Nicholas Pileggi, a guy who knows a thing or two about Las Vegas in the ‘60s and ‘70s, is actively developing the CBS drama about real life Las Vegas sheriff Ralph Lamb. The series has also attracted the attention of The Wolverine director James Mangold.
Pileggi, who is most widely recognized for his collaborations with Martin Scorsese on the 1990 film Goodfellas and again in 1995 with Casino, had Ralph Lamb lined up as a feature film at MGM, but due to that studio’s ongoing financial trouble, the project was obviously scrapped. Upon regaining the rights, Pileggi and his producing partners shopped the project around. With period dramas being all the rage at the moment, CBS gave the property a look.
For CBS, this could be a step in the right direction – in terms of following in the periodic footsteps of ABC and NBC. While those networks appear to be mimicking the style and ambiance of AMC’s Mad Men with Pan Am and The Playboy Club, respectively, CBS appears to be taking a decidedly different route.
With Ralph Lamb, CBS could bring to those seemingly audience-friendly decades a contrasting perspective – which would put some grit on its heretofore incredibly stylish predecessors.
Known as ‘the cowboy sheriff’ Lamb served in the same office for nearly two decades, gaining popularity and notoriety for his department’s often-confrontational attitude toward the mafia – which still controlled many of the casinos in Las Vegas at the time – and Hell’s Angels club. Lamb’s notoriety increased after he publicly smacked around Chicago mobster (and one-time associate of Al Capone) Johnny Rosselli. For his efforts, Lamb experienced little aggravation from the mob after such an example was made of Rosselli.
Furthering the legend of Lamb and his department, it was rumored around certain Vegas circles that criminals were simply killed, should they prove too much of a disturbance – a claim Lamb always denied.
Despite all the fisticuffs and ‘rumored’ violence toward the mob, Lamb’s contributions to Las Vegas were great. The lawman brought Sin City its first modern crime lab, mobile crime lab and SWAT team. Lamb also consolidated the Las Vegas Police Department with the Clark County Sheriff’s Department – forming the Metropolitan Police Department. So it seems, without Lamb, television may have never known CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
With this series, it seems as though Pileggi has been transitioning to television as of late. The writer also has a proposed Goodfellas series in the works, which could leave him a very busy man for the foreseeable future. On Ralph Lamb, however, Pileggi is joined by Greg Walker (Without a Trace) on the pilot’s scripting duties, so we can see how Walker compares to Scorsese in terms of writing collaborators.
If Mangold stays attached to Lamb, this will be the second time he’s directed a pilot for CBS. The first was The 2-2 (formerly Rookies), which is executive produced by Robert De Niro, and is scheduled as a midseason replacement in 2011.
For CBS, this could be a gritty, hard-hitting crime series. Sure, Pileggi and Co. may be late to the period drama party, but at least Ralph Lamb won’t be caught in the same attire.
Expect more news on Ralph Lamb as development on the series progresses.