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Party starts again with new season of 'Vegas'

(Posted September 12, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

It's a drama that dares to be different. It doesn't strive to be profound or gritty or even particularly edgy. "Las Vegas," the high-octane NBC series that opens its third season September 19, is not a show chasing a Peabody award or Humanitas laurel.

Like its namesake town, the focus in the series is squarely on good times and good-looking people in tight clothes -- a contemporary cross between the milieus of Stephen J. Cannell and Aaron Spelling.

Gary Scott Thompson, creator/executive producer of "Las Vegas," says the overriding principle of the series that revolves around the security brass at a top casino is to provide viewers with a little escapist, whiz-bang fun.

"We are constantly reminding ourselves that this is Vegas -- it's supposed to be fun. I read about child kidnapping and rape and other horrible stuff in the paper every day. It's not why I watch TV," Thompson says. "In Las Vegas, the party always goes on. Even if something bad happens to one person, another guy a table over has just won $1 million."

"Vegas" has been something of an unsung hero for NBC amid all the attention paid to the network's primetime woes in the past year. The show, starring James Caan and Josh Duhamel, had the benefit of a strong launching pad in the post-"Fear Factor" 9 p.m. Monday slot in its freshman year in the 2003-04 season.

But even as "Fear Factor's" numbers cooled off last season, "Vegas" hung tough, particularly among coveted young-male demos, despite formidable competition in the hour from CBS' "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Two and a Half Men" and ABC's "Monday Night Football."

Thompson says that the stars aligned for him and NBC, with "Vegas" debuting just as the city was launching the campaign to revive its image as Sin City after years of trying to sell itself as a family-friendly vacation spot.

Thompson hit the jackpot on his first time out in TV after years of "living off development" in the feature world, where he scored his first major success with 2001's "The Fast and the Furious." He had never run a TV series before "Vegas," but with the able assistance of fellow exec producer Gardner Stern, an alumnus of "NYPD Blue" and "Law & Order," Thompson proved to "be one of those people who turned into a great showrunner very quickly," says Angela Bromstad, president of NBC Universal TV Studio, which produces the show with DreamWorks TV.

The big news for Season 3 of "Vegas" is the show's refurbished digs -- a vastly expanded, three-story casino set on the Culver Studios lot that could easily function as the real thing -- and some comely new additions to the cast: Lara Flynn Boyle, who plays the casino's flamboyant new owner, and Rachael Leigh Cook, a love interest for Duhamel's character.

And Thompson already is eagerly awaiting Season 4, when NBC will have a swell promotional base for the guy-friendly show when NFL football telecasts return to its Sunday night schedule in fall 2006.

"We know that millions of guys right now watch 'Monday Night Football' and TiVo 'Las Vegas,"' Thompson says. Come next season, "I defy any guy to see these casino waitress costumes on a Sunday promo and not come back Monday to see the show."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Source: Yahoo! News

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