‘Vegas’ review: A pre-glitter gulch

←“Vegas” premieres at 10 p.m. on CBS

The twin disasters of the “Pan Am” crash and “Playboy Club” fire are but a memory now, making it somewhat safe for CBS to dial back to 1960 with this attractive effort at a crime drama set in Las Vegas’s emerging years as a glittering metropolis of sin.

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Based on the real-life stories of lawman Ralph Lamb’s efforts to preserve order amid the city’s growth and the encroaching mob rule, “Vegas” stars Dennis Quaid, who brings everything he’s got to the role of Sheriff Lamb. Michael Chiklis co-stars as Vincent Savino, an ambitious Chicago thug who comes to town to run the Savoy, Fremont Street’s snazziest casino. (The Strip as we presently know it is but a wild rumor and fantasy at this point; lavish attention, in the form of re-created streetscapes and CGI neon, helps transport the show back to a simpler, seedier Las Vegas.)

A large supporting cast — including “Terra Nova’s” Jason O’Mara as Ralph’s loyal brother/deputy, and “The Matrix’s” Carrie-Anne Moss as an assistant district attorney — helps “Vegas” appear to be compelling and classy. And then CBS lapses into its old habit, as Lamb and company squander all this intriguing potential trying to solve their first of many cases: The governor’s niece has turned up murdered in a ditch near the nuclear proving grounds. I say nuke the sleuthing and find the courage to focus more on the characters and drama. Grade: B-

— Hank Stuever

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