Vegas has crapped out. Based on a fictionalized version of the career of former Clark County Sheriff Ralph Lamb (portrayed by Dennis Quaid), the 1960s-set drama has been canceled by CBS after one season. While the show, which co-starred Michael Chiklis as a mob-backed casino owner, garnered decent ratings among overall viewers, it was anemic in the crucial 18-49 demo that advertisers covet and networks use as a gold standard. (We foreshadowed the cancellation in an in-depth April 4 story.)
Creatively, owing to network language and violence restrictions, Vegas felt held back when it should have been hell-bent to exploit the rich vein of ’60s mob-vs.-the-law history. Should producers Quaid, Chiklis and mob chronicler Nicholas Pileggi feel there’s life left in Vegas and shop it around, basic cable outlets such as FX, TNT and USA could offer more freedom from censorship—and less ratings pressure. Odds are low, though, as those channels largely run on dual programming tracks—wholly original series and endless rerun marathons of network shows (see Law & Order: SVU, The Mentalist, etc.).
Expect Las Vegas to take a temporary sabbatical as the setting for new scripted prime-time series. Unlike New York and Los Angeles, which are inexhaustible series backdrops, Las Vegas has a specificity that requires just the right vehicle. Given that our history’s most colorful chapter couldn’t captivate the right viewers, a fresh take is essential.
Take a cue from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which wedded our neon wonderland to a novel crime procedural, making Vegas both reliably glamorous and intellectually intriguing.
While we’re at it, let’s also brainstorm a title more imaginative
than Vegas, Vega$, Las Vegas …