Universal // 2005 // 976 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // November 1st, 2006
"Young, good looking, and in charge. You got any other problems, chief?"
As the world turns, life goes on in Las Vegas and it's always in motion...In all the glitz and glamour of this gambling Mecca, things don't last long. Blow up this building and put up another. The décor doesn't work, strip it out and change your theme. Change is the only constant in Vegas (new Vegas, not Freemont Street), but change occurs at a certain pace. Except at the Montecito. In three years, this fictional hotel has undergone a drastic renovation every season. In year one, the show pretended that Mandalay Bay was the fictional resort and casino. Year two, that idea was jettisoned and a unique and new environment was created (though I'm not sure if the geography of the architecture remained true.) For year three, the entire hotel was blown up and a new one put in its place.
Las Vegas is full of change, but that's just a bit fast even by that city's standards.
At the stroke of midnight, the explosives detonate and the Montecito tumbles in a controlled implosion. But who is the new owner of the property, and who will be fired in the overhaul?
Six months later, the new Montecito opens under the direction of owner Monica Mancuso (Lara Flynn Boyle, The Practice). Day to day operations are handled by President Ed Deline (James Caan, The Godfather), and eventually everyone is convinced to come back to their old jobs. With a new casino come new problems, ranging from card counters to art thieves to murder. But all of that is cake compared to working under Monica -- she's one mean-spirited, cold, determined woman. Will she disrupt the well-oiled machinery of the Montecito?
Much of what I stated in my review of the second season of this show still holds true. While it would be easy for me to regurgitate the previous review, you're here for fresh and informative banter on the hottest show on NBC Friday nights! So, let's quickly recap the most important facet of Las Vegas: it's one fun soap opera. It's easy to sit down and watch 3 or 4 episodes an evening without the slightest bit of boredom. In fact, I'm sad that I'm finished with the 23 episodes and am looking forward to the next season. Those 23 episodes are:
* "Viva Las Vegas"
* "Fake the Money and Run"
* "Double Down, Triple Threat"
* "Whatever Happened to Seymour Magoon?"
* "The Big Ed De-cline"
* "The Real McCoy"
* "Everything Old is You Again"
* "Bold, Beautiful & Blue"
* "For Sail by Owner"
* "Down and Dirty"
* "Bait and Switch"
* "The Bitch is Back"
* "And Here's Mike with the Weather"
* "Urban Legend"
* "Coyote Ugly"
* "Lyle & Substance"
* "Like a Virgin"
* "Cash Springs Eternal"
* "All Quiet on the Montecito Front"
* "Chaos Theory"
* "Fidelity, Security, Delivery"
* "Father of the Bride"
The next point of discussion is the big to-do over the "uncut" nature of the DVD releases. In Season 2, I couldn't definitively tell what racy new material was included on the discs. With Season 3, there's absolutely no doubt. At first, I was simply delighted to see our female leads wearing tight white tank tops in a chilly environment. Their protruding nipples looked quite nice on DVD. Then things improved dramatically when we took a quick jaunt over to the Bella Petta pool, and we honestly get to see it's a European, topless pool! Yeah, boobies! And later, after several episodes where we're teased, a visit by Danny to a local strip club offers us even more "real" boobs!
Logically flowing from a discussion of breasts is the episode "Everything Old is You Again." In a clever flashback idea, our main characters are now working in old Vegas and they do things the old way, grappling with gangsters, burgeoning technology, and racism. The entire show has a new (old) flavor with a new introduction, theme song, credits, and visual style. It's a sweet and entertaining homage to the Vegas of old. "But what does this clever episode have to do with breasts?" Glad you asked. We are introduced to "man-made cans." Sadly, we don't get to see them.
Let's now switch tracks and discuss two of the monumentally silly things done during this season. The first item is inexcusable and is a sign of laziness on the production crew: geography. In every opening shot of the show, we get a helicopter zoom through the city that invariably stops at the Montecito. If you're paying attention, you will notice that the physical location of the shot puts the casino at the south end of the strip, across the street from Mandalay Bay. This is in fact possible as, the last time I was in Vegas, there wasn't a real casino in that spot. Muddying it all up is the view out the windows of Ed's new presidential office. This view shows us Harrah's across the street. So, if you know your Strip geography, you know that Harrah's is nowhere near the end of the strip, causing an instantaneous physical anomaly, thereby rupturing the fabric of the space-time continuum. The Montecito cannot be in two disparate spots at the same time! Why did they do this? Is it maybe because the view of Harrah's would be more exciting than Mandalay Bay or Luxor? I prefer pyramids over clowns, but nobody asked me.
The second silly item is the quirky fate of the new owner, Monica. Perhaps the writers were drunk while writing the episode, but Monica's death trumps that of the previous holder of the Most Ludicrous Death in a Television Show: Rosalind Shays (Diana Muldaur, Star Trek: The Next Generation) falling down the elevator shaft in the episode "Good to the Last Drop" on LA Law. While on the roof yelling at Danny and wearing a kimono-like ensemble, Monica raises her arms concurrently with a strong gust of wind that picks her up, flies her a mile up the strip, and slams her through the window of a high-end shoe store. And, of course, Delinda is excited to realize the store is having its big sample sale.
I like quirky. I embrace quirky. Sometimes quirky goes just a bit too far. Las Vegas is fluffy and fake, but that death really hits it out of the park.
[End Spoiler Alert]
Moving on to the rapid-fire portion of the review:
- I noticed a shocking reduction in the length of the episodes. After you cut out the opening credits, each episode only ran from 39 to 40 minutes!
- Speaking of opening credits, Elvis's "A Little Less Conversation" was once again replaced with the same lame techno-pop as heard on the Season 2 discs. (This is, of course, based on the presumption that the song is still used during original broadcasts.)
- James Caan didn't do well in his Season 2 fight scenes, but you'll be glad to know he's improved greatly for this year. He's almost believable.
- What's up with the on-again off-again goatee sported by Ed? I wonder if it'll get its own credit next year.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic video is strong, with excellent, realistic colors, deep blacks, and great contrast and details. Sadly, there are a few hiccups along the way to mar the presentation: a quick freeze during one episode, some horizontal noise lines in another, and a quick shimmer/waver in a third. It doesn't add up to much, but it does affect the scoring. Fortunately there are no such slight flaws on the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, which boasts clear and clean dialogue but minimal use of the surrounds and bass.
Bonus materials are the biggest joke of the set, featuring two paltry items. First is the standard gag reel (7 minutes, 20 seconds) that is quite salty but with many an amusing chuckle. Next and last is "In With the New" (2.5 minutes) which features a time-lapse of the building of the new casino set. Sad. No commentaries, no other featurettes, no nothing? You can and should do much better. Where's the added value?
During the gag real, James Lesure goes off on a quick, profanity-laced tirade asking why the show is doing a ghost episode. Good question. Should we also ask why it's doing an episode about urban legends and kidney removal?
This is a soap opera; a light and fluffy and oddly mesmerizing soap opera. You sit down to watch one episode of Las Vegas and it magically, mysteriously turns into a marathon session. Why? How? What is so captivating about this show? Who knows? I don't. While I find myself quickly absorbed by the antics of the Montecito crew, I can't explain why I enjoy it so. Somewhere deep down I still wish the show had a darker, grittier feel, but I guess that's never going to happen. Still, shaking the cobwebs away, because of the imperfect video presentation and pathetic smattering of bonus items, I am not going to recommend this set to anyone but hardcore fans. Casual fans gain nothing, newbies are better off renting. That leaves those that can't get enough of Josh Duhamel and his pretty boy routine.
Las Vegas: Season 3 is hereby found guilty of setting the air conditioning nice and low.
Review content copyright © 2006 Eric Profancik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 976 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Gag Reel
* "In With the New"
* Official Site
* DVD Verdict: Season 1
* DVD Verdict: Season 2