Rob Lowe is a very attractive man, and Joe Pantoliano has been really, really good playing wiseguys in lots of movies and TV shows. And with that, we conclude most of the nice things that can be said of “Dr. Vegas,” an ill-conceived medical franchise providing further evidence that some things that happen in Vegas really should stay in Vegas. Yes, the Strip is hot right now thanks to NBC’s second-year series, but given the limited thought that went into this premise, is every occupation there — “Meter Maids Vegas?” “Podiatrists Vegas?” — inherently interesting? Don’t bet on it.
To their credit, the producers have considerably improved on the initial pilot, which was significantly reworked, resulting in arbitration over the writing auspices. Even so, the show still feels a couple of cards short of a full deck — an updated doctor franchise sort-of like “Marcus Welby, NV.”
Sharing one trait with its more polished timeslot rival “Medical Investigation,” Lowe (like Neal McDonough in that NBC show) plays a caring doctor who is estranged from his wife and misses his kid. Beyond that, this latest CBS drama is a bit cartoonish, from Pantoliano’s sneering casino impresario to Tom Sizemore as the gruff security guy to Lowe as the doctor who lives above a casino and dresses like he’s ever ready for a night on the town.
You’ve heard of Doctors Without Borders? This is Doctors Without Smocks.
As the casino’s house doctor, Lowe’s Dr. Billy Grant (who goes to a doctor named Billy, by the way?) will invariably encounter all kinds of exciting types who pass through those doors. In the pilot, these range from a pop star with a problem to a would-be scam artist who has gotten a minor dose of the “Goodfellas” treatment.
Billy likes to gamble, but he has principals, even if it’s not entirely clear what they are at the outset. The second episode better reflects some of this ambiguity, as he wrestles with whether to let a big-money fight proceed despite an injury suffered by the challenger.
In terms of sex appeal, Billy flirts with his pretty nurse (Amy Adams, who won’t be sticking around), but for some reason no one pays much romantic attention to a cocktail-waitress-turned-blackjack dealer (Sarah Lancaster) who’s almost as pretty as Lowe is.
Lowe might not have been treated especially well on “The West Wing,” inasmuch as he started out as one of its ostensible stars, then receded behind the furniture much of the time. Yet if he has the oomph to carry his own show, this vehicle — the equivalent of a flashy sports car with a couple of flat tires — doesn’t appear to be it.
Viewers have warmed to some surprisingly bland material in recent seasons, so who knows, maybe “Dr. Vegas” won’t end up being rushed away on a gurney before the November sweeps.
Anything’s possible, but let’s just say the odds don’t look very good.