vegas (as it did with Elementary) so this freshman drama has made the first hurdle of TV show survival. 

I’m looking forward to more episodes. Are you watching Vegas? What do you think?

Deborah Lacy likes speakeasies, yellow heirloom tomatoes, and crime fiction. She blogs over at Mystery Playground. You can meet her on Twitter @quippy.

Read all Deborah Lacy’s posts for Criminal Element.


  1. Tatiana deCarillion

    Carrie Moss looks just stunning, with the hairdo and the flattering outfits!

    While we could not STAND her detective character on Alcatraz, we really like Sarah Jones’ portrayal of Mia. She’s nobody’s ‘broad’, for sure!

    TVbythenumbers is predicting the show will be canceled when the season is over, in its renew/cancel index. 🙁

  2. Deborah Lacy

    @decarillion – I do love the wardrobe.

    TVbythenumbers said the show wouldn’t get a whole season renewal before it did, so they’ve already been wrong about this show once in the past few weeks. And the ratings are going up each week. Besides, the more we watch, the better chance it has…

  3. Carmen Pinzon

    I’ve enjoyed this show so far. I think it would get better if the sherif and the mobster formed an uneasy alliance and the show focused on the legitimization of Las Vegas. I like Chiklis character. The sherif seems to antagonistic right off the bat, but watching Dennis Quaid is always entertaining. I’ll stick with it and hope they renew it.

  4. Deborah Lacy

    @bungluna – I like your idea of Lamb and Savino forming an uneasy alliance. It would have to be very uneasy, but it would be fun to watch. The next episode is on this Tuesday. I can’t wait.

  5. Clare 2e

    I’ve been watching and enjoying mostly. Frankly, just the sets and cars would get me. Gallop a horse down the neon-studded strip and I’m done. Oh, my stars and cultural collision! However:[quote]If they don’t change things up a bit down the road, a weekly bout between Quaid and Chiklis could get monotonous, but we’re not there yet.[/quote]Yes, this. When, at the end of this last week’s episode, Sheriff Lamb called Savino out to a cornfield for an empty, veiled threat, and Savino (who should know better by now) actually went as if he had nothing better in the world to do, I felt your prediction come true. It was Yet and I was there.

    Logically, Lamb would have to promise the mobster something to get him to toodle on away from the casino for a meet while he’s got his wife to handle and a new loan for the Tumbleweed on the line. But nothing more concrete was offered than the usual chest-bumping, with no excuse save the scenery for it to happen out there with Savino’s shiny black shark and the sheriff’s pickup in front of a cornfield. I got the corn tie-in from the bottom of the dead guy’s car, but it isn’t Field of Dreams. Either have a real reason for the scene, or even unreconstructed aesthetes of juxtaposition like me will get hacked off.

    And this is not the only case of characters having to travel out of their way to each other for a “meaningful” moment where nothing really happens or is communicated. I’m going to turn it into a drinking game if it gets any worse. (Oops, never mind then. Keep those scenes coming!)

    Like you both said, team them up, horribly and uncomfortably. And while you’re at it, don’t make Lamb such an ass about his son without regular doses of his wife’s memory and how the boy is all he has left of her. Currently, he seems cranky and myopic, and I’m starting to wonder why brother and son let him play boss so much–it’s only encouraging him to think he’s the lone Superman.

    All the stuff you said is fabulous, Deb, really is! Now, they need to make it more complicated, less hyperbolic in dialoge (not in appearance, please!), and to take off the training wheels.

  6. Deborah Lacy

    @clare2e – I totally understand your comments and agree with them. But tonight I uncovered the problem – I was at dinner with a native Las Vegian (?) and she told me that Sheriff Lamb and Savino were real people. In Las Vegas. Lamb in particular is larger than life in the history of that city. I need to do some more research on this and it makes it exponetially more interesting to me. But I can see how that leads the writers in ways that might not be the best for the show. Where is the line between fact and fiction? How do they do justice to a real Sheriff Lamb (who is still alive and well – btw.) ? I still love the show. I love Vegas in the 60s and the complications. I know there isn’t much time these days to allow a show to find a following, but I want this one to survive. I really do. Ironically, I am headed to Vegas tomorrow on business. I’ll let you know if I run into Sheriff Lamb…

  7. Mary Saputo

    I’m on the fence about this one. It just doesn’t seem to flow smoothly for me. Sometimes, as in the scene at the corn field, Quaid’s “mean” look comes off a little too corny for me (no pun intended). I’ll keep watching a bit longer but if it doesn’t make it, I won’t pine.

  8. Deborah Lacy

    @bitsy08 – haha – I liked your unintended pun. I continue to have hope. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Clare 2e

    I did know they were/are real people, but considering it’s adapted for the show (“based on a true story” usually fig-leafing a lot of ills), I don’t think that’s necessarily the weakness. I think they could create a lot of realistic-feeling tension within the invented crimes-of-the-week format, and without offending the reality of the overarching historical storyline, but it just has to make more sense in its direction and character motivation, IMO.

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