At least during the first half of the show's run, "Las Vegas" was one of NBC's best and brightest new shows. When the show was at its peak, the series seamlessly slipped between comedy and drama, while managing to bounce between several subplots in every episode. The show certainly looks slick and sleek, yet all its whip pans and zooms and creative editing choices didn'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 opened, Danny has just screwed up big time, getting caught sleeping with Delinda (Molly Sims), who Danny finds out is Ed's daughter.
While the show initially worked splendidly as Danny, Ed and the rest of the gang spent each week trying to track down a new criminal that had either wound up at the casino or tried to scam money out of it, the series began to fall apart in the third season, when Laura Flynn Boyle was brought in as abrasive new boss for the casino. The character was met with dismay by many fans, who didn't approve of her. However, what really brought on a great deal of debate was how the character was written out of the series, which stands as one of the most bizarre moments in recent TV history. The series was also moved to Friday nights, which resulted in the ratings dwindling further.
However, what really spelled the end of the series was the departure of James Caan, who had signaled his desire to leave the series and, by season 5, was out the door after the first episode. While Josh Duhamel may have been considered the show's lead, Caan was the anchor and why many tuned in. Another star headed for the exit was Nikki Cox, who had been a supporting player since the first season.
Down a pair of cast members, the series brought in Tom Selleck as AJ Cooper, a former Marine and rancher who becomes the new owner of the casino in this season. While I've certainly got nothing against Selleck, the series had clearly come to a point of potential closure with the departure of both Caan and Cox, and another season of the series only seemed as if the creators were looking for more episodes for syndication.
The first episode of what turns out to be the last season has Sam (Vanessa Marcil) spending nearly three minutes talking to the camera (more is revealed on that later) and discussing what's been going on with the characters. It's a goofy way to open the season and, in the opening credits sequence that discusses Mary (Cox) trying to attack her father, a few floors of the casino being destroyed, the casino changing owners, a massive robbery of the casino and Delinda telling Danny that she's going to have a kid, all I could think was that the series has finally gone off the rails.
The fifth season continues the formula, but the episodes are largely missing the fun of the prior efforts. Selleck, while a fine actor in the right role, seems thrown in at the last minute and lacks chemistry with the cast. While Selleck's subdued performance may have been intended to ground the series a bit, it remains a little too low-key - while the character does have a few good moments, the character never feels terribly well-developed and often stays in the background.
While the addition of Selleck doesn't fix the loss of Caan, some elements of the show still work, such as the chemistry between Danny (Duhamel) and head of security Mike (James Lesure). The two still bounce lines off each other well and seem to be having fun in their scenes together. The same can't be said about Danny and Delinda (Simms), as while the two characters are supposed to be starting a family, there's barely a spark between the two. Delinda being promoted from a supporting player doesn't turn out to be the best idea, either, as while Simms isn't a terrible actress, more than a little of her character turns out to be too much. In terms of the supporting players, Vanessa Marcil is still reliable as the crafty Sam, who gets fired by Cooper and then rehired over a game of bowling.
The writing is more uneven than before on this block of episodes, as while the writers can't really figure out what to do with Selleck's character, there are still some episodes where the series manages to get some of its spark back, such as the two-parter, "My Uncle's A Gas" and "The High Price of Gas", where a visit by Danny's uncle coincides with the casino getting hit by a band of robbers who leave the feds with nothing in the way of clues. Danny and Mike try to trace the thieves based on a tattoo, but are surprised where the path leads them. Other highlights of the season include: "I Could Eat a Horse" (Mike and Danny run into trouble when they head to Wyoming to buy a horse for Cooper's ranch), "Shrink Rap" (the second half of the season opener, where Mike tries to figure out how a man is cheating at cards, which results in a good scene with Selleck) and "Win, Place, Bingo" (Mike and Danny become suspicious when a man betting on horses appears to have a perfect winning streak).
While ratings were falling off in the show's Friday time slot, apparently the writer's strike was the final push that did the show in. The end of the season leaves viewers hanging, as the last episode sees a character potentially gone for good, only to reappear without explanation at the very end of the episode. Other storylines are also left unfinished, which I doubt was the intent of the creators. Given the fact that the season had already gotten to 19 episodes (with the full season, had it ran, being likely around 21-22), it's too bad that the network couldn't have at least let the series just finish out the last couple of episodes.
88. 5- 1 28 Sep 07 A Hero Ain't Nothing But A Sandwich
89. 5- 2 28 Sep 07 Shrink Rap
90. 5- 3 5 Oct 07 The Glass Is Always Cleaner
91. 5- 4 12 Oct 07 Head Games
92. 5- 5 19 Oct 07 Run, Cooper, Run
93. 5- 6 26 Oct 07 When Life Gives You Lemon Bars
94. 5- 7 2 Nov 07 Adventures In The Skin Trade
95. 5- 8 9 Nov 07 It's Not Easy Being Green
96. 5- 9 16 Nov 07 My Uncle's a Gas
97. 5-10 30 Nov 07 The High Price of Gas
98. 5-11 7 Dec 07 A Cannon Carol
99. 5-12 4 Jan 08 I Could Eat a Horse
100. 5-13 11 Jan 08 3 Babes, 100 Guns & A Fat Chick
101. 5-14 18 Jan 08 Secrets, Lies and Lamaze
102. 5-15 25 Jan 08 Guess Who's Coming To Breakfast
103. 5-16 1 Feb 08 2 On 2
104. 5-17 8 Feb 08 Win, Place, Bingo
105. 5-18 15 Feb 08 High Steaks (1)
106. 5-19 15 Feb 08 Three Weddings and a Funeral (2)
VIDEO: "Las Vegas" is presented by Universal in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen for this DVD release. All 19 episodes are presented across four DVDs. The picture quality looks somewhat better than prior seasons sets I've seen, which either looked soft or a tad dark. In this set, 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.
Some other concerns present themselves, as well. Some mild edge enhancement is visible on a few occasions, 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. Flesh tones looked accurate and natural. Overall, this wasn't a stunning presentation, but at least it did match broadcast quality.
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: We get a lengthy gag reel for the season, which does include some very amusing bloopers and a few that generate a couple of mild chuckles. A visual FX featurette offers some insights into the construction of some of the show's fairly seamless (at least for television) effects shots. We also get a random "hot stuff" footage reel that lasts a few minutes and NBC.com webcasts that offer about 14 minutes of basic interviews with the cast and crew. Given that this is the last season of the series, it's really a shame that none of the cast or crew could have been brought in to comment on any of the episodes. A lengthier documentary offering a behind-the-scenes overview of the five seasons would have also been a nice touch.
Final Thoughts: I was a fan of "Las Vegas" for the first three seasons, but the series began to stumble at the end of the third season and never recovers from the loss of Caan at the opening of this season. While there are some glimpses of greatness during this season, the overall impression remains that the show should have called it a day at the end of season four if Caan and Cox were indeed already making their way out the door. The DVD set offers good audio/video quality, but it's a disappointment that all fans get on this final season set are a handful of minor extras. Recommended for fans looking to complete their collection.