This article previously appeared on Crossfader.
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
I never considered that some of my fellow Angelenos fly to Las Vegas and back every weekend, but it made perfect sense to me immediately. It also made perfect sense to me that FOX would make a sitcom about the haggard flight crews who shepherd the hordes of belligerent 20-somethings hellbent on severely altering their consciousness. LA TO VEGAS takes both the crew members and the passengers in unconventional directions that don’t always make sense, but demonstrate intriguing growth regardless. Most importantly, the jokes pack comedic punch and often divert from the limited and somewhat exhausted world of airplane humor.
Some of LA TO VEGAS’s structure borrows from NBC’s SUPERSTORE, which showrunner Lon Zimmet has written for. Our protagonist Ronnie (Kim Matula) resembles America Ferrara’s Amy, coming off as someone who knows they’re worth more than their job says they are, yet still makes bad, impulsive choices because of how crazy their environment is. Her love interest, Colin (Ed Weeks,) is one of the weekly passengers, but his reasons for travelling to Vegas every Friday are more wholesome. He’s visiting his four-year-old son, who’s in the custody of his ex-wife. He’s also a UCLA economics professor, and fills the same vain, neo-liberal stereotype as Jonah. Standing in for Mateo is Bernard (Nathan Lee Graham), who as of the third episode has yet to do much more than deliver sassy one-liners. There’s not a lot of originality left in the snarky gay best friend trope, so I’m hoping more time is spent developing Bernard down the road. Rounding out the main cast is Artem (Peter Stormare), a creepy bearded man who lives to wager and has a complicated relationship with Jews, Nichole (Olivia Macklin), a stripper who knows that Vegas highly values her profession, and Captain Dave (Dylan McDermott), a pilot cluelessly stuck in a 1960s fantasy world where pilots were swarthy gods of the sky.
“No smoking signs don’t apply to vapes, bro. Trust.”
The joke writing bounces between the crew roasting each other, Artem and Nichole making uncomfortable propositions to other passengers, and Captain Dave thinking he’s cooler than he is. Two of the three episodes released so far have been pretty Dave-centric, which isn’t ideal since he’s the least original character. It doesn’t dampen the humor, but it puts characters in boxes that they don’t really fit into. What gives me hope for LA TO VEGAS is that it’s consistently funny enough to warrant wading through these rougher character development stages.
Another refreshing element is the subtlety of the more profane jokes. Network comedies have always pushed right up to the limits of censorship laws, and LA TO VEGAS’s method involves using literal, factual descriptions of sex acts instead of dramatic expletives. For example, Colin and Ronnie’s first sexual encounter in the bathroom gets quashed by the realities of how gross and cramped airport bathrooms are. A normally steamy scene with more sexual tension than the FCC can handle becomes a scene of two fully clothed adults bumping each other into walls.
The Mile High Club really is more of a flexibility challenge
I’m tempted to come down harder on LA TO VEGAS for its narrative shortcomings, but ultimately I just can’t hate that much on a comedy that succeeds at making me laugh. The jokes tackle both relevant and irrelevant subject matter with a great deal of wit, and creating a ruckus over the finer points of storytelling would be nitpicking at best. LA TO VEGAS is a 20-minute dose of carefree laughs.