CBS' 'Vegas' Vs. 'Elementary' And What Makes A Procedural: TCA

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

Is it a procedural, or is it not a procedural? This question has come up twice at today’s ongoing CBS TCAs: Once in the case of the drama Elementary, the network’s new take on Sherlock Holmes updated to contemporary New York, and later at the panel on the ‘60s period drama Vegas. It’s a natural question given the collective body count of CBS’ hit procedurals, including the various CSI’s, NCIS, Hawaii Five-0, etc. In both cases, the producers claimed that their new series would go beyond the standard procedural by delving into character and story.

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Earlier, Elementary executive producer Rob Doherty said he “respects” shows that are specifically procedurals” but “they’re not my bag, it’s not what I like when I tune in.” He said that his series is more interested it the “intricate pieces of Origami” that go into the creation of the mind of Sherlock Holmes.

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And, for Vegas, executive producer Cathy Konrad echoed those sentiments, saying she was happy CBS was not placing this drama, based on the true-life character Las Vegas sheriff Ralph Lamb, “in the procedural bucket.” CBS entertainment president “Nina Tassler said that she saw this as an epic story,” said Konrad. “Although I enjoy a procedural now and then, we paint with a bigger palette. We’re seeing the savvy of how cable is playing in that arena.” Konrad added that character development and continuing story lines was behind the show being able to land a star-studded cast, which includes Dennis Quaid, Michael Chiklis and Carrie-Anne Moss.

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In this morning’s executive situation, Tassler said CBS was sold on the idea by seeing Nick Pileggi’s “scriptment” for the story, originally intended for a feature film, rather than the standard pitch. According to Konrad, this document was about 130 pages long. Pileggi, screenwriter of the 1995 movie Casino, is executive producer of the series with Greg Walker, Arthur Sarkissian, James Mangold and Greg Walker. Walker and Sarkissian were on the panel.

Walker called Vegas a mix of a procedural and a character drama. “We have, I don’t want to say the crime of the week,” he said. “We have an investigation for the team, but interwoven with this larger campus.” In style, Walker added that Vegas seeks to be “a hybrid cable-broadcast TV network show.“

The series features an actor who segued to Vegas from a serialized drama, Fox’s Terra Nova. Jason O’Mara, who toplined Terra Nova, didn’t mince words about Fox’s decision to cancel the pre-historid drama, calling it “a premature decision.”

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