Top five TV picks of the week: Sheriff quite a hot shot

Dennis Quaid fights crime in Vegas as Sherrif Ralph Lamb. Photo / Supplied
Dennis Quaid fights crime in Vegas as Sherrif Ralph Lamb. Photo / Supplied

Pick of the week: Vegas

In recent years, television networks have had an obsession with the style and drama found in mid-century workplaces, such as in Mad Men, Pan Am and The Hour. New CBS drama Vegas turns to old-school mobsters and cowboys for its inspiration.

Dennis Quaid stars as tough, wise and wily rancher and newly appointed sheriff Ralph Lamb (based on a real-life sheriff of the same name), tasked with trying to keep law and order in 1960s Las Vegas, while Michael Chiklis is mob-man and casino owner Vincent Savino, recently arrived from Chicago, set to make Lamb's life difficult.

Alongside them is Carrie-Anne Moss as assistant district attorney Katherine O'Connell and Jason O'Mara, as Quaid's brother Jack. Acclaimed screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi (Goodfellas, Casino) is behind the writing.

In Las Vegas in the 60s, the glitzy world of hotels and casinos was only just beginning to emerge from the dusty expanses of tumbleweeds.

It was one of the few cities where gambling was legal, and the mayor faced a delicate job working with mobsters to inject capital into local development, without letting the city disintegrate into chaos and crime.

But, of course, with the gambling, drinking and mobsters came greed, ambition and corruption. In Vegas, preserving justice is a tricky task, especially when your former sheriff is in hiding, on the run from some mob bosses he's crossed, and no one is volunteering for the position. And when the young, beautiful niece of the governor is murdered and dumped in a ditch, the mayor needs a new sheriff immediately.

He recruits Ralph Lamb, a damn fine military police officer back in World War II, and also a man with a strong sense of duty.

Plus, as a fourth-generation rancher, he's already getting hacked off with the swelling city encroaching on his peaceful ranch life, so the job seems like an opportunity to regain a little control over the situation. And it means he gets to work alongside O'Connell - they grew up on neighbouring ranches, and although she left to study in New York, now she's back there's a chance they could become more than just neighbours.

Quaid and Chiklis make a good pair, too. As the good guy and bad guy, they're characters on different sides of the fence, with more similarities than one might expect: a dislike for ceremony or small talk, and being more concerned with getting their own way, or getting justice, than with the rules.

They can both be pretty ruthless, but it seems they may also both have a softer side, which helps keep Vegas from becoming a crime procedural.

When: Thursday, 8.30pm
Where: Prime What: Cowboys and mobsters battle for Sin City

Environmental pick: Global Radar

Continuing his unusual and kooky quest to save the planet, Radar ponders questions such as: What does obesity have to do with saving the planet? How are late-night partygoers endangering a type of tree? And is the cure to skin cancer in a waste product of wine?

During the first series the eco-warrior and comedian learned more about how to preserve the planet by showcasing small things New Zealanders were doing. This time round he packs his backpack and heads off around the world - and locally - in search of people doing better things with less. On his travels he visits houses built out of rubbish, explores Cuba's sustainable farms and meets a Kiwi who powers his car with rotten kiwifruit.

When: Wednesday, 8pm
Where: TV One
What: Let's hear it for the planet

Drama pick: Exile

Starring John Simm (State of Play, The Lakes) as successful, self-obsessed, cocaine-snorting journalist Tom Ronstadt, this three-part series is gripping, grim and hilarious in equal measures.

The story starts with Tom's life falling apart and he leaves London to return to his hometown for the first time in 18 years.

There he finds his father Sam (played by Jim Broadbent, Iris, Bridget Jones' Diary), also a formidable journalist in his day, in the grip of Alzheimer's.

The series is essentially about a fraught father-and-son relationship, but as Tom digs deeper into what drove him away from home many years ago, he starts to uncover a sinister and startling crime.

When: Monday, 8.30pm
Where: UKTV
What: Slow-burning but intense BBC drama

Reality pick: Kapa Haka: Behind the Faces

This new reality show goes behind the scenes of Rotorua's Te Matarae I Orehu, the defending national kapa haka champions, to document their journey as they work towards the 2013 Te Matatini kapa haka competition.

Because it was held last weekend we know that Te Matarae were not successful in defending their title (losing out to rivals Te Waka Huia).

It's a shame, because if this six-part series had run in the lead-up to the champs, it would have made a great finale episode (win or lose).

As it is the series follows key members of the group, among them reigning female champ Miriama Morrison-Hare, to see how they juggle work, family and other commitments with their dedication to the group.

When: Friday, 9.30pm
Where: Maori TV
What: Kapa haka crises

Current affairs pick: 3rd Degree

By now you might have seen the ad where former political reporting rivals but best buddies in real life, Duncan Garner and Guyon Espiner, are sitting down discussing how they promise to deliver a "new kind of current affairs" to the people.

Given the stick Seven Sharp has come in for, promising anything new in the world of news is a risky business. Still, this week we get to see what the new age of current affairs will look like.

The weekly one-hour programme will feature stories from some of New Zealand's top journalists, including Espiner, Paula Penfold, Sarah Hall and Melanie Reid (the core team formerly behind 60 Minutes, which has now gone to Prime), and new additions Phil Vine and Samantha Hayes.

When: Wednesday, 8.30pm
Where: TV3
What: A new kind of current affairs, apparently

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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