Las Vegas is a town in constant change. Casinos spring toward the sky before imploding. The biggest acts on the marquees dazzle brightly before vanishing to obscurity. Chips rise and fall on Poker tables. The only thing that lasts on the strip is the certainty that you’re just one dice roll away from easy street. Even the world of Dan Tanna (Robert Urich) was altered during Vega$: The Second Season, Volume 2.
The season had already eliminated Judy Landers as Tanna’s ditzy secretary. At the halfway mark two other supporting characters vanished. Will Sampson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) stopped appearing as Harlon Two-Leaf. No more would he be the Indian influence and extreme muscle for Tanna’s caseload. A bigger absence is Tony Curtis as Desert Inn’s owner Philip Roth. His name is constantly mentioned, but he took the rest of the season off. Curtis would return for the third (and final) season. Normally with such departures brings the arrival of a supporting character played by Ted McGinley. But the producers used this as an opportunity to beef up the remaining character’s roles. Bobby Binzer (Bart Braverman) does more than Tanna’s simple jobs. Bea Travis (Phyllis Davis) brightens back to blonde as stories revolve around her doing more than sitting by the phone. The biggest screen time upgrade is Lt. Dave Nelson (Mission: Impossible‘s Greg Morris). He becomes part of the team instead of the cop telling Tanna to cool it. No longer would Tanna have to deal with Sgt. Bella Archer (Naomi Stevens) to get his police records information. He could get it from the man. The missing cast members are noticed by a title credit sequence that’s rather slim on credits and long on highlights. Thankfully none of these cast alterations ruined the fun of watching Dan Tanna prowling Las Vegas in 1980.
“Lost Monday” turns Binzer into a killing machine thanks to an evil hypnotist (Mary Ann Mobley) This is being done so gamblers Dick Sargent (Bewitched) and Tige Andrews (The Mod Squad) can have an clueless patsy eliminate a pesky reporter and a basketball player they hired to shave points. Can Tanna stop a cold-blooded Binzer? This could have been a simple tale about point shaving in college basketball, but the hypnotism angle cranks the action up Vegas-style. “Comeback” brings back Dan’s old army buddy Mitch Costigan. The guy is now an opening act on the Strip with his drumming and singing talents. But on the night of his greatest success, he returns home to witness his wife getting blown up. He’s out for revenge. Bruce Glover (Diamonds Are Forever) gets to be evil in Sin City once more. “All Kinds of Love” has Bea marry a guy after a whirlwind romance in Hawaii. Dan recognizes the man as a former suspect in an unsolved murder. She’s upset with Dan not liking her future husband. “Magic Sisters Slayings” brings back Mitch when he and two hot female magicians become pawns by a wicked man wanting a gaming license. Tanna has the evidence that can shut him down, but will he produce it if Mitch might vanish?
One of the odd things you’ll notice is that during the casino scenes, the audio track has a constant page for Burton Cohen. He finally shows up in “The Lido Girls.” Turns out Cohen was a major executive at the Desert Inn. He’s got his hands full with a trio of Tropicana showgirls making a major killing at the Baccarat table. The trio resort to murder when their scam is almost exposed. There’s a goofy French detective on their trail. “Consortium” has Lloyd Bochner linking Tanna to dead hookers. How can Tanna explain a dead hooker in his swanky Thunderbird? “The Hunter Hunted” makes Lt. Nelson the focus of a vengeful Robert Loggia (The Sopranos). James Bond III along with the Captain and Tennille roll into the action.
This wouldn’t be a Las Vegas series without a female impersonation episode. “The Man Who Was Twice” has the hottest guy who does the ladies being stalked by a violent man. Tanna has to go see Wolfman Jack (American Graffiti) for a lead. “Golden Gate Cop Killer” is the complete TV movie and version split for syndication. “Siege of Desert Inn” has an armed robbery go wrong. Cameron Mitchell (The High Chaparral) and Richard Bakalyan (Chinatown) must take hostages including Bea. Tanna can’t allow them to hurt his prize employee. “Vendetta” is the Tanna family under attack during a fun time at Bruno’s restaurant. Bill Adler (Van Nuys Blvd. and The Van) gets a high profile role. Fans of Adler’s Crown International Films might be amazed to know that he runs a company that designs the belts for Nike Golf and Tiger Woods’ clothing lines.
Vega$: The Second Season, Volume 2 is another fun filled dip into crime in the neon oasis. The shows never let a serious tone reduce the glitz of filming in actual casinos. You will find yourself checking online to see what happened to the numerous casinos that were flattened for mega-casinos. How could this series have only lasted three seasons? These episodes remain as addicting as any one-armed bandit. Things do change, but Tanna’s legacy is eternal like a sucker’s dream of a hot hand.
“Lost Monday,” “Comeback,” “ All Kinds of Love,” “The Magic Sister Slayings,” “The Lido Girls,” “Consortium,” “The Hunter Hunted,” “The Man Who Was Twice,” “The Golden Gate Cop Killer,” “Siege of the Desert Inn” and Vendetta.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The resolution is fine on most of the episodes so you can read the amazing marquees on the Strip. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels are fine especially if you want to hear Burton Cohen’s pages. For people worried about music replacement, it appears that the songs song by Mitch and other performers are in tact. You get the full lounge experience. The episodes are subtitled.
Episodic Promos (0:31) tease the upcoming action. You can play the promos before the episodes.
Vega$: The Second Season, Volume 2 demands you double down for the excitement that’s Dan Tanna. His crew might be smaller, but the stakes are still high. The show is a perfect guilty P.I. pleasure with a Las Vegas backdrop that’s no longer there. This is Michael Mann’s artistic triumph.
CBS DVD presents Vega$: The Second Season, Volume 2. Starring: Robert Urich, Greg Morris, Bart Braverman, Phyllis Davis and Bill Adler. Boxset Contents: 11 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released on DVD: March 29, 2011.
Tags: Greg Morris, Las Vegas, Michael Mann, Mission Impossible, Vega$