VEGA$: The Second Season, Volume 1
Directed by Don Chaffey et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Running Time: 542 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: December 7, 2010
Review Date: December 4, 2010
In the annuls of television history, there are hundreds and hundreds of shows that ran for a season or less and a few dozen handfuls of those which had long, healthy runs and some that even became uncontested classics. And then you have another large number of shows that ran three or four years, often to middling ratings and no awards recognition but which have remained favorites down through the years for a variety of reasons. VEGA$ seems to be one of those shows. It’s formulaic, it doesn’t showcase an especially great regular cast or feature scripts that rise above the mundane. But in its own unclassy way, it’s reasonably fun, and watching these episodes now that are going on thirty years old, there is definite nostalgia value in seeing the old Las Vegas with hotels that are no longer there advertising big name acts at the time who are lesser known now (David Brenner, Fred Travelena, The Village People, Foster Brooks, Mel Tillis), and a strip that is now much more expansive and more eye-catching than the gaudy fluorescent lights of the strip circa 1979-1980 as featured in this first volume of the show’s second season. The shows are also crammed with familiar guest stars of the period and feature a leading man who offered a certain slick charm, a sort of road company Tom Selleck in the form of Robert Urich.
Urich plays Dan Tanna, a wily private investigator operating in Las Vegas but on retainer to the Philip Roth chain of hotels headquartered at the Desert Inn. Roth is played by Tony Curtis in a recurring role (he's only in one of these eleven episodes), but it’s Urich’s Dan Tanna who’s front and center in each week’s story investigating homicides, kidnapping, runaway kids, rape, drug smuggling, and any number of situations requiring the help of a private eye. Assisting Dan is his sometimes bumbling assistant Binzer (Bart Braverman) and secretary Bea (Phyllis Davis) along with Las Vegas police lieutenant David Nelson (Greg Morris) who works closely with Dan on his investigations. It’s pretty much a one-man show, however, as Urich gets the girls and beats up the bad guys in fairly predictable fashion. VEGA$ is another slick action series from Aaron Spelling (though the show was created by Michael Mann), so there isn’t much difference between the crime stories in this and in some of Spelling’s other crime dramas of the period (Starsky and Hutch, T. J. Hooker, or Charlie’s Angels). Seen now, the plotting plods a bit, the mysteries aren’t very mysterious, and the characters are usually not well developed, but it isn’t pretending to be anything more than a pleasant time passer.
Even if the regular cast isn’t made up of award-winning actors (though Greg Morris had some wonderful years on Mission: Impossible and garnered a few Emmy nominations along the way), the guest cast couldn’t be more impressive. Among the famous Oscar and Emmy winning-faces glimpsed in the episodes included in this set are Andrew Duggen, Melanie Griffith, Denny Miller, Lola Falana, Jo Ann Pflug, Will Sampson, Robert Reed, Norman Alden, Sherry Jackson, Rosemary Forsythe, Scatman Carothers, Dean Martin, David Huddleston, Pat Hingle, Barbi Benton, Gary Crosby, Eve Arden, Lisa Hartman (who also sings some of “Old Time Rock ‘n Roll”), Peter Haskell, Michael V. Gazzo, Shelley Winters, Barry Sullivan, Christopher Stone, John Karlen, Wayne Newton, Eric Braeden, Gary Collins, and Heather Menzies (in real life, Mrs. Robert Urich).
Here are the eleven episodes which make up volume one of this second season set:
1 – Red Handed
2 – The Usurper
3 – Mixed Blessings
4 – Runaway
5 – Design for Death
6 – Shadow on a Star
7 – Dan Tanna Is Dead
8 – Macho Murders
9 – The Day the Gambling Stopped
10 – The Classic Connection
11 – Night of a Thousand Eyes
The programs are framed in their original television broadcast ratio of 1.33:1. The video quality seesaws constantly through each presentation. Interior scenes come off best with above average sharpness and good color (Tanna’s red Thunderbird sometimes blooms) with pleasing flesh tones. Exterior shooting brings forth erratic image quality with sometimes very soft focus and color that’s drab. Second unit camerawork and vintage Vegas footage is occasionally even worse in quality. There are the usual age related artifacts like dust specks and thin white scratches on occasion (not as much as one might think but they are present), and moiré and aliasing are both prone to pop up from time to time. Each episode has been divided into 7 chapters without the promo or 8 chapters with the promo.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. The sound mix really shows its age, not so much through aged-related artifacts like hiss or crackle but through a lack of dynamism with highs shrill or clipped completely and almost no low end in the sound mix. Though dialogue is usually well recorded, there are episodes where it is muffled and not very distinct.
There are episodic promos for every episode in the set that usually run about half-a-minute. The viewer may choose to watch the promos or skip them with each episode. There is also a menu choice which allows the viewer to watch all of the promos in succession.
There are promotional trailers for Hawaii Five-O, Matt Houston, and the CBS procedural dramas.
3/5 (not an average)
VEGA$ brings to mind the simpler, slickly packaged private eye shows from three decades ago with undemanding plots and repetitive action scenes in this first volume of the show’s second season. Not great video or audio distinguishes the set, but fans will likely relish getting the chance to add to their collections with another volume.