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Fast. Furious. Final Season!
It's interesting how something that can seem grating and insufferable in one medium can actually seem harmless and even likable in another. If Las Vegas: Season Five were a movie, it would be a textbook example of everything vacuous and incoherent in modern movies. Yet strangely, as a TV series, it's good shallow fun. Though fans of this show's earlier seasons might be put off by this season's major cast changes and the fact that the show was cancelled just after this season ended, for the most part this is still the show they know and love and forget almost immediately after watching.
Facts of the Case
Here are the episodes contained on the set's four discs:
• "The Glass Is Always Cleaner"
• "Head Games"
• "Run, Cooper, Run"
• "Adventures in the Skin Trade"
• "It's Not Easy Being Green"
• "My Uncle's a Gas"
• "The High Price of Gas"
• "I Could Eat a Horse"
• "3 Babes, 100 Guns and a Fat Chick"
• "Secrets, Lies and Lamaze"
• "Guess Who's Coming to Breakfast"
• "Win, Place, Bingo"
• "High Steaks/Three Weddings and a Funeral"
A casual viewer would be forgiven for looking at Las Vegas: Season Five and seeing it as an example of a once white-hot series past its prime. Critical cast members replaced? Story arcs involving pregnancy and weddings? Yes, all the elements of a show ready for cancellation are here. Indeed, this did prove to be the last season for the series, as dwindling ratings, cast changes, and the writers' strike all led NBC to pull the plug at the end of this season, even though it ended with a fairly elaborate cliffhanger.
Actually, while Las Vegas may sometimes seem like a shadow of its formerly dazzling self, this season is surprisingly lively and entertaining. No, Las Vegas was never a show built on intricate writing or sharply defined characters. What else would you expect from creator and executive producer Gary Scott Thompson, who wrote the script for The Fast and the Furious? Las Vegas is about sexy stars, bright lights, some action and comedy, and stories that are usually easy to understand and resolve in less than one hour. It's lightweight entertainment, the TV equivalent of Doritos. You know you should be consuming something more nourishing but you just can't help yourself. In that regard, this season generally delivers what fans have come to expect from previous ones.
The biggest difference, of course, is the absence of James Caan and Nikki Cox, who both left at the beginning of this season. While their fans might be disappointed, the series sends both off painlessly and the new arrivals are quickly put in place. Tom Selleck is a welcome addition. He proves to have the talent and presence to fill in as the new owner of the Montecito, and he gets several opportunities to show off his comic timing. Camille Guaty, as the Montecito's new concierge Piper, isn't quite as effective, although the problem lies less with her than with the writing. The writers apparently aren't sure whether she's meant to be sassy and endearing or sassy and irritating. She does her best but the material doesn't always serve her well. Still, these new additions are nowhere near as bad as they could have been, and they don't embarrass the show at all.
The returning cast members are as solid as they've always been. Marcil is the standout and not just because of her beauty. Sam is by far the most well-defined character of the series. She's self-absorbed, cynical, and sharp-tongued, and Marcil seizes upon her choicest insults and jokes with relish. Sims, given that most tedious of storylines, a surprise pregnancy, is endearingly sweet, although her character sometimes comes off as whiny. Duhamel and Lesure, the requisite male eye candy, are both likable and charming.
As for the stories themselves, well, what can be said, other than few would take more than one sentence to sum up completely? Rest assured that almost all of them are quickly resolved with few lasting effects. The ones that are continuing, such as Delinda's pregnancy and the continuing mystery of Cooper's origin, are unfortunately left up in the air. Apparently, because of the writer's strike, several episodes that were meant to be shot weren't, and so the season finale, involving weddings, a plane crash, and Delinda's possible miscarriage, winds up far more uncertain than it was meant to be. Still, even though it's unfair that fans were punished with no actual farewell episode and a couple of arcs left hanging, this season is, for the most part, just as good as previous ones.
The anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer and Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 mix are top-notch, although the audio is mixed so loud that occasionally some dialogue is drowned out by the background music and noise. The extras are decent but not especially detailed. "Gag Reel" (10:04) is amusing enough (and loaded with unbleeped profanity), but not anything to watch over and over again. "VFX Featurette" (3:50) briefly explains a couple of the green-screen effects used this season. "Hot Stuff" (4:33) is a strange montage of flashy moments from previous seasons. "NBC.com Webcasts" (15:29) compiles all of the Webcasts from the series and includes some behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with a couple of cast members and Thompson.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Las Vegas is at its weakest, funnily enough, when it tries too hard. Not in its ludicrousness, when it pulls off some fairly outlandish storylines (for instance, how can the same casino be hit by armed teams of robbers three times in nine months?). There it just tops any equally silly soap storyline. No, Las Vegas is good at that stuff, but can't pull off serious topics convincingly. There are a few scenes scattered throughout this season involving spousal abuse, parental neglect, and alcoholism that are painful to watch, and not in the way they're intended to be. They just demonstrate that Las Vegas is hopelessly out of its league when attempting to go for emotional depth. This isn't why people liked this show, and the show's writers and producers would have done better to stick to the vacuous sin and sleaze that they specialize in.
Las Vegas: Season Five is as pretty as a postcard, and about as deep, too. No, there's nothing remotely profound or consequential here, but it's still a good time regardless. Despite the cast changes, this season makes a respectable effort to continue the series, although the unresolved storylines and cliffhanger are irritating. There are a few lackluster moments, but anyone who liked the show's previous seasons should still buy this set, as it generally matches the others in quality. In theory, newcomers might want to start with earlier seasons, although frankly, there's nothing so complex here as to require that much effort.
Not guilty through sheer brazenness. The court does slap an injunction on NBC/Universal, however, as fans deserve some form of closure for this series.
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Scales of Justice
• Gag Reel
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