Last Night's Viewing: Vegas, Sky Atlantic
Britain's Secret Shoppers, Channel 4

 

So, you like cowboys and you're mad for the Mafia. Why take two bottles into the shower, though? Get Vegas, the wash'n'go solution to all your cowboy/mobster needs – a crime drama that, as its creator, Nicholas Pileggi, puts it in the elevator pitch, might reasonably be summarised as "John Wayne versus Edward G Robinson".

Set in Sixties Las Vegas, when the town was just beginning to take off as America's capital of sin, it delights in the friction between old and new, an antagonism highlighted in the very first frames. A group of cowboys are rounding up cattle in the Nevada scrubland when there's a rising roar and the herd is spooked by a low-flying turbo-prop. On the plane is Vincent Savino, arriving for a little light torture and casino management. Underneath it, spitting blood at the scattering of his livestock, is Ralph Lamb, a local rancher who takes a dim view of the way the neighbourhood is changing. Lamb is played by Dennis Quaid, mouth almost permanently fixed into that sphincter of fury that is one of his trademarks as an actor.

Vincent is initially impressed by Lamb's ability both to give and take a punch, but after a dead woman is found in the desert and Lamb is drafted by the mayor to solve the crime, he begins to find Lamb's persistence aggravating. For Vincent, Vegas is all in the future, a potentially limitless source of cash liberated by air-conditioning, neon and improving airline networks. For Lamb, though, Vegas is still the past, a frontier town where law enforcement is still more posse than procedure. And just in case we don't get it, that first confrontation between modernity and America's mythic past is underlined by two more. At one point, Lamb vaults into the saddle to chase down a Hells Angel on his motorcycle and at the climax of the opening episode you get a classic Western shootout with a twist: one party is wearing a stetson and staring through narrowed eyes at his opponent, the other is wearing a suit and barrelling down the blacktop in a Cadillac. No prizes for guessing who wins.

Pileggi's own crime record – as the screenwriter on GoodFellas and Casino – promises rather more than is actually delivered here. Vegas shows none of the fascination with backroom process that was a feature of both those films, opting instead for the unconvincingly pliable reality of a standard American cop show. When Lamb discovers a tell-tale blood stain in Vincent's casino, days after the murdered woman is found, it somehow appears to be still wet. And when he's coshed unconscious by the killer, he's left with nothing worse than a rueful expression on waking. There's a bit of Mad Men glamour (and potential love interest for Lamb) in the hourglass form of Carrie-Anne Moss, who plays an Assistant DA, and Michael Chiklis goes through the motions as the lethally mercurial Vincent. But you're likely to end up thinking wistfully of De Niro and Joe Pesci, and of the series this might have been.

A more humdrum kind of High Noon stand-off featured in Britain's Secret Shoppers, a new series that promises to empower British consumers. Wearing the black hat, a car salesman, all fancy sales patter and free car mats. Wearing the white hat, a widow looking for a little runabout. Black hat thinks white hat is easy meat but she's been trained by Justin Preston, the series presenter, who feeds encouragement into her ear as she gives the salesman a very bad day at the office. Always fun to watch this kind of thing, but I suspect that most viewers are canny enough as buyers to realise that the promised "insider tips" on getting a bargain are not quite as advertised. "Buy women's fragrance in the January sales for Mother's Day" ran one of them. Don't tell too many people, will you?

twitter.com/tds153

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power