I know the executives are going to get quickly sick of this comparison, but did Cop Rock teach us nothing? Is there some pop culture zeitgeist building for the return of the musical drama that I am heretofore unaware of? At one point Hugh Jackman (a long way from playing Wolverine in the X-Men movies) bursts into a room singing the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” I understand the need for creativity and we’re tired of the same old-same old, but singing and dancing along to the background music seems pointless, distracting, and, its biggest sin, doesn’t advance plot. It might as well be music playing along in the background.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Based on the British hit, Viva Blackpool, Viva Laughlin revolves around Ripley Holden (Lloyd Owen) whose casino, in Laughlin, Nevada, has its grand opening threatened. Its big investor is found dead in his office, Ripley has been sleeping with the guy’s wife, Ripley becomes the prime suspect in his death, and his rival, Fontana (the aforementioned Mr. Jackman) eyes a takeover opportunity.

And folks break out into singing the soundtrack music.

“Let me show you what believing can do.” –Ripley

Ripley is so focused on living the American Dream, he hasn’t stopped to examine if his “dream” is worth living. Like the show, The Riches, this show realized that too often we believe that if we can just get that dream, that castle, that we’ll have the time and the opportunity to make up the costs of what it took to get them. We have faith in the belief that once we attain the dream, everything will work out.

“You are not who you are pretending to be.” Bunny Baxter (Melanie Griffith)

So we seek a new, presumably better identities for ourselves, surrounding ourselves with the trappings of success, ever wanting improvement for our lives, accepting the costs of moving on up. Ripley becomes so lost in his skewed value system when it comes to his pursuit of wealth and the costs of consumerism, he neglects much of what really matters. His various self-salvation schemes, his narcissism and his materialism come at the cost of wrecking the lives of those around him.

The over the top premise unfortunately lends itself to a lot of shrill and overblown performances. It needs to make up its mind about whether it wants to go campy or not. The show has the star power (if not the star vocals), but if it stays around more than a month I’ll be surprised.

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