One of the better recent new television shows, "Las Vegas" is a much-needed boost for NBC - a quality show that seamlessly slips between comedy and drama, while managing to bounce between several subplots in every episode. It's a fun series that looks slick and sleek, yet all its whip pans and zooms and creative editing choices don't overwhelm well-constructed stories and compelling characters.
The show takes place at the Montecito casino and hotel in Las Vegas. Ruled over with an iron fist by former CIA operative Ed Deline (James Caan), the place runs smoothly, despite a series of con artists, criminals and other riff-raff that find their way through the doors. Danny McCoy (Josh Duhamel) is in charge of security and is Ed's extra pair of eyes and ears on the floor of the casino. As the series opens, Danny has just screwed up big time, getting caught sleeping with Delinda (Molly Sims), who Danny finds out is Ed's daughter. Although Danny eventually gets back into Ed's good side, he gets tested in "Semper Spy", where Ed's "vacation" turns out to be an excuse to watch Danny try to solve a series of rather major issues, including having hundreds of guests locked out of their room.
The series doesn't start off on the right foot with the pilot episode, which has some fun with Danny getting caught, then becomes a bit sluggish as it focuses on Danny going into a basic sleuth mission looking for a missing high roller. As the first season goes on, however, the show finds more for supporting players Nikki Cox (as an event planner), James Leisure (as a head valet and security worker that knows everything and everyone) and Marsha Thomason (as a sharp-tongued pit boss). There's also some fantastic guest star appearances, as well. Alec Baldwin (as a former CIA friend of Ed's that's now working in security) is absolutely phenomenal up against Caan. Baldwin's guest ep - "Hellraisers and Heartbreakers" - is one of the show's best in its run so far. Jean-Claude Van Damme also turns up as himself, filming a movie at the casino when an accident occurs during a stunt. Musical guests include Brooks and Dunn, who are actually pretty amusing in their non-singing scenes. Even the bit part casting is excellent, as many of the more unknown actors who come up for bit parts, such as people looking for romance or trying to restart their lives at the tables, are quite good.
Overall, "Las Vegas" is a fun series that offers a balance between the visual flash and flair of "Vegas" and good, fun and often compelling stories. The performances from the cast are great and the whole ensemble has good chemistry. Hopefully, the creators can keep coming up with great stories for these characters because, more often than not, the first season is a jackpot.
The DVD release of the series promotes itself as being "uncut and uncensored", but there really doesn't seem to be too much "wild" footage, which isn't surprising, given that well, this is a TV show. However, there is another issue - the opening credits have been changed: now there is a different tune instead of the remix of the Elvis track "A Little Less Conversation", which worked so well to open the show. Bit of a bummer.
3. What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas
4. Donny, We Hardly Knew Ye
5. Jokers and Fools
6. Groundhog Summer
7. Semper Spy
8. Pros and Cons
9. Luck Be a Lady
10. Year of the Tiger
11. Decks and Violence
12. Blood and Sand
13. Hellraisers and Heartbreakers
14. The Night the Lights Went Out in Vegas
15. Things That Go Jump in the Night
16. Die Fast, Die Furious
17. New Orleans
18. You Can't Take It with You
19. Nevada State
20. Sons and Lovers
21. The Strange Life of Bob
22. Family Jewels
23. The Big Bang
24. Always Faithful
VIDEO: "Las Vegas" is presented by Universal in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen for this DVD release. All 23 episodes are presented across three dual-sided/single-layer DVDs. The video quality is merely good, which is a little bit of a disappointment. Sharpness and detail are generally satisfying, although small object detail is a bit lacking at times. Definition is a little inconsistent though, with some scenes looking better than others. The picture seems just a touch on the dark side, as well, which takes away from the sparkle of Vegas a bit.
Some other concerns present themselves, as well. Some mild edge enhancement is visible fairly often, as are some minor traces of pixelation. The elements are in fine condition though, with no wear or damage. Colors look fine enough (as with the detail, sometimes better than others), but sometimes came up just under expectations. Flesh tones looked accurate and natural.
SOUND: "Las Vegas" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. It's nice to have the series in 5.1, but the sound design isn't anything too extraordinary. There's some light ambience and occasional sound effects heard in the rear speakers, but the surrounds are mostly silent. Audio quality is fine, with well-recorded dialogue and effects and rich, dynamic-sounding music.
EXTRAS: There is a commentary on the pilot by creator Gary Scott Thompson and Actors James Lesure, Molly Sims, Nikki Cox and Marsha Thomason, one on "Hellraisers and Heartbreakers" by creator Gary Scott Thompson and actor James Caan, one on "The Night the Lights Went Out in Vegas" by creator Gary Scott Thompson and actor Vanessa Marcil and finally, one on "Always Faithful" by creator Gary Scott Thompson and actor Josh Duhamel. The pilot commentary is a little crowded, but the other tracks are usually fun and insightful, as the cast members and Thomson offer an informative discussion regarding sets, casting, the tight production schedule and other elements.
The second side of the third disc offers the majority of the featurettes. The first piece is the nearly 9-minute "Inside the Montecito", which takes a look at the sets of the series, with different actors and crew members showing the viewer around the different areas of the production. "Las Vegas: The Big Gamble" is a 20-minute look at the city itself, offering some of the history behind the neon.
Rounding out the supplements are some promos for the AFL (Arena Football League) (kind of a weird cross-promotion, I think) and Las Vegas (both the city and the show). On the first disc is "Rumble in the Montecito", which is a short film that promotes the AFL, as well.
Final Thoughts: "Las Vegas" is an entertaining series that often skips between genres and tones quite well - it's funny, thrilling, maybe even a little dramatic and emotional at times. The cast is outstanding and the show clicks far more often than not. Universal's DVD comes up a bit short in terms of video quality, but the audio is fine and the supplements are worthwhile. Recommended.