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STUDIO: Universal
MSRP: $59.98

LENGTH: Many Minutes
RATING: Unrated
SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by with Writer Gary Scott Thompson and the Cast of Las Vegas on four episodes; All 23 episodes from the 2003-04 season, several with unseen footage; Rumble in the Montecito: Jon Bon Jovi and John Elway, co-owners of Arena Football League teams, duke it out again -- this time in the halls of the Montecito. Interferences abound in this mini-movie sequel co-starring the stars of Las Vegas; Inside the Montecito: Go behind the scenes with the creator, Gary Scott Thompson, who reveals every nuance that went into the making of Las Vegas; Las Vegas: The Big Gamble: A historical look at the city of Las Vegas; AFL on NBC Schedule; AFL Match Up - See Who's Playing; Las Vegas: The TV Show Spot; City of Las Vegas Spot

Las Vegas is like crack rock injected right in the genitals in a good, slightly disturbing way. Not quite a guilty pleasure but also not exactly the kind of show you want to publicly admit you have a fondness for. It’s polished to the nth degree and boasts a worthwhile cast, but in a medium filled with stuff like The Wire, The Shield, twenty-nine Law & Orders and eleven CSI shows you begin to feel overwhelmed.

I’d never had given this show a glance were it not for this package being sent. Now, I am both sad and proud to consider myself a convert of Las Vegas. Here’s why…

Knot's landing!

The Flick

The Montecito Hotel in Las Vegas is a place where pretty much anything can, and will happen. Thankfully for the hotel, Ed Deline (James Caan) and his razor sharp are on the job and through techniques both high and low tech they keep the place from being just another casualty of Sin City. The surveillance team is only part of what keeps the hotel powered though, there’s also a bevy of people scattered throughout the place fighting the good fight. Dealers, valets, entertainers, you name them and they’re connected to the veteran tough guy and his staff.

Deline himself is a retired military man with a shady and checkered past. As essayed by Caan, he’s a guy who accomplishes more with a glance and reputation than he does with his fists. There are few better “heavies” than Caan, though I’ve always found his actual movements to look stiff and unconvincing in comparison to other cinematic action guys, he is an old schooler you just don’t want to mess with. Deline’s the patriarch of this oddball clam and a role that allows Caan to have some fun and still have a presence. For a while he’s been an actor who seemed ill at ease playing second fiddle in films like Eraser but here he’s the star and his energy keeps the thing from feeling like a paycheck role.

"That guy is in awe of me", thought Small Richard. Little did he know that the overriding thought in the man's head was "This guy's a few midgets short of a Tod Browning flick".

Josh Duhamel is the love child of Peter Krause, Tim Olyphant, and Johnny Knoxville, and that ain’t too bad a thing. The actor was one I wasn’t familiar with, as Tad Hamilton and I had never dated, but he went from being completely bland to generic in a totally different way. As a result, the actor does a good job of fitting the scene, whatever is required. I dig the guy, I really do. He’s the real breakout star from the show and in the second half of the season it seems that the creators started testing his comic chops in addition to his hunk appeal and action capabilities. It helped. He plays Deline's right hand man, a Vegas native with a lot of pull with the ladies but a guy who is totally without restraint. A decent portion of the show is devoted to who he's going to fall for and just how bad it's going to bite him in the ass.

Molly Sims is terrific to look at, but her acting chops… or lack thereof caused a kink in the ensemble. She was a square peg in a round hole, one of those characters that seemed to exist only as a catalyst, but whether I got used to her or they found better ways to use her, she got less jarring as the season wore on. As Deline's pampered daughter, she is a troublemaker with no one able to keep her in line. The season starts off with her father catching her in bed with Duhamel's Danny McCoy, which of course gets her old man pissed in a big way at his protegee and his lovely Delinda.

Like you're reading this.

Nikki Cox is Mary Connell, the hospitality girl who most confuse with being a high class hooker. To the chagrin of television watchers around the world, she’s no whore and in fact the heart of the show. Her character is that girl we all know who does everything for everyone and winds up alone at the end of the day. Even with her heaving bosoms! As the season wore on, I found Cox and the character more and more deserving of a little respect. I was not a fan of the actress before, but she delivers some solid work here.

Vanessa Marcil is Sam, the unfortunate woman who has to cater to every whim of the really high dollar guests, whether it be carting them around town, making sure they are babied like superstars, or made to feel important in some other way. It’s a thankless role, but Marcil is one of the elite babes in the business and she pulls it off with gusto. The mystique and questionable past of the character only makers her more appealing and though she’s sometimes saddled with lesser tasks on the show, she’s really the only character with the same amount of true danger to them aside from Ed Deline.

"So, how do you like the bacon, lettuce, and Gary Daniels sandwich?"

James Lesure is Mike Cannon, the lord of valets and the “best buddy” character to serve as the foil for Danny McCoy. Originally, he’s the token black character, but by the fourth or fifth episode he’s holding his own both in establishing an identity and in being a factor in the drama. The actor is good, really good in fact. The problem is that he’s a very generic kind of good that often betrays his better stuff. The episode where he squares off with the legendary Patrick Kilpatrick in poker pretty much saves him. He’s the guy who can get you anything, and the guy who knows everything, so when the creators need to get something moved along without plotting, it’s Mike Cannon who has the answers.

Marsha Thomason rounds out the cast as pit boss and potential con person Nessa Holt. She’s a hot, reserved Brit who gets the shortest shrift of the whole gang, though is probably the most interesting character in the whole show. It doesn’t hurt that the actress is really, REALLY easy to fall for, but she’s Deline’s inside person on a lot of the stings the crew has to perform on the cheats and scoundrels in the club. Thomason’s good, though the shot they show of her in the opening credits does her no justice.

"How did you know I had a thing for living shadows?"

Notice a trend with these stereotypical characters? Las Vegas is the most perfectly one-dimensional show on television. Excepting of course sitcoms and the tripe that we know as reality television. It revels in its absurdity, living somewhere between a CSI styled show and a glorified soap opera. It doesn’t matter that logic is sometimes sacrificed, and it doesn’t matter that these people are almost superhuman in their tolerance and skill and ability to rebound from cataclysm in mere moments. It’s irrelevant. What matters is that the show is super fast, veering through impossible computer assisted zooms through walls, television monitors, and that it is ruthlessly compulsive like so many of the Vegas patrons portrayed therein. It’s like a giant cotton candy covered cookie dough ice cream cone, gooey and sinful but impossible not to watch. I found myself feeling bad that I wasn’t catching the next episode when stupid things like sleep, life, and work got in the way. It’s crack rock, except Nino Brown ain’t needed to make this thing a necessity.

Studios finally embraced Nunziata's Alecvision DVD filter.

Another thing assisting the show is the amount of guest stars like Alec Baldwin, Dennis Hopper, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and tons of others on hand to get murdered, conned, or help the heroes catch their quarry. It’s the modern day Love Boat in how it is as thin as pastrami but deliciously so. It makes the lapses forgivable and while I doubt anyone would consider it their favorite show I can’t see many reasons not to enjoy it for the sheer mindlessness of it. It’s not totally geared around selling albums like Dawson’s Creek, it’s not ruthlessly trendy, and it doesn’t try to be cutting edge and as a result it’s slightly richer mainstream television.

"I'm just spitballing here... but how's about I probe humanity with my greasy, barbed cock?"

Plus, it had the amazing idea of having Van Damme play Van Damme on the show and then get killed! Van Damme dies! The cover should proclaim that, as it’d sell a ton more DVDs.

Either way, Las Vegas is a wonderful slice of one-dimensional decadence. Taste it, damn you.

7.0 out of 10

The Look

She's happy, and I'm happy.

The set is presented on three double-sided discs, a factor which led to my system freezing up a few times but it's not due to them scrimping on the visual splendor. This show is all about fast camera moves and impossible shots and really fun usage of the frame. It's a rather gorgeous show, and though it often tries way too hard, it's a blast to look at.

Thankfully, the DVD allows for that and is presented in crisp and coloful widescreen. It's a stellar job and without much to complain about. Aside from the disc freezing after my player got too hot. I hate that about DVD. It happens all the damn time to me.

9.0 out of 10

The Noise

"What kind of agent are you? No residuals on the Sledgehammer! DVD?????"

Can you say 5.1? It's a fun audio presentation as well, with a few really inventive uses of the surround set, not the least of being those times where we're on the casino floor and the ambient sounds of suckers losing their dough is coming from all directions. There's also a decent array of songs both period and recent to be heard and the disc delivers the acoustics in an aggressive but relatively inobstrusive manner. Can't complain.

8.5 out of 10

This capture is a selfless act geared towards pleasing CHUD's female readers.

The Goodies

First of all, this is the uncut and uncensored version. Sadly, this doesn't mean there's tons of double anal penetrations or airborne semen flying towards the lens, but rather a few quick nipple slips or the like making their way into the episodes. Plus, James Caan.

There are a few commentary tracks, all of which are surprisingly fun to listen to as the cast is scattered throughout. I found it really interesting to listen to the creators talk, but paired with every major cast member at one point or another makes for a really well rounded presentation. There's no pretension in the room, which helps. These people are laid back and having fun. Caan's an old pro and a little stuff, but the guy's great. Crap at toll booths, but great.

Aside from the five commentaries there are a few featurettes that range from annoyingly self promotional to rather fun, like the Inside the Montecito featurette. I could have done without the arena football stuff, but I'd bet that the majority of Las Vegas fans would dig it immensely.

Overall it's a moderately stacked and entertaining bit of amenities.

7.0 out of 10

The Artwork

Typical. Picture 90% of the television shows you've seen on DVD and the packaging falls in line with it. It might have been nice if they took the Rounders: SE approach and tried to make it feel really Vegas in tone. They didn't.

5.0 out of 10

Overall: 7.5 out of 10