Judge Lacey Worrell is the master... er, mistress of rolling hard eights—uncut and uncensored hard eights!
Our reviews of Las Vegas: Season Two (published November 16th, 2005), Las Vegas: Season Three (published November 1st, 2006), and Las Vegas: Season Five (published September 11th, 2008) are also available.
"A little less conversation, a lot more action."
Finally! A one-hour drama that does not (completely) revolve around dissected body parts, crime scene analysis, missing people, dour-faced investigators, and mouthy suspects. Las Vegas: Season One Uncut and Uncensored is snappy, stylish and as full of wry comedy as it is of drama. If you find yourself weary of trying to figure out how to decide between CSI, Cold Case, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, Law & Order: SVU, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, or regular Law & Order, try Las Vegas for a fresh, less heavy-handed take on the one-hour drama.
Facts of the Case
The fictional Montecito is a high-class casino and hotel in the heart of Vegas. Las Vegas native Danny (Josh Duhamel, Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!) spends his days attending to the various needs of his boss Ed (James Caan, The Godfather), an ex-CIA agent who runs the security and surveillance operations of the Montecito. There are the expected issues: high-rollers to be kept happy and playing, VIP guests to be impressed and coddled, and cheaters and con artists to be monitored. There is also the unexpected, which consists of quirky guests like the goofy guy who wanders around in pink bunny slippers, squads of peppy cheerleaders who descend on the Montecito, couples having sex in the casino's elevators, and even the occasional high-profile murder or heist, in which the Montecito's employees inevitably find themselves involved.
The pilot firmly establishes the characters around whom the episodes revolve. Casino employees include special events coordinator Mary (Nikki Cox, Blossom), a loyal childhood friend of Danny's who is always around to set him straight, and Nessa (Marsha Thompson, Pure), a pit boss so straight-laced and no-nonsense that she is nicknamed "The Ice Queen." Rounding out the cast are Mike (James Lesure, The Ring Two), a valet who just also happens to hold an advanced degree in engineering, and Sam (Vanessa Marcil, Beverly Hills, 90210), the newly-recruited, smart-mouthed casino host.
Las Vegas: Season One Uncut and Uncensored is not afraid to delve into the mysterious backgrounds of its characters. We know right off the bat that Ed was once a spy, and Danny has spent time in the Marines as a way to avoid going into business with his father. While Danny and Ed are certainly the central characters, Season One also reveals that Sam has some skeletons in her closet and mysterious people in her past, that there is more intellectual depth to Mike than meets the eye, and, given the beauty of the women around him, that the Montecito provides endless romantic prospects for hot-blooded Danny.
Special guests this season include real-life Las Vegas bigwigs like Wayne Newton, who appears in "Pros and Cons," and Penn and Teller, who appear in "Luck Be a Lady." Cheryl Ladd (Charlie's Angels) makes semi-regular appearances as Delinda's mother. Other familiar faces include Sean Astin (Rudy), Elliott Gould (Ocean's Eleven), and even Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath.
What makes this show work, aside from the obvious elements such as the exciting setting of a town like Vegas, is what I call the Love Boat factor. Think about it. You've got a fairly large ensemble cast in a dynamic, exciting setting, and a set-up where new and different guests can revolve in and out on a regular basis; this makes coming up with interesting plot lines almost a no-brainer. Throw in the fact that Las Vegas is fast-paced, crisply acted, and full of surprises, and you've got a recipe for pure, escapist success.
That said, some episodes are clearly better than others; this show has a tendency to knock you out with one episode and leave you disappointed with the next. This is not completely unexpected in a show's premiere season, however. The most glaring problem is supermodel Molly Sims, who sticks out awkwardly as the vivacious Delinda, Ed's rebellious and immature daughter. She is clearly less experienced than the other actors—which is understandable, given the fact that her previous television appearances consisted of little more than stops on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn
It appears that no expense has been spared in the production of the show, from the incredibly expensive and flashy Elvis theme song that perfectly sets the tone to the gorgeous interior and exterior shots of the casinos. As in the heyday of nighttime soaps of the '80s, the characters are clad in designer duds that compete quite well with the glitziness of Las Vegas. And as always, watching a show on DVD without the constant interruption of commercials is an added treat. The picture and sound are excellent, making for an overall high-quality viewing experience.
The extra features are somewhat disappointing. Series creator Gary Scott Thompson gives us an interesting look behind the scenes of the show, and the history of Las Vegas segment is interesting, but the rest of the features come off as a thinly-veiled commercial for NBC, the over-hyped AFL, and the already over-commercialized city of Vegas itself. Also, billing this collection as "Uncut and Uncensored" is actually a lot of talk and very little action. Come on, they were filming a show that was going to ultimately end up on network television. While Las Vegas may be too risqué for pre-teens, soft-core porn this is not!
Fans of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino should pay close attention to the pilot episode, which was actually shot on location. (Other episodes were shot on a re-created set.) During one hotel room scene in the pilot, Mandalay's Bay's famous "Shark Reef," which is broadcast to all in-room televisions, can clearly be seen on the big-screen television in the background.
Las Vegas is not entirely original. Danny's voiceover in the pilot sounds exactly like Ray Liotta's in the classic Goodfellas. The voiceover technique is still compelling; but it's an obvious rip-off, even down to the way it is scripted. This isn't the first big show to be set in Las Vegas, either—remember the 1970s camp classic Vega$? And in the original CSI, also set in Las Vegas, the city is as much a character as its human inhabitants. Finally, the prolific and talented James Caan is basically playing Sonny Corleone in a casino; his mannerisms and the reactions are the same.
Despite its inherent flaws, Las Vegas: Season One Uncut and Uncensored is well worth your entertainment dollar. Best of all, both men and women will find it entertaining, which negates the need to argue with your significant other over whether to watch Steel Magnolias or Hellboy for the gazillionth time.
Ruling in favor of Las Vegas: Season One Uncut and Uncensored. Go get it already.
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Scales of Justice
• Rumble in the Montecito
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