Whether or not the public fully embraces the new VEGAS series that premiered last Tuesday on CBS, there’s no question iconic Sheriff Ralph Lamb continues to be an arresting figure in this town.
The early returns are an enormous yes to the show. CBS said VEGAS won the 10 to 11 p.m. hour nationally with some 9.3 million households tuning in. It also had the most viewers in the age 18-49 demographic (2.5 million).
The show was seen by a total of 14.7 million people, according to network figures. That’s the highest debut numbers for a CBS drama in 10 years.
Of course, the acid test comes this week with Episode 2, which often determines the staying power of a show and whether people truly do like it or just were attracted due to the pre-debut hype of which VEGAS received plenty.
I was fortunate enough to be one of the 400 guests at Green Valley Ranch for the screening of the original episode with Lamb in rare form during a short but humorous thank you.
On the whole, those in attendance were impressed with the TV show. One television review on the internet called VEGAS, “highly entertaining. It kept you watching, which means good ratings, which means that the show should make money, which means it likely will stay on the air for awhile.”
Sheriff Doug Gillespie and past sheriff, Bill Young, co-hosted the event, which raised over $100,000 for the Injured Police Officers Fund. Gov. Brian Sandoval also proclaimed the occasion Sheriff Ralph Lamb Day. Lamb was the sheriff from 1961 to 1979, when Las Vegas was still very much a western town and the Mob began running the casinos.
Among the luminaries at GVR besides Gillespie and Young were former United States Sen. Richard Bryan, former Gov. Bill Miller, Las Vegas icon hotel developer Steve Wynn and Thalia Dondero, who in 1974 became the first woman ever elected to the Clark County Commission.
“Ralph is a very good person, very dedicated and community minded,” Dondero said. “He did the best he could think of doing. I’m sure he was the right person for that time. We needed somebody pretty tough to cope with what was going on. It would have taken 20 to do what he was doing.”
Lamb was a fourth-generation rancher turned sheriff, who was faced with bringing order to Las Vegas in the 1960s, a gambling and entertainment mecca emerging from the tumbleweeds.
The show depicts his battle with Vincent Savino, a ruthless Chicago gangster who plans to make Las Vegas his own. Dennis Quaid plays Lamb in the series and Michael Chiklis portrays Savino.
“I think it’s wonderful. He (Quaid) has got it down just like it happened,” Lamb said when the two were on a promotional tour for the show. “I know he’s done a great job with it so far and will continue to do a good job. I am giving him stories he can live with.”
Quaid said he didn’t really know about the real history of Las Vegas and was attracted to the role.
“The time Lamb was sheriff, from 1960-78, this was a small Mormon town that became the capital of the entertainment world,” Quaid said. “When the Mob came in, it was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
“People tell me they liked the town the way it was, which is a complementary thing,” Lamb said.
Now 85, Lamb’s personality and philosophy may be best defined in a recent Los Angeles Times article.
“Sometimes we had to use our guns, but sparingly. If a guy shot at me, I’d shoot back.”
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].