In the posting before this, I ranted about the live telecast of ''The West Wing,'' a November sweeps stunt that went awry. Now let me tell you about a couple of others, airing tonight.
''Two and a Half Men'' is a pretty sturdy comedy for CBS, and often makes me laugh out loud. Not only are Charlie Sheen (doing some of his best work) and Jon Cryer good leads, they get strong support from the likes of Melanie Lynskey (Rose) and Conchatta Ferrell (Berta). So, when you have a solid team of people and you know how to write for them, what do you do? Of course, you add someone to the mix who doesn't know how the game is played.
The person in this case is Charlie's father Martin, although the show has him playing Rose's dad in a game of who's-stalking-whom. There is some funny stuff at the beginning, but it starts to drag soon enough. While Martin is a good actor, that doesn't mean he's a good sitcom actor -- different muscles and all that. So don't count this among the show's great moments; I saw a promo that was funnier than the episode.
''Las Vegas,'' meanwhile, is using a flashback for its stunt, with Danny (Josh Duhamel) imagining the characters in Vegas in 1962, at work in the casino that preceded the Montecito. There are tired references to the Twist (Chubby Checker makes a brief appearance), lots of smoking and clothes and hair that may prompt giggles. Well, one, anyway -- James Lesure's Sammy Davis-like 'do. And you may find it mildly interesting to see the roles assigned to the characters in the past: Sam (Vanessa Marcil) is a pricey call girl, Mary (Nikki Cox) is a waitress, Ed (James Caan) has mob connections and a very ruthless streak.
I still had the same problem I usually have with ''Las Vegas,'' that the show looks a lot more entertaining than it turns out to be. This show is a promo-designer's dream, but too often it feels as if all the good stuff is in the promo and the rest is just filler. But the cast works awfully hard to keep us involved. More than once, I have thought that Lesure, Marcil and Cox each deserve something much better than this -- not merely shows of their own, but good shows of their own.
Fans of ''Las Vegas'' may also be more than a little troubled by Ed and Danny's actions in the '60s. Is the show suggesting they are much badder guys than we have been led to believe? Or does Danny have a nasty streak hiding behind those pretty-boy looks?