Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: September 30, 2005.
As glittery, fast-paced, fun and frantic as the
city that inspires it, the series Las Vegas is an overwhelming
triumph of style over substance. Full of greed, action, jackpots, neon
lights and beautiful women and men, the show is as good an advertisement for
the gambling capital as you can find. The fact that it's actually a
rather well-written, well-acted and enjoyable show is a nice bonus, sort of
like coming up big with a straight flush and then getting comped a suite on
top of your winnings.
takes place in a strange alternate universe where gamblers
almost never lose (except, of course, in the occasional episodes
where our intrepid cast has to save the unsuccessful people from a ruthless
gangster.) Comps are handed out like candy.
More than once in this season a character said
that money won is twice as sweet as money earned.
Almost everyone is a
high roller in the eyes of the Montecito Hotel and Casino, meaning that if
you walk into that self-enclosed world you will be treated like a king and
they will move heaven and earth to make your dreams come true.
Just don't screw with them.
Heading up the Montecito is
Big Ed Deline, an old-school tough guy who has a vague CIA past -- no one
knows exactly what it is he did at the agency, but we all know it was
something high level, action packed and dangerous. Now he runs the casino
with a no-nonsense surety. Big Ed is played by movie-star James Caan
with an impervious hard-guy charm and good humor. He has an
encyclopedic knowledge of security and, in fact, all subjects. He is a
man that can inspire fear, but he also realizes that his workers need his
support, so he is behind them 100 per cent. He can beat the crap out
of bigger guys half his age, and yet he understands that diplomacy is the
first plan of attack. Most importantly, Big Ed has a strong sense of
right and wrong. He will do everything in his power (and that is a
lot -- the guy has a ton of pull) to make sure that justice is served, even
when it is not to the benefit of his little kingdom.
The show only makes one
misstep with his character. In one episode, Ed suddenly starts to
worry that his wife (Cheryl Ladd) is having an affair with Sugar Ray singer
Mark McGrath. There's no way that a completely self-confident man like
Ed would be threatened by a young punk like that. The creators are
trying to humanize the guy, but the reason that Ed works as a character is
that he isn't merely human. He's the master of his domain.
Big Ed's wing man is Danny
McCoy (Josh Duhamel), a former Marine who now works security at the
Montecito. Big Ed sees Danny as a protégée. This relationship is
tested as the pilot episode
opens. Danny gets into hot water with the old man when he is caught in bed with
a woman who turns out to be Big Ed's daughter Delinda (played by former
Victoria Secret model and MTV House of Style host Molly Sims.)
This relationship (and complication) is
short lived. At first, Big Ed tries to strong arm his charge into
monogamy, with a sort of implied shotgun wedding.
However, Ed recognizes his daughter is flighty, and he is not at all
surprised when Delinda dumps the guy quickly. In an attempt to calm
down his wild child, Ed puts Delinda in charge of one of the casino's
restaurants and is surprised when it turns out that his girl is a natural.
Her Club Mystique becomes one of the hottest spots on the strip.
Other regulars at the
Montecito include Mary Connell, the sweet casino events director, played by
Nikki Cox (Unhappily Ever After). Mary and Danny have been best
friends since school. A passion has smoldered between them for years,
although they have only acted upon it once.
James Lesure plays Mike
Cannon, an MIT graduate and mechanical genius who works as the head valet.
He is often asked to join security at the Montecito, but at first he
resists, insisting that the pay cut would be substantial. (Who knew
head valets made that much?)
The toughest woman at the
Montecito is Samantha Jane (Sam) Marquez (Vanessa Marcil of General
Hospital), the spectacularly beautiful casino host who is in charge of
"the whales," the high-rollers who wing into town to drop big money on the
gaming floors. Sam may look like a tiny belle, but she is smart,
cynical, ruthless and willing to do anything to make money.
When a gorgeous woman like
Marsha Thomason as Nessa, the Montecito's pit boss, is only the fourth
most attractive female regular cast member you know the show is playing with
a stacked deck. So to speak.
The final character in the
show is the Montecito itself. If it seems like a spectacularly
complicated and realistic depiction of a casino, that is because most of the
show is filmed on location at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Resort.
A good example of the show's
catty wittiness is it's use of kitschy guest stars -- Dennis Hopper as another casino boss,
Alec Baldwin as a former CIA man, Elliott Gould as a professional cheat, Mimi Rogers as
Ed's ex-partner, Pat Harrington (Schneider from One Day at a Time) as
a small time bookie, Sean Astin as a greedy local, Sheryl Lee Ralph as a
diva, Paris Hilton as a shallow, money-hungry gold-digger (hey, it's
typecasting!) and Wayne Newton and Paul Anka as, well, Wayne Newton and Paul
Anka. And you have to
love a show that would kill off Jean-Claude Van Damme playing himself.
Particularly one that would have the wicked sense of humor to end the
episode focusing on a shrine to the fallen Belgian action star and then show
a brief disclaimer reading that "No Jean-Claude Van Dammes were harmed
during the filming of this episode."
This kind of tongue-in-cheek
attitude is the show's best attribute. Las Vegas is a drama
that doesn't take itself too seriously and yet can still be compelling.
It can take the real life stories and mix them in with comedy to make a fine
puree. It is almost like a new-millennium version of Fantasy Island,
but more strongly constructed.
This package is called
"Uncut & Uncensored"; however that is mostly a marketing tool. There
is no cursing and no excessive violence. Only two short scenes of
sexuality might not have passed muster on network TV -- a wet T-shirt
contest and a very brief shot of a stripper's nipple.
Each episode is composed of three main story
threads, interweaving with style and dexterity. Some stories are
fanciful -- reuniting a homeless good Samaritan with his long-lost son,
trying to keep a germ-phobic whale happy, a couple from Indiana who insist
on paying for everything with coupons. Some are serious -- Samantha is kidnapped by a man from her past, the workers must track down a
peeping tom posting pictures on the internet and hackers try to break into the
Montecito's security. Whether the tales are realistic or just
ridiculous (a story about a hot dog eating contest comes immediately to
mind) all are served up with flash and sizzle and a lean storytelling
Even the season finale
cliffhanger was an odd swirl of real life and fantasy. Danny is called
back into service by the military. He spends most of the episode
getting his affairs in order and saying goodbye to his friends.
While it is quite obvious what is happening to him and where he is being
shipped, never once is the word Iraq mentioned (it was almost
like watching a George W. Bush speech). We all know where he's going. He's going to the Middle East.
Stop pussyfooting around!
We can forgive this, though.
It actually makes a certain amount of sense in this world. Las
Vegas the show knows what Las Vegas the city has realized for decades.
We don't always want cold, hard reality. We want flashing lights, cheap
drinks, cool gadgets, pretty girls, tough guys, the lure of big money and
sudden thrills. On this score, Las Vegas pays out big time.
PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: September 30, 2005.