Producers still betting on ‘Vegas’

Show returns to CBS trying to prove it belongs

Dennis Quaid, left, and Michael Chiklis star in the CBS series,
Dennis Quaid, left, and Michael Chiklis star in the CBS series, "Vegas."

CBS's Vegas returns this coming week after a two-week pre-emption for the new cop drama Golden Boy, which has since moved into its regular 9 p.m. Friday time slot.

For Vegas, the last batch of episodes of the season (beginning March 19; this coming week's episode is a rerun) may be the show's last chance to convince CBS executives to renew the freshman drama for a second season.

In some respects, Vegas (10 p.m. Tuesday) has been a success. Season to date, the show draws an average 12 million viewers weekly and is tied with Elementary and Blue Bloods as the 16th-most-popular shows in prime time on a broadcast network. The problem is the show's demographic ratings, the same problem that plagued and resulted in the cancellation of NBC's Harry's Law last season.

In the advertiser-coveted demo of viewers ages 18-49, Vegas draws just 2.7 million viewers and ranks No. 61 season to date. These statistics do not bode well for the series; if it does manage to eke out a renewal, don't be surprised if it moves to another time slot (maybe Friday night).

Producers are not going down without a fight. To that end, the 1960s-period drama began a storyline last month that introduced a new Hollywood element to the Savoy, the Las Vegas casino hotel run by mobster Vincent Savino (Michael Chiklis). Violet (Anna Camp, The Mindy Project), an ingenue, arrived in town and required multiple handlers, including Savoy talent manager Tommy (Enver Gjokaj) and sheriff's deputy Dixon (Taylor Handley), son of Vegas sheriff Ralph Lamb (Dennis Quaid), Savino's nemesis.

Upcoming episodes continue the story with Dixon falling in love with Violet and ultimately traveling with Tommy and Yvonne (Aimee Garcia) to Los Angeles to meet with record producers in the March 26 episode, directed by Chiklis.

Notice the emphasis on the younger characters and the entertainment business? That's an attempt to draw more young viewers to the show.

At a January news conference on the expansive set of the Savoy, producers discussed the show's direction.

"The front half of the show was really about the East Coast coming to the West and taking over and the conflict between the old Vegas, as represented by Sheriff Lamb, Dennis's character, and the new Vegas by Vincent Savino, Michael's character," executive producer Greg Walker said. "We decided to twist it up a little bit as well and it turns out there is even a more menacing force than the East Coasters coming in, and that is Hollywood.

"The back half of the show is really Hollywood invading Vegas. So you get characters coming from the bosses of a studio to starlets staying here to people who are keeping their mistress here for weekends to even worse. If you think the casino and the mob are bad, wait until you see the MGM police in 1960."

If these storylines bring in younger viewers, that's all the better for Vegas.

"The real focus of our storytelling is to focus on what was fun in Vegas in 1960 and I think that appeals to all ages," Walker said. "The show probably had a more procedural slant at first."