TV Review – LA to Vegas
Lon Zimmet was a writer for ABC’s Happy Endings and Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, two of the best comedy series of the past five years and probably of the past decade. It’s clear that this series is nowhere near as good as those two, aforementioned programs. The characters aren’t that interesting and the jokes aren’t that funny. The problem might be in the premise. The series follows the flight crew of a plane that flies from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back daily. Each episode is mostly confined to what is said and done on the flight itself, which is only a hour-long ride. In reality, that’s not enough time to develop the characters or build anything impacting.
Kim Matula (The Bold and the Beautiful) stars as Ronnie, a flight attendant or stewardess who would rather work for another airline that allows her to see the world. Unfortunately, she’s stuck. She meets and ends up having sex with one of her passengers named Colin, played by Ed Weeks (The Mindy Project). Colin is a British frequent flyer who is a professor at UCLA.
They meet and hook up in the first episode. By the second episode, they break up. Colin says as the two leave the terminal that the relationship isn’t going to work, and it’s in that moment that I realized that we haven’t seen the relationship. Apparently, there are interactions outside the plane but the show chooses not to depict them. It’s similar to a lot of other workplace comedies like Cheers or The Office where the characters are limited to wherever their job is and that’s mostly it. Yet, this series feels even more limited because everyone is literally trapped in an airplane.
It just seems like there’s only so much that can be done with that kind of limitation. It doesn’t bode well that the second episode featured a dead body on the plane. A dead body feels like a stunt the show might pull during its second or third season, if it were struggling for ratings. To toss in a corpse so soon must mean Zimmet and his writers were a little desperate and didn’t have actual character-based, comedic ideas.
Similarly, in the second episode, a duck is seen sitting next to a passenger. Most animals are kept in the cargo area of the plane, though some companion or helper animals are allowed in the passenger section. When the duck is seen, one assumes it must be one of those helper animals, but, besides showing it, nothing is done with it. It’s clearly just meant to be a visual gag, but, even a visual gag has to have its own punchline or point to be made. What’s the point of showing the duck, other than to say, yes, helper animals can come onto planes, which itself might be funny but it isn’t itself a well-crafted joke.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has visual gags that aren’t explained and are often background, but they always have a punchline or a point. The duck here has no point or punchline. It’s just a thing that’s there. It’s a gag that falls flat. Other jokes that fall flat are two involving Bernard, played by Nathan Lee Graham (Zoolander and The Comeback), the Titus Andromedon of this show but nowhere near as funny or interesting. Bernard suggests that he and the pilot have had an affair, which is quickly dismissed, and he references the Titantic in a way that makes no sense and not even in a clever, nonsensical way.
Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story and The Practice) co-stars as Captain Dave Pratman, the pilot who is ex-Air Force but never got a chance to be a fighter pilot. He’s divorced and frustrated flying to Vegas and back. He compensates by drinking and smooth-talking as many women into bed as he can. Ultimately though, he’s a very lonely character. He’s also probably the best character on this show, but he’s criminally under-used in both the first, two episodes. The third episode puts him in the center of the narrative, which is good. The show should build more around him.
There is the aforementioned, gay affair that Dave has with Bernard that I wish was or will be further explored. By the end of the third episode, that doesn’t seem like it will be the case. Yet, the beginning of the second episode has Dave revealing he has a pink, ladies’ hand-bag. This could have opened the door to gender nonconformity for a guy who is such a man’s man, but it’s something that misses that mark and instead is more indicative of Dave being a kind of snob. I wish that weren’t simply the case. As rendered by McDermott, it still works very well, but I wish more for his character.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Tuesdays at 9PM on FOX.