Whatever happens in Judge Eric Profancik's review, stays in Judge Eric Profancik's review.
"Vegas wouldn't be Vegas without the freak show."
I love Las Vegas—the city, that is. In my relatively few years on this planet I have already visited it three times, and a return visit is in the foreseeable future. (Sadly, I can't attend a friend's December wedding there this year. That's one party I'm sorry to miss.) Because I love the city, the show Las Vegas instantly intrigued me. Seeing as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation worked so well to bring Vegas to life, I thought a show with "Las Vegas" as the title would be a great thing.
It wasn't great, nor was it horrible. It was just there. Being on Mondays at 9:00 pm allowed me to keep watching since nothing else was on. But, uh oh, something else did come on, 24. Given a choice between the two shows, Las Vegas didn't stand a chance, and I didn't even care to record it. So in January 2005, halfway through Season Two, I tuned out.
Now that I've seen the rest of that year on DVD, I'm sorry I did.
Facts of the Case
The Montecito Resort at the south end of the Vegas strip continues to thrive and prosper in this year of flux. Ed Deline (James Cann, Elf) is now Chief of Operations at the casino, and his right-hand man, Danny McCoy (Josh Duhamel, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton), returns from Iraq a changed man. The two lead an eclectic and ebullient team of enthusiastic people who cater to the throngs looking for wild entertainment. It's up to them to serve the public and earn a profit. They all do their job so well that the Montecito comes up for purchase, and one of four buyers will make some dramatic changes.
The twenty four episodes of this second season are:
• "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?"
When I first tuned in to Las Vegas I was hoping for a show with an edge. Something a bit dark, a bit daring, yet energetic and exciting—just like the city itself. But the show is not like that at all. Las Vegas is a soap opera. That realization disappointed me, allowing me to turn away without any qualms in the second season. Like I said, I would have tuned out earlier, but there wasn't anything else to watch, and I guess there was something mildly likeable about the show for me to keep tuning in.
As it turns out, that soap opera quality has now transformed into a double-edged sword. While I was never a fan of the light and whimsical nature of most of the episodes, coming back to it on DVD as a soap opera made it incredibly easy to get sucked back in. I had watched exactly half this season on TV, and I ended up watching the remaining twelve episodes in two evenings. The episodes were so easy to watch; so easy to get lost in; so easy to find yourself swept away in the silliness of a farcical Las Vegas that I couldn't stop watching. Couple that with a subtle subplot about a possible sale of the casino, and I wanted to see the next episode. I craved resolution, and I couldn't wait to see how it all unfolded in the final episode, "Centennial."
Now I'm sorry I missed Season Three. Now I want to know what's going to happen next.
It really is amazing how soap operas have this magical ability to just grab you and not let you go. I wonder if Las Vegas follows the true soap opera mold, and that no matter how many shows you may have missed, you can tune back in and pick things up like you never left?
But for anyone who has visited Las Vegas or knows the tiniest sliver of truth about the city and its history, you know that the stories told on Las Vegas aren't close to the truth. They may feel possible or real on one level, but deep down you know it's just a show that's gone a bit off the edge, though I'm sure some Vegas restaurant has female servers wearing painted-on tuxedos. Which brings me to the "uncut & uncensored" label on this season. What does it mean? What extra footage might one find? Honestly, I have no idea. All I can deduce is that you get a few extra seconds sprinkled throughout the episodes, seconds devoted to showing us the delicious flesh of some of the scantily clad and anatomically brilliant female visitors (and workers) in the city. For example, the painted-on tuxedoes mentioned are shown in lingering detail, with an "unnecessary" close up of some enhanced breasts, giving the owners of HDTVs a chance to see painted areolas. I also recall some long, panning shots of women's butts and breasts barely contained in bikinis as they lounged by the pool. Good times.
In Season Two, a great deal changed on the show. First, they gave the casino a complete makeover and made it look like a casino. Gone was the sterile, polite environment, and in came the loud, crammed feel of a real gambling parlor. Concurrent to that, they stopped pretending that the Mandalay Bay was the Montecito, created a CGI building across the street, and set up shop there. Out of all the other changes this season, there's only one more I want to mention: the evolution of Danny. At the end of Season One, he was sent off to Iraq for some secret military endeavor. In the first episode of Season Two—after serving the shortest tour of duty ever (what stop loss program?)—Danny comes back to Vegas a changed man. He's darker, slightly disturbed, and he wants to marry Mary (Nikki Cox, The Norm Show). More important than that—considering all that washes away after a few episodes (which is good since it was a change that did not fit in the show)—is that he now has shorter hair and has forgotten how to use a razor. This now makes him look less like a cover boy for Teenybopper Magazine and a bit more suited for such a position of responsibility in the casino.
"Why is everyone so fascinated by my breasts?"
Nikki Cox's breasts were a running joke on the Internet during the first season. Nikki, in my opinion the hottest female on the show (and a guest star on Star Trek: The Next Generation), always wears outfits that accent her stunning figure and her ample breasts. More often than not, you found yourself wondering why they never seemed to pop out and say hello. In Season Two, the show grabbed on to that obsession and worked in a few clever jokes about the situation. It may sound a bit crass, but the show is what it is and it cleverly worked it in. Mary and her generous bosom were ogled and even considered lucky by one whale.
"Your breasts can get you in anywhere."
On the whole, I was mightily pleased with the quality of the transfers on this set. The 1.78:1 anamorphic video looks quite realistic, with accurate, lush colors, deep blacks, and crystal clear details. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is nicely aggressive for a television show, with crisp, clean dialogue, an active subwoofer, and surrounds that make you feel like you are in a casino. However, both tracks also had a few noticeable hiccups on my set. The audio track "fell out" for a split second during a couple of episodes, and there were also a few artifacting errors too. Each was very brief, yet noticeable. I can usually let one instance slide, but either I have a bad set or there are just a few too many on the release. Otherwise, this set would have received a solid score in the mid 90s.
The bonus materials are sorely lacking on this set—you only have two items in total. First up is "V.I.P. Access" (7 minutes, 45 seconds). This piece is supposedly meant to show you what a real casino, namely The Palms, does for its biggest and best clients—known as whales. Really, the piece is nothing more than a PR spot for the casino. Next and last is a gag/blooper real containing footage from both seasons (9 minutes). The footage is amusing and a bit salty (I felt like I was watching the South Park sh*t episode, but this time using the f-bomb), though you won't have any urge to watch it again.
What it all boils down to is that this set is basically bare bones.
You also need to know that the original opening credit song, Elvis's "A Little Less Conversation," has been replaced by some awful, no-name, synth-rock concoction. This is a terrible loss—part of the flavor of the show is gone. Also, Universal has deemed it necessary for them to put their logo at the beginning of every episode.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
James Caan may be a tough guy, but he's getting too old for this. He certainly has a menacing persona and I wouldn't dare mess with him, but once he's thrust into action, you can see he's out of practice and tired. This was even satirized in the episode "To Protect and Serve Manicotti." In this one, Ed and his buddy Sylvester Stallone (not really Sly but an old CIA buddy) sweep in to protect a worker's mother's restaurant from some local thugs. One thing leads to another, and Ed and Sly are in a big fistfight. While Sly looked great and natural in the brawl, Ed was slow and obviously "allowed" to win. At the end of the fight, Ed was out of breath and made some comment he couldn't do that any more. I think that's a great idea. Leave the physical exertions to the kids.
In the "star-studded" second season of the show (Jon Lovitz, Dean Cain, John Elway, Jon Bon Jovi, Gladys Knight, Don Knotts, Paul Anka, and so on), Las Vegas lost me but won me back. Its soap opera appeal has sunk its claws into me. I want to play catch up to Season Three to see what happens with the new buyers and the Montecito. Fans of this show should have no qualms about picking this one up because of the mostly solid transfers. For everyone else, I think the whimsical nature of the show is best left for reruns or a rental.
Las Vegas is hereby found guilty of loading the dice. The Nevada Gaming Commission sentences the workers of the Montecito to serve cocktails at the Mandalay Bay.
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