A correction was made to this review on Sept. 18, 2003.
In recent months, the city of Las Vegas has ramped up an ad campaign to revive its “Sin City” image. It couldn’t find a better ally than NBC’s casino drama “Las Vegas.” Put Dan Tanna to rest — this version of adventures on the Strip is a bonanza of cleavage and randy hotel guests, with two overworked security mavens trying to keep everything on the up and up. Still tough as nails, James Caan essays a winning portrait as intense surveillance chief Ed Deline, while Josh Duhamel (“All My Children”), as Danny McCoy, makes for an enchanting new kid on the block. But the heart of “Las Vegas” is neon-lit sizzle and a sprawl of interesting plots.
The pilot wastes no time turning up the heat. McCoy’s daughter Delinda (Molly Sims) is writhing on top of a one-night stand when dad barges in. He’s mad that his daughter has not alerted him to the fact that she’s in town. He fumes when he discovers the guy on bottom is his protege McCoy.
McCoy earns himself a boatload of assignments: Figure out how the card counter is operating; get the nut in the bunny slippers off the table and into a suite; get the perfect present for a couple celebrating their 30th anniversary; and locate the billionaire who was flown in but never made it to the Montecito casino. (If it looks familiar, it’s because the pilot was filmed at the Mandalay Bay.)
Deline also invites McCoy to join the family for dinner, seeing as how he now has something of a commitment to make to Delinda. Deline offers McCoy a glass of 1982 Petrus — a $2,000 bottle of wine — and he refuses, which only fires up Deline even more. Key to their relationship, though, is that McCoy is good at his job, which he credits to being a local and knowing everyone, including the hookers at the bar, the limo drivers and casino bosses.
By the end of the first episode, McCoy has all the problems solved, though one comes at a cost: The casino has to hire Sam Jane (Vanessa Marcil), one of the many beautiful women who populate “Las Vegas,” as a host, which one assumes will make for more sexually charged conflict in future episodes.
Gary Scott Thompson, who came up with the story for “The Fast and the Furious,” created “Las Vegas,” and the series shares that film’s love of speed, color and community. Pilot purrs like a well-tuned engine, with a tone that’s serious but not humor-free. It opens and closes, however, with a shot of a dead body near the airport, though what that portends is unclear.
Much of the tone is supplied by an acting ensemble that keeps it light and unforced, combined with some sharp editing. There’s a bit too much voiceover, all from Duhamel’s McCoy, but it is effective in establishing his mindset. “Las Vegas,” like the city itself, has guilty pleasure written all over it.
The pilot was filmed in Vegas, but subsequent episodes are being shot on L.A. soundstages. After debuting at 10 p.m., show moves to regular timeslot of 9-10 p.m.