Review: Las Vegas 4.1

Las Vegas

In the US: NBC, Fridays, 9/8c

In the UK: Sky One. Probably January, but who knows with Sky?

Characters re-cast: 0

Major characters gotten rid of: 0

Major new characters: 0

Format change percentage: 0%

Dramatic chances taken: None

I love Las Vegas. No, not Las Vegas. Las Vegas. It’s a great town. It’ll be whatever you want it to be. You want it tacky? You can have tacky. You want it sophisticated? It can be that, too.

Las Vegas tries to be like Las Vegas. It has all the elements you’d expect: magic (people being shot and having heart attacks, yet coming back to life), sex (everyone shagging everyone else, whether they’re married or not), gambling (having a bunch of characters that are tissue-thin and expecting us to be interested), the stars of yester-year (James Caan, Cheryl Ladd) and Elvis.

Despite all this, Las Vegas really just doesn’t work on any level for me – and it’s really not like Las Vegas at all. It’s completely devoid of anything surprising or clever, and you’re expected to root for the house. Who does that?

Returning viewers, don’t be worried. Everything is sorted out nicely in this first episode, despite its being a two-parter. There are no shocks, nothing to change the format, just the same old same old.

New viewers, it’s slick, it’s glossy, it’ll steal your time. You can join in at almost any point and you’ll be able to keep up with the plot. So watch now or watch later. Or go and watch Robert Urich in Vega$ on DVD instead.

PS Message to former CIA operatives heading to Morocco: it’s a lot easier to get a stolen gun in Morocco than it is to stash one in a safety deposit box in London and try to get it through airport security. Just a hint.

US TV

Review: 20 Good Years

20 Good Years

In the US: Wednesdays, 8.30//7.30c, NBC

In the UK: No one’s bought it yet

Every once in a while, network executives have a sudden epiphany. They’ll suddenly remember that although the 18-24 demographic is pretty cool and all, there’s a whole load of older people, some of them retired, with oodles of spending money and time on their hands. So they commission a programme or two to take advantage of this demographic. But you know, they’re old people. They’re going in the head. What will they know or care about quality?

While’s it’s been a long time since the halcyon decade of greying TV power that ran from the mid-80s to the mid-90s and gave us never-ending episodes of Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, Matlock, and Burke’s Law, the idea still comes back occasionally. So here we have 20 Good Years, the theme being that “60 is the new 40” and post-retirement, you’ve 20 years left in which you can seriously enjoy yourself again. Nice idea though that is, it’s seriously lacking in actual laughs.

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US TV

Review: 30 Rock 1×1 (US: NBC)

In the US: NBC, Wednesdays, 8/7c
In the UK: Nowhere yet. But it will.

So here’s weird. On Monday night on NBC, we have a show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, that looks behind the scenes of a fictitious comedy sketch show. Meanwhile, on Wednesdays, over on… well, still on NBC, we have 30 Rock, which, erm, looks behind the scenes of a fictitious comedy sketch show.

The first is by award-winning writer Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing. The second is by Saturday Night Live alumnus, Tina Fey. Which one’s going to be better? Go on, go on. Which one, which one?

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US TV

Review: Battlestar Galactica 3.1-3.2

Battlestar Galactica

In the US: SciFi, Fridays, 9/8c

In the UK:
Sky One later in the year/start of next year.

Characters re-cast: 0

Major characters gotten rid of: 1-3, but I started to lose count

Major new characters: 0

Format change percentage: 90%

Pies eaten: All of them

The Battlestar Galactica of the late 70s/early 80s was a simple affair. Loosely based on the Book of Mormon, it featured a bunch of humans living on “the 12 colonies” who create a race of robots, the cylons, to do their bidding. The robots turn, there’s a war, and almost all the humans are killed. The survivors huddle together in a few ships guarded by the last “battlestar”, a kind of spaceship version of an aircraft carrier, and this “ragtag armada”, as it was called in the opening narration, heads off to look for the 13th colony, Earth.

Each week, the cylons would catch up with them, there’d be a fight and the armada would escape, typically then finding some kind of Old West-styled planet or casino that had a disco. Formulaic but fun.

SciFi’s remake of Battlestar Galactica has been running for three seasons now and has continually shifted upwards the quality bar for science fiction on television. The cheesiness has gone, replaced instead with the bleakness of a group of 40,000 people on the run from an unrelenting enemy that used nuclear weapons to destroy 16 billion of their friends, families and neighbours and seems to want to do the same to them.

The producers haven’t been afraid to tinker with the format either. The new cylons create human-looking, biological versions of themselves that believe in a single God, while those pesky humans continue to worship Athena and Apollo. A second battlestar, the Pegasus, turns out to have survived, making the entire name of the show slightly redundant; and at the end of the second season, the armada finds a planet capable of supporting life, so decides to stop running and settle down. Then, for a last format tinker, the producers posed the question, “What if the cylons caught up with the fleet while their guards were down?” and left us waiting all summer for the answer.

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US TV

Review: Lost 3.1

Lost

In the US: Wednesdays, 9/8c, ABC

In the UK: Second season being repeated on E4. Third season probably a decade away from airing on C4 and E4, given their usual speed.

Characters re-cast: 0

Major characters gotten rid of: Unknown

Major new characters: 1, maybe 2 so far

Format change percentage: 20%

Rats run through mazes: 3

When last we saw our intrepid bunch of survivors from that rather spectacular plane crash, a fair few of them were getting “blown up” and three of them were being led off into captivity by The Others. This episode we get to see what happened to Jack, Kate and Sawyer, but we’re still none the wiser as to their fate. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil you UK viewers.

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