For three seasons, (1978 – 1981), Robert Urich starred as private detective Dan Tanna on Vega$. The new three-DVD set Vega$ – The Third Season, Volume Two features the final 11 episodes of the program. While the show was relatively popular in its day, that was over 30 years ago, so a brief refresher of the basic premise is probably in order.
As the title indicates, the series was set in Las Vegas. One of the more striking elements for me in watching these episodes is the fact that Sin City had not become the “theme park” it is today. Places like New York, New York, or the Luxor had not yet been built. So it is kind of fun to see such old Vegas landmarks such as Circus, Circus and the Golden Nugget.
As a private eye, Dan Tanna’s main client is Philip Roth (Tony Curtis), who owns a number of casinos. Although Tony Curtis was originally billed as Urich’s co-star in the first season of the series, his role was diminished greatly as the show progressed. Tanna worked fairly closely (unofficially) with the Las Vegas Police Department also. He was a colleague of sorts, especially with Lt. David Nelson, played by Greg Morris. Morris looks great, by the way, it seems like he hasn’t aged a day since his previous starring role in the Mission Impossible TV series.
In keeping with its location, Vega$ plots often revolved around crimes committed in the casinos. The first episode of this set is “Heist,” which flips the script a bit. After one of Roth’s casinos is held up, he asks Tanna to put together the “ultimate” team to rob another of his casinos. The idea is to figure out where the holes in his security are, and fix them.
Even though the guys Tanna gets together are each to be paid $25,000 for their services, there is no honor among thieves. Once they successfully pull off the heist, things become all too real as the crooks decide to keep the cash. Plenty of excitement ensues, but in the end, our hero saves the day.
Thanks in part to its on-location filming, Vega$ boasted a number of high profile guest stars. I guess if someone were actually playing in Vegas, it was easy enough to fit in an appearance on the show. Some of the guest stars in these final episodes include James MacArthur, Michael Cole, Harry Guardino, Cristina Ferrare, and Edd “Cookie” Byrnes, among others.
As far as I’m concerned, all 11 of these final Vega$ shows are very good. Since I had not seen the series since its original run, I am a little partial to “Heist,” for it has all the elements of what made the show so popular. Plenty of action, a somewhat unusual plot, plenty of location shots of a Las Vegas that no longer exists, and of course Dan Tanna’s awesome red 1957 Ford Thunderbird.
“Set Up” is a pretty interesting one, as it features Dan and his friend Lt. Nelson (Morris) going out on a double date. The date ends with Nelson being framed for two murders. This one features a very hot Sybil Danning, and the always reliable Richard Basehart as guest stars.
My favorite of the set has to be “Dead Ringer” though. First of all, how could you have a series set in Las Vegas at that time without an appearance from the one and only Wayne Newton? “Dead Ringer” revolves around a truly bizarre stalker situation for Newton. He receives a death threat in his own handwriting (!), telling him to leave the country, or else. The letter is from a mental case who believes himself to be Wayne Newton, and the real Newton to actually be an imposter.
The series ender is “Judgement Pronounced.” In another case of a “double” causing trouble, this time Dan Tanna is the victim. Guest star Alan Feinstein hires a double for Tanna, to execute his own brand of justice by killing men he holds grudges against.
The bonuses of the set are limited to episode promos, which are mildly intriguing. The picture quality is about average, not perfect, but not bad enough to be a major turn-off. Like so many of these old series, the main attraction of Vega$ is nostalgic. And on that level, it works quite well. While the program was never wildly popular, it was actually very well done. Dan Tanna often finds himself in some rather unusual situations, and I like the fact that he prefers to use his fists rather than his gun when going up against the bad guys.
All in all, Vega$ is as good, or maybe even better than I remember it. For fans of old TV, and of old Vegas for that matter, Vega$ – The Third Season, Volume Two is recommended.