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Cowboys and Gangsters: Konrad Hits Network Television with 60s Procedural 'Vegas,' Starring Dennis Quaid

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 25, 2012 at 2:46PM

Like many other Hollywood heavyweights these days, producer Cathy Konrad ("Girl Interrupted," "Walk the Line," "3:10 to Yuma") has turned from movies to television. It's instructive how her new well-reviewed series "Vegas," which debuts at 10 PM Tuesday September 25, wound up on CBS.
Jason O'Mara and Dennis Quaid in 'Vegas'
Jason O'Mara and Dennis Quaid in 'Vegas'

CBS was willing to bank good money (about an average of $3.5 million per episode) on shooting on ranches and locations around Ventura and Granada Hills and building a $1.8 million replica of 60s Fremont Street at Santa Clarita Studios, complete with a casino, jail and sheriff’s office.

Thus Konrad got to learn the TV ropes--and go home at night to her husband and 7 1/2 and 4 1/2-year-olds. "I had no idea the machine that is TV," she says, "from the day the flag goes down to prep the first show. The pace is unrelenting." CBS ordered 13 episodes; as we spoke several weeks ago the pilot was done, two episodes were in post and a fifth was in prep: "You shoot these 55-page scripts in eight days. One page is a good day's work in the feature business. Here you shoot 10 to 12 pages a day, 40 set-ups, five different locations. The challenge is to make it beautiful, and not fall into conventions--master, medium shot-- boring."

Konrad works with Walker and seven writers and brings in directors to shoot the episodes, such as old film collaborator Gary Fleder ("Things To Do in Denver When You're Dead"). Assuming the series succeeds, there's room to grow the story as Vegas develops through the 60s and 70s. Lamb was around for over 30 years and provides useful detail--from car wheels and fenders to how arrests were made back in the day. Lamb reminds Konrad of Johnny Cash, who she got to know making "Walk the Line." "There are so few of these characters left," she sighs.

And the producer is moving full throttle into more television: she's putting together a cable series based on venerable Miramax title "Copland," as a 70s New York/New Jersey cop show packed with the politics and mob dynamics of the period.

This article is related to: Television, Interviews

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.