LAS VEGAS SEASON FIVE DVD SET Studio: Universal Year: 2008 Rated: Unrated Film Length: 14 hours, 34 minutes Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) Subtitles: English SDH Release Date: July 22, 2008 The Series ( ½ out of ) “Las Vegas” is set in the fictional Montecito Casino Hotel on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. The cast of characters are employees in the casino, and the plot-lines follow the stories of guests in the casino as well as the antics of the employees. For the first 4 seasons, the Montecito was managed by Ed Deline (James Caan), a former CIA officer who acted as head of security and president of casino operations. When James Caan left the show at the end of the 4th season, the Montecito was purchased by A.J. Cooper (Tom Selleck), a billionaire cattle rancher from Wyoming. Other regular characters include Danny McCoy, head of security and later president of operations at the Montecito. Danny is a former marine who is involved romantically with Delinda Deline (Molly Sims). Delinda is Ed Deline’s daughter and food and beverage manager at the casino. Mike Cannon (James Lesure) is head of security and surveillance at the casino, and is Danny’s best friend. Sam Marquez (Vanessa Marcil) is a host who caters to the high rollers who frequently visit the Montecito. Piper Nielsen (Camille Guaty) is the hotel concierge who joins the cast at the beginning of season five. “Las Vegas” depicts a glamorous, wish it really existed, presentation of sin city. The cast of characters in the Montecito makes “Las Vegas” a place you want to go, even if it was only for one hour a week during its network run from 2003 through 2008. The Montecito Casino has even appeared in other TV shows recently, such as the new “Knight Rider” and “Heroes.” The show has a number of subplots and continuity that bridges the episodes, but it is not so complex that you will be lost if you have not seen it from the beginning, like some shows. Even though I had not watched the show before, and the first episode of season five continues some cliffhangers from the end of season four, the brief summary at the beginning of the episode was more than adequate to allow a new viewer like myself to hit the ground running with the characters and the story. Fans of “Magnum, P.I.” will appreciate the guest appearances of two of Tom Selleck’s co-stars from that series in the 5th episode on Disc 1 entitled “When Life Gives You Lemon Bars.” Larry Manetti and Roger T. Mosley play two billionaire friends of Cooper (Tom Selleck) who get together for an annual high-stakes poker game. Video ( out of ) The video is anamorphic wide-screen 1:78:1 enhanced for 16 x 9 monitors, except for the special features which are primarily in a 1:33:1 screen ratio. The video quality on the individual episodes is excellent. The sights and colors of Las Vegas seem to pop out of the screen. Unless you are watching these episodes during weekday reruns in 1080i on TNT-HD, these episodes have probably never looked better than they do in this set. The producers and directors of this show realized wisely that the city of Las Vegas is a character all its own. Although location filming was limited, with the casino set located in Culver City, California, you would never know it from the seamless blend of editing and special effects. The picture quality is terrific throughout, except for the special features which appear to be videotape transfers. Audio ( out of ) The Dolby Digital 5.1 track makes you feel like you are right in the middle of the action, whether you are in the casino or elsewhere. The soundtrack completes the illusion that this show is filmed in a real casino and not a sound-stage in California. The packaging states that “MUSIC MAY DIFFER FROM TELEVISED VERSION”. Some music in the show is different from the network airings due to licencing issues. Although such changes detract from enjoyment of the episodes on certain other TV shows, I do not believe this is the case with “Las Vegas”. The big difference is the theme song. On North American television, the theme song is the Junkie XL remix of “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley. In other regions, such as Australia and Europe, the theme song is “Let It Ride” by Charlie Clouser. The DVD episodes use the overseas version, presumably because of licencing issues with the Elvis Presley estate. I might not even know the difference except that I have been watching some reruns on TNT since becoming a fan. I cringe ordinarily when I see a DVD with music replacement, since I want to see the show the way it was originally aired, without deletions or changes. The reason I believe the music changes here do not detract from enjoyment of the shows is that I personally find both theme songs to be equally catchy and both lend themselves well to the show. In my opinion, no one compares to Elvis Presley, but this is not one of those instances where music is being replaced with something mediocre that diminishes enjoyment of the show. Special Features ( out of ) The special features are presented in a 1:33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0, not the 5.1 Dolby Digital that is present in all of the episodes. Disc 4 includes all of the special features, including the following: Gag Reel: As these things go, this one is better than average, with some amusing flubs and practical jokes by the actors. Special Effects Featurette: This one is interesting because you may not realize the extent of the special effects in the show until you watch this feature. I did not realize how much green-screen filming is used in this show until seeing this behind the scenes featurette. Probably the best special effect in the show is the one that creates the illusion of the Montecito Casino standing in an area that is vacant and adjacent to McCarran Airport in real life. Anyone who has spent time in Vegas knows that the Montecito is not a real casino, but if you had never been there, you might actually believe that a real casino located south of Tropicana Avenue is being used as a stand-in for exterior shots. Hot Stuff: This feature is simply a montage of “hot” scenes with hard bodies and special effects. NBC.com webcasts: This has several behind the scenes features with the actors and producers that originally appeared on the NBC website. Conclusion ( ½ out of overall) I confess that I had not watched this show in its original network run on NBC. This is unfortunate because I became quickly hooked on the characters and plot-lines of the show while reviewing this set. The show was cancelled by NBC in February of 2008, and the season five DVD set, on 4 dual layer discs, includes all 19 episodes from the 2007-2008 season of the show. I am disappointed that I failed to discover this show until after its cancellation, but at the same time I am pleased that there are 4 other seasons still out there for discovery. This is one of those shows with a large cast of characters that you can look forward to spending time with once a week, like “Cheers” or “The Love Boat.” “Las Vegas” takes itself a little more seriously than those shows, but not overly so. The Montecito Casino is definitely a fun and interesting place to spend some time vicariously.