VEGA$: The Second Season, Volume 2
Directed by Phil Bondelli et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 591 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: March 29, 2011
Review Date: March 23, 2011
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 now over 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 1980 as featured in this second volume of episodes from 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 isn't in any of these eleven episodes, but he's mentioned often), but it’s Urich’s Dan Tanna who’s front and center in each week’s story investigating homicides, kidnapping, gambling swindles, poisoning, drug smuggling, and any number of situations requiring the help of a private eye (explosions are a big draw in this half of the season occurring in almost a half of the episodes in this set). Assisting Dan are his sometimes bumbling assistant Binzer (Bart Braverman who’s a victim of a hypnotist in the first episode in the set) and secretary Bea (Phyllis Davis who falls victim to a scam artist who breaks her heart) along with Las Vegas police lieutenant David Nelson (Greg Morris whose own family is under siege in an episode) 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 an action-crammed time passer.
Among the more renowned guest stars of the era who turn up in these eleven episodes are Tige Andrews, Mary Ann Mobley, Dick Sargent, Bruce Glover, Dennis Cole, Louis Jourdan, Lloyd Bochner, James Darren, Robert Loggia, Beah Richards, the Captain and Tennille, Rodney Allen Rippy, Jim Bailey, Darleen Carr, Wolfman Jack, Cameron Mitchell, Michelle Phillips, Tanya Roberts, Peter Haskell, Andrew Robinson, Peggy Cass, Natalie Schafer, Peter Mark Richman, Joseph Campanella, and Jack Kruschen.
Here are the eleven episodes included in this three-disc set from the second half of the show’s second season:
1 – Lost Monday
2 – Comeback
3 – All Kinds of Love
4 – The Magic Sister Slayings
5 – Lido Girls
6 – Consortium
7 – The Hunters Hunted
8 – The Man who Was Twice
9 – The Golden Gate Cop Killer (extended episode running 98 ½ minutes)
10 – Siege of the Desert Inn
11 - Vendetta
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 good sharpness and impressively saturated color 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 (on-stage shots of showgirls match poorly from one scene to another). There are the usual age related artifacts like dust specks and thin white and black scratches on occasion (not as many 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 (thought there is some mild hiss) 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. And ADR is noticeable almost every time it occurs (the episode “Lido Girls” is the worst offender) and doesn’t blend well with the direct recording.
There are episodic promos for every episode in the set that usually run about half-a-minute. The video and audio quality of these promos is far removed from the quality of the individual episodes. 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 on each disc.
There are promo trailers for Hawaii Five-O, NCIS: LA, and the CBS procedurals.
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 second volume of the show’s second season. Somewhat above average video and audio marks the set, but fans will likely relish getting the chance to add to their collections with another volume.