Vega$: The Second Season, Volume 1 – DVD Review

Dan Tanna (Robert Urich) doesn’t get the level of respect he deserves as the ‘70s last major TV P.I. He had more connections than Cannon, charm than Rockford and knees flexibility than Barnaby Jones. He knew the stakes in every Las Vegas scheme. Unlike so many shows that toss a few slot machines onto a Hollywood set, Tanna really cruised the casinos of Sin City. Vega$: The Second Season, Volume 1 lets you witness life on the Strip in 1979. This is an amazing document of the town before the mega-casinos and construction cranes dominated the skyline.

There were changes during the off-season. No longer must Dan suck up to Sgt. Bella Archer (Naomi Stevens) to get inside police info. Gone is Angie Turner (Judy Landers) as Dan’s back up receptionist. Her days were numbered since she was too ditzy to work and Dan wasn’t sleeping with her. Phyllis Davis also underwent a transformation as her breezy blond hair was given a serious dark brown hue. She also lost a bit of her backstory as she became fully devoted to working for Dan. That’s not to say everything got too serious. There’s still a goofy charm to Tanna that softens the hard crimes. Also keeping things glitzy is an array of famous faces to dazzle the neon and lights.

“Redhanded” features an extremely young Melanie Griffith (Something Wild). She arrives in town to hang out with Chief Harlon Two Leaf (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest‘s Will Sampson). Don’t blink or you’ll miss Melanie’s big role since Two Leaf gets busted for her murder. He can’t stand being behind bars and won’t wait for Tanna to spring him. The big Vegas moment comes Lola Falana being interviewed about her show. “The Usurper” is the highlight of the half season. Desert Inn owner Philip Roth (Tony Curtis) loses his gambling empire to Robert Reed (Brady Bunch). Tanna can’t figure out why Roth would do this. Even more confusing is that Lt. Dave Nelson (Mission: Impossible‘s Greg Morris) is protecting Mr. Brady from Dan. The star power goes supernova with the arrival of Scatman Crothers (The Shining) and Dean Martin (Ocean’s 11). A sad moment comes when Dan and the gang see the Folies Bergere at the Tropicana. This showgirls festival closed down last year after nearly half a century. It was replaced by Let’s Make A Deal. What’s amazing is that Mr. Brady still sports his Dadfro as he plays the heavy. He didn’t give up the perm. “Mixed Blessings” mixes Tanna with a nun. She needs to retrieve a stolen crucifix from Tracey Walter (Repo Man).

“Design For Death” mixes murder with bikinis. Eve Arden (Grease) sets up her huge swimwear launch at the casino. But somebody has an issue with the hot models. One gets into a car accident. They call in Tanna to guard the girls. He gets tight with old flame Barbi Benton (Hef’s old squeeze on Girls Next Door). Like so many women who get too close to our hero, she meets a grizzly end. Now Dan is out for revenge. “Shadow on a Star” has a stalker pursuing Lisa Hartman (Knots Landing and a Michael Lefler’s dorm fridge). “Dan Tanna Is Dead” goes DOA on the man. He gets infected by an deadly toxin, but the doctors can’t figure out which one. He’s got to find the guy to get the anti-toxin.

“The Macho Murders” goes Fatal Attraction with a writer suspected of being a killer. It’s up to Dan to bust her. Shelley Winters (Lolita) is part of the action. “The Day the Gambling Stopped” puts a casino in the odd position of cashing more chips than they’ve given out. Dian Parkinson appears in her The Price Is Right prime. She’s in night outfit. To balance this out, we get Tanna in his boxers. “Classic Connection” gives the series the blessing of Wayne Newton. Unlike Dean Martin, this isn’t merely a quick chat. Wayne’s playing the role of a failed racer who is caught up smuggling drugs in classic cars. He’s not a bad actor. Oddly enough, he returns at the end of season three playing himself. “Night of a Thousand Eyes” lets Tanna host a private investigators conference at the casino. Things are going great till a P.I. turns up dead. Gary Collins (Born Free) might be too helpful on this case.

Vega$: The Second Season, Volume 1 confirms what makes this series so addictive. Dan Tanna is the greatest character Michael Mann (Heat) has ever created. He’s a cool guy for sizzling town. He looks natural next to Wayne Newton and Dean Martin. The various crime plots work well for Las Vegas. Producer Aaron Spelling hasn’t slightly adjusted a Charlie’s Angels script for Tanna. There’s ‘70s Vegas style all over the screen. This isn’t just b-roll and backlot magic. During episodes you’ll be checking the internet to figure out what happened to many of the casinos. What monstrosity now sits on their block of the strip? In the case of the Desert Inn, the new edifice is Wynn Las Vegas. Thou no matter how much changes on the Strip, nothing replaces Dan Tanna.

The Episodes
“Redhanded,” “The Usurper,” “Mixed Blessing,” “Runaway,” “Design for Death,” “Shadow on a Star,” “Dan Tanna Is Dead,” “The Macho Murders,” “The Day the Gambling Stopped,” “Classic Connection,” “Night of a Thousand Eyes,” “Lost Monday” and “Comeback.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The color transfers look great. The flashing casino lights pop on the screen. There are moments when you can see the dents in Dan’s red Thunderbird. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The sound is a deceptive casino mix since your speakers aren’t over powered by the noise of slot machines. The levels are fine. The episodes are subtitled in English.

Episodic Promos (0:30) gives a great teaser for every episode.

Vega$: The Second Season, Volume 1 continues the swinging Sin City vibe. Dan Tanna is a detective worthy of the town he eyes. Appearances by Wayne Newton and Dean Martin add an authentic flavor to a land that lives off larger than life names on super-sized marquees. There’s no gambling when it comes to addictive qualities of Dan Tanna’s mysteries.

CBS DVD presents Vega$: The Second Season, Volume 1. Starring: Robert Urich, Bart Braverman, Greg Morris, Tony Curtis and Phyllis Davis. Boxset Contents: 11 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released on DVD: December 7, 2010.

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