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This was def a great series all around. The first season was kinda silly and lame (but watchable). But as the 2nd season started, and major changes were made (in writing, production etc), by the show's final episode in late 1981, it should have had many seasons to go. But of course, like all quality TV...the masses only like crap, and Vega$ was everything but...so it was gone just as it was hitting its peak.
This series def deserves a true DVD release...stop releasing a zillion editions of garbage like "My So Called Life", "Friends" and all this reality TV garbage thats killed television and get this example of what once was quality prime time TV out there!
Antonio Fargas was a guest star on Vega$ but never had a recurring role in the show. Bart Braverman played Dan Tanna's sidekick Binzer for the run of the show. Greg Morris played the proverbial police force contact for Tanna rather than his boss. Morris left the show after the second season and Naomi Steven's role was expanded to fulfill Tanna's need for somebody who could get the bad guy's records and deliver backup at just the right time. Tony Curtis, as Philip Roth, was as close as Dan Tanna had to a boss. Since Tanna lived on the premises of Roth's hotel, he had first dibs on his services but Dan was very much his own man.
Poster raysond also suggests that Robert Urich subsequently reprised the Dan Tanna role in the Spenser for Hire television series. Vega$ was actually a reprise of the Dan Tanna character which had first appeared in Charlie's Angels. However, the only commonality between Vega$ and Spenser for Hire was Urich's tough guy personality. Both shows had their own very unique styles, having to do as much with the values and lifestyle of the lead character as with their vastly different locales. Vega$ was the product of David Mann who would go on to greater fame as the creator of Miami Vice, another show that was known as much for its back drops as its actors and scripts.
Spenser for Hire was based upon the Boston private investigator in a series of novels by author Robert Parker (Parker continues to write Spenser novels although the character is getting a bit old in the tooth:)). As much as Vega$ and Miami Vice were dependent upon their backdrops: locales, clothing and vehicles; Spenser for Hire was dependent upon character and dialog. This was due in part to the ongoing participation of Robert Parker who is known for very well crafted dialog. The show was as much about Spenser's relationship with sidekick Hawk and love interests Susan and Rita as it was about the cases he handled. Urich played Spenser in four TV movies several years after the series ended.
Urich was a good actor who could be depended upon to deliver a credible performance in whatever role he took on. He will never be mentioned in the same breath with a Jack Nicholson or Clint Eastwood but his presence on the small screen has certainly been missed.
Robert Urich was perfectly cast as private detective and Vietnam vet Dan Tanna, replete with a showgirl secretary, Beatrice and bumbling guy Friday, Binzer. Tony Curtis was really only present during the first season as casino owner Philip Roth, whose retainer to watch over his various Vegas hotel holdings basically allowed Dan to do a lot of pro-bono detective work. After appearing in the pilot, Greg Morris didn't join the regular cast as Lt. Dave Nelson until season 2 and then stayed through the series' end effectively replacing Tony Curtis' Roth as the authority figure in Dan's world. And no one could forget Tanna's amazing drive-in pad.
While there seemed to efforts to try and make Tanna a deeper character with complex emotions, we're talking seventies TV, so it was unfulfilled. Things had to be wrapped up with a neat, little bow in an hour with no time wasted on a character's personal struggles. Same thing with the plots which were great on the surface but rarely fully developed. But it was escapism at it's best given the setting and the setup.
My choice for Dan Tanna would have been Sam Elliott, who started to get really interesting with "Lifeguard" and keeps getting better as he ages. (To me its a crime neither Sam Elliott or Brian Dennehy ever had a great series role. They were both made for series hero brilliance.) If Sam Elliott wasn't available, I would have looked at Roy Thinnes or Michael Parks.
Casino owner Philip Roth was just as interesting a character as Dan Tanna, maybe more interesting. The character reminded me a little of Blake Edwards' great Mr. Lucky, or his earlier incarnation Willie Dante. I would have had half the shows center on Philip Roth. My choice for Philip Roth would have been Frank Langella. If not Langella, maybe the extremely underrated John Saxon, who also got more interesting as he aged.
My choice for Dan Tanna's ex-show girl secretary would have been the great Sheree North, who improved anything she was in. If not Sheree, the lovely Julie Adams.
For Dan Tanna's friend on the force, I would have tried for Salome Jens or Colleen Dewhurst.
For Binzer, Dan's comic friend, I would have tried to get Cliff Gorman to do a variation on his brilliant Tony award winning Lenny Bruce performance. Or maybe Shelly Berman would have been even better.
My cast might have cost too much money, but I bet Michael Mann could have gotten most of them.
Mann would have also given the show a great noirish visual look, like he did with "Miami Vice" and "Crime Story". And he would have given it better music.
To me, "Vegas" was a big missed opportunity.
VEGA$ was on TV fewer years than I remembered. In fact it only lasted three seasons. It was one of the many Aaron Spelling productions filled with great looking people, more often than not women, snazzy locations and filled with wealthy people. The situations found in this series didn't revolve around the mom and pops on vacation in Las Vegas but around the high rollers and celebrities there.
Robert Urich starred as the good looking private detective Dan Tanna. Employed by hotel magnate Phillip Roth (Tony Curtis) his job was to do anything Roth required of him. In return he was allowed to remodel a warehouse owned by Roth's Desert Inn Hotel to use as his apartment, complete with a garage that was in his living room. Driving a red '57 convertible Ford Thunderbird, Tanna looked cool, acted cool and took on any and all bad guys. And when there wasn't a job for Roth to be done, he took on other clients as well.
While Curtis only appeared in a few episodes at first and fewer later, there were plenty of guest stars on hand in this series. Each week another one had some problem for Tanna to take care of as well as several other guest stars either playing side characters or themselves as performers in town. The series also featured regulars in supporting roles including Phyllis Davis as an ex-showgirl and Tanna's right hand woman Beatrice, Judy Landers as a bubblehead second assistant and Bart Braverman as Binzer, a protégé of sorts for Tanna. On the police force Tanna counted on Bella Archer (Naomi Stevens) when he needed information and Lt. David Nelson (Greg Morris) when he needed bigger help.
So what made the show special? Mostly the locations and the gorgeous people on display here. Urich was a handsome man and destined for leading man status. Davis and Landers were easy on the eyes. The scantily clad showgirls were on display long before the movie SHOWGIRL and with more on than that movie offered.
The neon signs and flickering lights of Vegas began each episode. This was the sin city every mother warned her son about and every son flocked to. We never saw the underside of the town or where the normal folks like blackjack dealers or waitresses lived, those would be on display in episodes of COPS years later. No here we got to see the good looking side of Vegas where the high rollers swept in to be courted and played losing money in the process.
Looking back what is truly interesting is the fact that the series captured Vegas as it was at the time. Having been there a few year after the show had been canceled it had changed in only a short period of time. And if you were to go there today it would look nothing like it did at either of those times. Vegas is a non-stop changing town.
There was never anything too serious about the series, no life shattering world in danger type story. These were stories we'd grown used to and found comfort in when it came to mysteries and crime stories. They were stories that could be handled by a private eye and a few friends instead of the entire police force or military. Better than anything else is they were entertaining. It was the right combination of action, adventure, mystery and humor and it kept us coming back week after week but only for those three short years.
If you were a fan of the show you'll be glad to find this box set available. The entire series, including the pilot which I was told was not available in the separate first season box, is on hand and for less than $50. So if this was one you loved then make sure you pick up this set, you'll be happy to find it fits easily on your shelf.