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Television & Radio | THE FALL TV SEASON

The cast is hot but the story runs cold

'Las Vegas' paints a pretty picture, but it's hard to care much about its denizens -- aside from James Caan.

September 22, 2003|Robert Lloyd | Times Staff Writer

NBC's "Las Vegas" is a glossy workplace soap opera from Gary Scott Thompson, the author of "The Fast and the Furious," and he brings to the subject all the depth and shading this previous credit would suggest.

Given how little of compelling interest happens here, one's take on the series will likely depend largely on whether one finds Las Vegas a priori a place of glamour -- it is steeped in the city's reconversion from family-friendly theme park to mecca of adult (in the juvenile sense of the word) diversion -- or just a sad machine for parting suckers from their money.

A card cheat is busted, an unpleasant millionaire catered to, a lucky bum improbably advised to leave while still $40,000 up on the house. There is an "elevator exhibitionist," showing a surprising amount of flesh. And there is a body lying out by the airport, which, by not doing anything at all, at least retains an air of mystery.

The focus, however, is not upon the patrons of the Montecito, a tasteful establishment evocative of European "class" -- rather than of pirates, ancient Rome or the Arabian Nights -- but on its employees. They are very special employees, however; like the "Mission: Impossible" team, each is the absolute best at his or her job.

The head valet (James Lesure) has an advanced degree in engineering. And every last one of them -- the pit boss (Marsha Thomason), the casino host (Vanessa Marcil), the "escort, not a hooker" (Nikki Cox, whose own "Nikki" was also set in Las Vegas) -- is hot. Josh Duhamel, the right-hand man to security chief James Caan, is also hot and sleeping with Caan's daughter (supermodel Molly Sims), who, it goes without saying, is hot. They are not so much characters -- not yet, anyway -- as extensions of their clothes, or cleavage. You don't relate to them so much as simply stare.

There is, of course, a place for this in the great panoply of American entertainment.

Caan, who was once hot himself, is the show's single sign of real life, despite playing a man called Big Ed, an ex-CIA bigwig who "can do things to you with a fork that will make you cry for yo' mama" and who has a delusional regard for "the sanctity of [his] family." He incinerates the cliches he is forced to mouth and can put a whole life's back story into a line like "I'll be on the floor."

He has such authority that the first slo-mo glimpse of him, turning his head into profile, is actually breathtaking.

The production values are extremely high. This may be trash, but it comes in an attractive can.

*

'Las Vegas'

Where: NBC

When: Mondays at 10-11 p.m.; premieres tonight

Rating: The network has rated the show TV14 (may not be suitable for children under the age of 14)

James Caan...Big Ed Deline

Josh Duhamel...Danny McCoy

Molly Sims...Delinda Deline

Nikki Cox...Mary Connell

James Lesure...Mike Cannon

Marsha Thomason...Nessa Holt

Vanessa Marcil...Samantha Jane

Creator, Gary Scott Thompson. Executive producers, Thompson, Gardner Stern, Scott Steindorff, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. Directed by Michael Watkins.

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