‘LA to Vegas’ leaves comedy in a holding pattern
Except for rare occasions, generally there are two places to set a TV comedy — in the home (“The Goldbergs”) and at the office (“The Office”). The home setting rarely goes beyond a living room and a few additional places for the family to congregate to trade witty banter. When it comes to using the office as the backdrop, the jokes can originate from a college campus (“Community”) to a world nearly devoid of people (“The Last Man on Earth”).
Every few years, someone will circle around and try to land on using the world of flying as a setting. In the case of a show like “Wings,” the series worked, not because of all the airplane chatter, but because of the quirky cast. Then there was “The Loop,” which never got off the ground because the characters were as bland as a 10-year-old bag of airline peanuts.
Executive producers Lon Zimmet and Steve Levitan are looking for their latest attempt at an airline comedy, “LA to Vegas,” to be more like “Wings” than “The Loop.” They miss the mark completely. What they have created is the TV series equivalent to having the middle seat on an airplane stuck between a person with a crying baby and another person who has the twin to that crying baby.
Welcome aboard Jackpot Airlines, launching at tonight on Fox, the setting for a TV show that comes up three lemons in every scene.
The setting for “LA to Vegas” isn’t an airline termina,l but most of the action takes place in the air as the flight crew travel between Los Angeles and the Nevada city. Leading this motley crew is Captain Dave (Dylan McDermott), a pilot whose ego is so big it would not fit in the overhead compartment. He’s been assigned to one of the most lackluster routes in the airline world, but never lets that get in the way of a bad joke, lewd remark or mishandled situation.
McDermott has built an impressive dramatic career, with work on “The Practice,” “American Horror Story” and “Hostages.” He’s shown a few glimmers of being able to handle comedy with credits like “The Campaign,” but the bulk of his performances has been on the serious side. Getting an audience to accept this kind of comedic change takes a very delicate approach as best shown in the “Airplane” movies. Leslie Nieslen was a serious actor before signing on to that series, but his droll approach and controlled silliness helped ease the audience into seeing him in a comedic light.
The mistake here is McDermott has tried to go from the darkest levels of drama to a goofball approach in a flash. The result of his lack of filter at trying to be zany while playing Captain Dave creates a character that is painful to watch. His comedy is not endearing, but resonates with a desperation that sends the whole project into a nosedive.
This would not have been as big a problem if the supporting cast was more interesting. Kim Matula (“The bold and the Beautiful”) plays Ronnie, a flight attendant who tries to bring some sanity to life between the rows of seats. She doesn’t get to do much other than react to the failed attempts at humor going on around her.
Nathan Lee Graham (“Zoolander 2”) plays Bernard, the other flight attendant, who looks like he’s part of the crew because he lost a bet. His idea of keeping the rules is checking to see if a passenger has died by hitting him on the head with a flight manual.
For a variety of reasons, there are several passengers who make the trip on a weekly basis. This ranges from an outgoing stripper (Olivia Macklin) to an annoying compulsive gambler (Peter Stormare). The writers showed no effort to create some interesting roles, but instead all of the regulars are stereotypes. There are a lot of seats filled with extras, so there’s always a possibility of some interesting guest passengers. Anything would be an upgrade.
“LA to Vegas” never gets off the ground, mainly because McDermott pushes so hard to make the comedy work that he crashes and burns. He’s not the only one to blame, as the scripts show no signs of intelligent comedy life, and that means the supporting cast has nothing to say or do that’s genuinely funny. If the series was shown as an in-flight presentation, walking out would be a better option than sitting through this air disaster.
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