'LA to Vegas': TV Review

Worst show of the year?
1/2/2018

Fox's new show starring Dylan McDermott as a pilot for a cut-rate airline should be avoided at all costs.

Two days into 2018 and we have a frontrunner for the worst new show of the year. LA to Vegas (the official title doesn't have periods, which sounds like a line this show would turn into a joke) is shockingly bad. Not the kind of show you should watch just to see how awful it is, but definitely a show so bad that someone at Fox should be fired over it.

There might be dumber shows out there, but it would probably take too long to winnow down the long legacy of broadcast network disasters. By then, LA to Vegas, with any luck, will be canceled. Although it seems a more fitting fate would be for Fox to be stuck with it and everybody who works there be forced to watch it on repeat, as a kind of penance.

A terribly miscast Dylan McDermott plays "Captain Dave," pilot of the cut-rate Jackpot Airlines, which appears to specialize in flying from, wait for it, Los Angeles to Las Vegas — which series creator Lon Zimmet probably did and thought, wrongly, that the people who do that every week would be worth setting a show around.

Spoiler: They are not.

Zimmet (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, I'm Sorry), or the executive producers Fox would rather use to sell this show (Will Ferrell, Adam McKay), are apparently seeking a comedy that owes some kind of slapstick debt to Airplane, but even if you put Ferrell in the over-the-top "Captain Dave" role rather than McDermott, there'd be no liftoff for this spectacular dud. Nothing can save it (even the presence of another high-profile producer, Steve Levitan, of Modern Family fame, who also directs the pilot). All the jokes are lifeless and pointless. Worse, they have no connective tissue, playing as a series of gags that both come out of nowhere and go nowhere.

The tone of the show seems to be "manic" without much thought about why. It appears to go for silly and eccentric but lands on stupid and disjointed more frequently. It's hard to imagine what McDermott (Hostages, American Horror Story) saw in this role, other than a chance to do some comedy, but this was ill-advised. The role asks him to be faux-suave, make sly but unfunny references to sex and drugs and then be left on his own when he adopts a performance style that doesn't work, and where's the joy in that? Sticking to the dourly serious dramas he's been in recently would have been better.

Elsewhere, the excellent character actor Peter Stormare has a real head-scratcher playing what is basically the allegedly comedic version of his character from American Gods; it comes off more like he was on his way to film the second season of that show and ended up in this god-forsaken sitcom instead.

See, part of the show revolves around having the same four or six people flying both ways each week, the plane allowing the series to be a kind of workplace comedy without the comedy, plus in the air. Genius, right?

Weirdly, the other actors manage to rise above the material (something this bad normally just drags down everyone in its path). That means that Kim Matula (UnReal, The Bold and the Beautiful) as flight attendant Ronnie, who pines for a better job, and Nathan Lee Graham (Zoolander, The Comeback) as fellow flight attendant Bernard, will come out of this unscathed (same for Ed Weeks, Olivia Macklin and Amir Talai, who manage to act like professionals despite what they're asked to do or say; they can show casting directors this work and say, "See, I survived this, I can do anything and I should also get a medal").

How bad is LA to Vegas really? Well, it makes 22 minutes feel like a slow 44 and it made me scribble down this note: "Who greenlighted this? Seriously, do your fucking job." Beyond the unfunny, it's the pointless interactions between characters that infuriate (as if smashing them together would create a script, or a story, or a coherent scene). Stormare actually says, "I like coconut creme" in one scene, referencing pie, and Weeks says, "That's nice for you," which sets up this punchline: "No, it's not, I'm allergic to coconuts."

Another pointless, drawn-out scene sets up a naive couple going to Las Vegas to get married, with Macklin, a stripper, telling the woman that she should become a stripper. What seems like hours later (it's probably more like 18 minutes), we get the punchline, where the flustered boyfriend is flying back to Los Angeles alone: "Two hours with all of you and now she's taking off her clothes for some Saudi prince." Jump-cut to Macklin: "Oh, you met Raja. He's not a Saudi prince. He's just a Mexican with a pet falcon."

What is even happening?

Fox sent three episodes. It was torture to get through two of them. If you want to watch how not to make a television show, go all in on LA to Vegas. Otherwise, avoid this network filler and go watch Netflix like everybody else.

Cast: Dylan McDermott, Kim Matula, Nathan Lee Graham, Peter Stormare, Ed Weeks, Amir Talai, Olivia Macklin
Created by: Lon Zimmet
Directed by: Steve Levitan
Premieres: Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET/PT (Fox)

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