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STUDIO: Universal Studios
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 1030 Minutes
• Gag Reel
• VIP Access Only
I honestly couldn’t tell you what was going on with me last TV season. It seems I missed out on much of the good shit that was airing and I really can’t explain why. I was probably still in shock from the Angel cancellation…I don’t know. But I know for a fact that the Lost ship has sailed and I was left on the docks waving goodbye while fans of that show were on the Ledo deck partying with Evangeline Lilly. I’m pinching every stray nickel to get the DVD set sometime soon, but until that, I’m screwed. Another show I completely missed out was a one that I had really gotten into during its inaugural season the year before last. One that had fun stories, mouth-watering female leads, David Fincher-zoom transitions, looked incredible and had ole’ Sonny Corleone himself, James Caan – Las Vegas. Luckily for me I snatched up the second season set before somebody else got to it.
"Is this how to look cool, Mr. Caan?"
"No no, kid, you gotta stick out your chin and growl like this…"
Like another show set in Vegas, CSI (yes, I’ve totally missed out on that one too, sue me), Las Vegas deals with people who live and work in Sin City (the real life one) and who also fight crime, though instead of ingenious murderers, these guys are on the lookout for card counters, light wand users and purveyors of loaded dice. The show is set at the fictional Montecito casino on the Strip and the cast is headed up by Caan, who portrays grizzled and retired CIA spook “Big” Ed DeLine, who has set up shop as the president of operations for the Montecito. All of Vegas knows that Ed is the last guy in town that you want to screw with, especially his staff. Ed’s #2 is lifelong Vegas resident and chief of security, Danny McCoy (Win a Date with Tad Hamilton’s Josh Duhamel). Danny knows everyone in Vegas and can get almost anything at a moment’s notice, which is helpful for him because he frequently finds himself in situations where he has to utilize those connections. There’s also Mike Cannon (James Lesure), a homey with engineering degrees from MIT who eschewed life as an engineer for running the casino’s valet unit before moving up into the security suite with Ed and Danny. Then of course there’s the quartet of spank-worthy ladies who truly make this show worth watching.
All I gotta say is thank GOD for refrigeration…
First of all there’s Bobcat’s main squeeze and owner of one of humanity’s great racks, Nikki Cox, who portrays Mary Connell, Danny’s on-again-off-again lover. Mary and Danny grew up together and had only recently gotten involved. There’s also casino host / groin torturer Sam Marquez (Vanessa Marcil), who does almost anything to bring in the big fish to gamble at the casino. Molly Sims is Ed’s ditzy daughter, Delinda, whose genius IQ is trumped by her obsession with the pursuit of style and fashion. Finally, there’s Nessa, (Marsha Thomason), a slinky British import who is the head pit boss and was raised by Ed when her CIA father disappeared when she was a kid. Together, these four are the best eye candy on network TV for my money.
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…until the Al Qaeda convention comes to town…
The stories on the show are varied, but frequently have something to do with tracking down how someone is cheating or stealing from the casino in some way, with a B-story usually involving the rest of the cast. Las Vegas is an easy show to catch on to, because although there are season-long plot threads weaving their way through the episodes, they’re usually very subtle and don’t dominate the show. Among those covered in Season 2 were Danny’s recent return from being deployed in Iraq and spontaneous proposal to Mary, which is kicked off in the Season 2 premiere, Have You Ever Seen the Rain. But upon his return, it’s clear that Danny is shell-shocked from something bad that happened there. He returns and is distant, belligerent and doesn’t sleep, which only adds to his problems. It’s up to Ed and Mary to get him to reveal what happened and help him out with his problem. The question of Danny and Mary’s engagement isn’t resolved so easily or quickly however.
"…and for God’s sake don’t tell Michael that I’m still alive out here. If he finds out I’m running a competing casino with Tattaglia’s and Barzini’s kids, I’ll end up like Fredo…"
Another ongoing thread in the show is the frequent reappearances of rich loser Fred Puterbaugh (Jon Lovitz), who shows up in The Count of Montecito to reveal he has a crush on Nessa…or to be more general, anything hot with a vagina. When Fred came to the show in Season 1, he was penniless and looking to end his life. With the Montecito crew’s help, he gets his life back together and is soon swimming in loot. He appears a couple of times in Season 2, hitting on anything in a skirt and inconceivably richer each time he shows up. In fact, by his final appearance in the season in the episode Magic Carpet Fred, he’s loaded enough to be dating Ashanti and possibly buy the casino.
Then there’s the situation with Nessa and questions that continue to arise about her missing and presumed dead father. In Games People Play, a female guest mysteriously shows up to the casino with word that Nessa’s father is alive. This leads Nessa to doubt Ed’s sincerity about what he knows about her father’s disappearance during one of their missions. When she takes steps to investigate the woman’s claims, she finds out the situation isn’t at all what it appeared to be. But then there’s something that is shown at the end of the episode to leave keep you guessing.
Pretty much the only time I ever wanted to be Jon Lovitz.
As far as Sam is concerned, she’s usually too busy trying to cater to her whales for relationships beyond those she has with her workmates. But there is one past relationship in particular with Casey Manning (Dean Cain), who turns out to be her filthy-rich ex-husband. He shows up in Tainted Love and Sam inexplicably spends the entire episode literally running away from him. When she has to masquerade as a member of the Pussycat Dolls, though, we see the chase is well worth the trouble. Like Fred Puterbaugh, Sam’s husband returns later in the year with big plans for the casino.
Delinda doesn’t have a season-long story arc, but she usually finds herself involved with friends, family or a love interest who show up to turn her life upside down. This occurs several times such as in Catch of the Day when a high-school friend (Geoff Stultz) returns to woo her with one last fling before he dies of cancer. Then there’s Hide and Sneak, where her Amish cousin (Sean Johnson) shows up in Vegas to live it up before he commits fully to life as a horse and buggy owner. Delinda also falls for a rodeo champion (Michael Lowry) in My Beautiful Launderette.
"Is the African American still looking at my ass?"
"I think so, Mr. Caan."
Ed also has his own issues, typically fighting the urge to just solve his problems by killing whomever is causing them. When not dealing with the daily issues of managing the casino and overseeing his staff’s problems, he’s busy looking for stolen art with Alec Baldwin in Degas Away With It, or trying to keep his sanity when his wife (Cheryl Ladd) moves them into the casino while their house is being renovated in Two of a Kind. Ed also helps Danny look for a killer in Letters, Lawyers and Loose Women and Mike a kidnapper in Silver Star; and he has to enlist the leg-breaking services of “Frank the Repairman” (Sylvester Stallone) to help out an employee whose mother’s restaurant is targeted in a protection racket. However, his biggest problems arise when Nessa no longer believes what he told her about her father, when he’s kidnapped in When You Got to Go, You Got to Go, and framed for murder by an old nemesis in Blood is Thicker.
I was uh…gonna write something…funny here…I think…
What was I saying?
The variety of the stories keeps the show popping and with the backdrop being the glitziest / trashiest city in the world, literally anything can happen – and usually does. The writing on the show is tight and slick and loaded with guilty pleasures. Another staple of the show is the frequent cameos by musical artists, including Snoop Dogg, Ashanti, the Black Eyed Peas, the Pussycat Dolls, Gladys Knight and Clint Black. Although on a side note, Ashanti really ought to fire her agent when it comes to TV, because she shows up on this one dating Jon Lovitz or on Buffy as a demon who shakes her ass just so she can woo and sacrifice Xander. There’s also the frequent guest appearances by notables such as Stallone (who strangely enough, appears as himself and in character in different episodes), Alec Baldwin, Cheryl Ladd, Lovitz (looking fatter than ever), Dean Cain, and crossover episode with Jill Hennessy and Jerry O’Connell (looking frightfully thinner than ever) of Crossing Jordan. One downside of this, however, is that the cameos can just be for cameos’ sake. One that particularly comes to mind is when Jon Bon Jovi and John Elway appear as themselves in town for an Arena football convention at the casino and play practical jokes on each other. Ten degrees beyond lame and stupid.
"I gotta tell ya, sweetheart, If I still had my prostate I’d show you how we got our freak on back when Hoover was runnin’ things…"
Nevertheless, another great thing about the show is that it just looks awesome. Shot in widescreen with the Vegas vistas and energetic camera transitions, Las Vegas hardly sits still for a moment. But the real draw of the show is the cast. Lead by Caan, they all have great chemistry and their performances are fun, particularly when they find themselves in the inane situation of the week. The best is easily Sam, who seems to find herself in the most inane situations such as having to fly all over the country looking for lobsters for a high roller’s son’s wedding, running around in Pussycat Doll lingerie or having a quickie with Delinda’s dying friend. The fact that she’d make the typical male ritualistically slaughter a major loved one to see her naked don’t hurt either. Cox is just as hot, but I find that her character isn’t anywhere nearly as interesting as Marcil’s. In fact, she has to spend a lot of time in semi-lame touchy-feely stories such as looking after a recent widow when she comes to visit the hotel. Her character only really pops when the Danny engagement storyline is featured.
"What the f**k do you mean you liked the Rollerball remake better?!!!"
Caan, however, is excellent and brings everything that you love him for in the movies to Big Ed, mixing a no-bullshit, tough guy exterior with a softie underneath. There’s not much not to like about this show and there’s pretty much nothing I don’t like about it. It’s easy to call it a guilty pleasure, but this is one of the more stylish guilty pleasures out there right now.
8.9 out of 10
An already gorgeous show is superbly transferred to a crisp disc presentation. I’d be hard-pressed to find another show that looks this good on TV right now. Vegas is prominently featured, there’s eye candy of both sexes constantly floating around and, as I mentioned, the hottest-looking quartet of regular starlets on the tube. Ladies also have Duhamel to drool over and septuagenarians have Caan (kidding big guy). And if I can have a Cojucaru moment here, Duhamel’s hairstyle this season is just simply fabulous compared to that mop he was sporting last season… There’s also frenetic camera work at times which give sweeping overtures of the city and even the interiors feature the colorful casino. The show is also shot in widescreen, which we all know is always bitchin’.
9.6 out of 10
Look, I’m not trying to say that Superman cheats at Hold ‘Em, but…
The show is presented in Dolby 5.1, and there’s nothing wrong with audio to be sure. I frequently had to keep it turned down to avoid waking the ball and chain. The soundtrack is definitely up-tempo and there’s also frequent musical guests who get to strut their stuff.
9.0 out of 10
Alas, not all great shows always get great goodies packages. This set only features an eight-minute short, VIP Access Only, which is a tour of the Maloof brothers’ trendy Palms Casino. There is, however, a much-better-than-average, fifteen-minute gag reel that features all the slip ups from the first two seasons, and includes not one but two “f**k” and “Goddamnit” tirade sections, as well as a nice cans-and-ass segment. One of the better goofs is when Caan and Baldwin are looking at a security picture of Ed DeLine and Caan asks who it is and Baldwin replies, “Gene Hackman.” Other than that, there’s no behind-the-scenes nor commentaries nor naked interactive porn of Cox and Marcil, which is a true disappointment…
4.3 out of 10
"Please, please have a three way with us! We’ll do anything! Three input, bukkake, golden shower, pearl necklace, animals – anything!"
(Oh shit, was I daydreaming again?)
Not terribly original, but it does seem to pop off the box a bit. The discs are two-sided and presented in individual plastic mini-cases, which is kind of cool, but it also means that you have to flip the discs. Did I mention my idea of how a naked Cox and Marcil could jazz up the cover art though?
6.1 out of 10
Overall: 8.4 out of 10