- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2003

Caan’s ‘Vegas’ gamble

Film tough guy James Caan is taking his broad-shouldered appeal to the small screen.

NBC’s “Las Vegas” casts Mr. Caan as a casino security boss and ex-CIA agent who runs his club like that superspy agency.

His Big Ed Deline makes sure no one pulls a fast one with the help of his protege, Danny McCoy (“All My Children’s” Josh Duhamel).

In tonight’s opener —at 10 on NBC — Danny lands on Big Ed’s bad side when he gets caught in flagrante delicto with Ed’s daughter (model Molly Sims, well cast as the ultimate eye candy).

While Ed mulls a few fitting punishments for Danny’s misstep, the two unite long enough to stop a pair of gamblers looking to break the casino’s bank.

“Las Vegas” is the byproduct of Gary Scott Thompson (who penned 2001’s “The Fast and the Furious”) and the two projects share a passion for romanticized subcultures, paint-by-number caricatures and women to be ogled. “Las Vegas” starts with careening camera work and slick montage shots before settling into its traditional pacing.

The show clicks when it reveals the inner workings of a major casino, but too much time is squandered on Mr. Duhamel’s superfluous inner monologues.

Mr. Caan deserves a better vehicle than “Las Vegas” to make his television splash.

It’s too early, though, to write the show off as a loss. Perhaps future episodes will lean more toward the intricate web that is casino life and less on trumped-up romances.

Sheen’s mirthful ‘Men’

Charlie Sheen’s tour of duty on ABC’s “Spin City” did more than keep a reeling show from premature retirement. It helped sharpen his comedic skills, a fact made clear on CBS’s new sitcom “Two and a Half Men.”

The show, airing tonight at 9:30, finds Mr. Sheen playing the kind of boilerplate alpha male we’ve seen far too frequently. Yet the actor finds some pathos in the role, and more importantly, mines a half-dozen laugh out loud moments during the premiere.

The pilot finds Mr. Sheen’s nebbish of a brother (Jon Cryer) looking for a new home when his wife leaves him and his young son.

Mr. Cryer, of course, is as uptight as Mr. Sheen is laconic, fueling a hardly novel contrast. And the addition of Mr. Cryer’s son (Angus T. Jones) seems like yet another cutesy youngster to nudge future plots.

Against the odds, the trio clicks.

Mr. Cryer is a veteran of failed sitcoms (“The Trouble with Normal,” “The Famous Teddy Z,” “Partners”) but that fact shouldn’t be pinned solely on his pinched frame.

The personality clash potential should allow for plenty of dust-ups, and the lead actors’ easy interplay holds out hope.

Old pro Holland Taylor (last year’s “Baby Bob” on CBS) rounds out the cast as the brothers’ domineering mother, another generic role trumped by superior casting.

More Mo on Fox

Mo Rocca, the daffy but deadpan correspondent on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” is developing his own Fox reality series.

He’s looking to write and star in a project placing him alongside former convicts, according to Reuters New Agency.

“I was heavily influenced by ‘Touched by an Angel,’ ‘Oz’ and ‘Chico and the Man,’” Mr. Rocca, a Bethesda native and Harvard University graduate told Reuters, in jest.

All kidding aside, the comedian is examining opportunities to interact with criminals in a prison setting, most likely a minimum-security facility or halfway house.

Potential formats could range from Mr. Rocca organizing a musical number for a select group of felons or making them employees at a diner, a la NBC’s “The Restaurant.”

He will develop the concept under a script deal with producers 20th Century Fox Television and Brad Gray Television, and Fox Broadcasting.

The comedian envisions the project being more like the work he’s done on NBC’s “Today,” where he is a contributor, than on “The Daily Show.”

“It’s been nice to do stories that are legitimately interesting and funny as opposed to being funny by mocking,” said Mr. Rocca, who took an interest in prison issues while teaching GED classes at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Concord while attending classes at Harvard.

The actor/comic has been omnipresent on TV of late.

Besides his Comedy Central and NBC duties, he’s appeared as a self-styled “fun-dit” on Court TV, the Fox News Channel, CNN, VH1 and National Public Radio.

Mr. Rocca also has a soon to be published book, titled “All the Presidents’ Pets.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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