Vega$

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Vega$
The pilot intro of Vega$
Created by Michael Mann
Starring Robert Urich
Phyllis Davis
Bart Braverman
Tony Curtis
Naomi Stevens
Judy Landers
Greg Morris
Composer(s) John Beal
Dominic Frontiere
Artie Kane
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 69 (List of episodes)
Production
Producer(s) Douglas S. Cramer
Aaron Spelling
E. Duke Vincent
Running time 55 Minutes
Production company(s) Aaron Spelling Productions
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Audio format Monaural
Original run April 25, 1978 (1978-04-25)  – June 10, 1981 (1981-06-10)

Vega$ is an American detective television drama series that aired on ABC from 1978 until 1981. It was produced by Aaron Spelling. The series (with the exception of special episodes filmed in Hawaii and San Francisco) was filmed in its entirety in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is believed to be the first television series produced entirely in Las Vegas.

The show stars Robert Urich as private detective Dan Tanna, who drove around the streets of Las Vegas in a red 1957 Ford Thunderbird [1] solving crimes and making Las Vegas a better place for residents and tourists alike.

Plot[edit]

Dan Tanna is a detective available for private hire. One of his chief clients was Phillip Roth (Tony Curtis), aka Slick, the owner of multiple hotel casinos including the Maxim Hotel and Desert Inn Hotel & Country Club, in Las Vegas. Tanna was always called in when something was awry at the hotel. Many times this involved the criminal element, though he was sometimes brought in to investigate the absurd. One example included a nun who claimed to own the land on which the Desert Inn stood, when she was bequeathed an old deed from a prospector who died. (To further complicate matters, she initially wanted to turn the hotel into a convent.)

Tanna lived on the Las Vegas Strip next to Circus Circus Hotel/Casino, in the theatrical props warehouse owned by the Desert Inn Hotel and Country Club, which he converted into his living place. The design of Tanna's pad (long before the popularity of loft space) allowed him to park his T-bird in his living room. Tanna also used gadgets that were very high-tech for the time (but are pretty commonplace today), such as a car-phone and an answering machine (that physically picked the phone up off the hook and the receiver spoke directly into the microphone of a tape recorder). This warehouse in reality no longer exists, as it was replaced by a shopping center which included an Arby's and a museum; which in turn has been replaced with a new high-rise condominium tower.

For most of the series Tanna's choice of weapon was a Dan Wesson Firearms .357 magnum that he didn't like to use, but would if the situation deemed necessary. During the first season Tanna carried a Smith & Wesson Model 28 .357 magnum. Most often Tanna would use more non-lethal means, such as his fists.

Tanna often did battle with many of the various criminal element that would threaten the desert oasis. Some villains he faced include a psychopath who thought he was Wayne Newton (and subsequently Newton was impersonating him), as well as a mafia boss named Martin Gleaver (Tom Simcox) who blackmailed a magic sisters act with photographs of "all the sick/weird things they used to do" referring to when they used to host risque Hollywood parties.

Tanna was a veteran of the Vietnam War. This was illustrated through flashbacks in various episodes. It is curious, however, that during these flashbacks, he was participating in ground combat. In the first season episode "Kill Dan Tanna", Tanna is addressed by his former commanding officer Captain North (Richard Lynch), a former member of 5th Special Forces Group, as lieutenant. In a later episode, where he gets mixed up with a case involving a defector from the Soviet Union, he shows up at Nellis Air Force Base in his old United States Air Force uniform. (The Air Force was rarely, but occasionally, involved in direct ground combat during Vietnam.) He is also referred to as "Captain Tanna", indicating that he was an officer. He served with his best friends Harlon Two-Leaf (Will Sampson), the chief of a local Native American tribe, and Mitch Costigan (Chick Venerra), a Vegas lounge singer. In the second season episode "Casualty of War", Costigan mentions that he served in 93rd Rangers (a fictional United States Army Rangers unit) and in a Vietnam flashback scene he is wearing an United States Army uniform with the 101st Airborne Division patch on it. Though the 93rd Rangers is fictional the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War did have Ranger-Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol units. Also shown in that episode is a picture of Tanna, Costigan, and Two-Leaf taken in Vietnam, all are wearing tiger-stripe camouflage uniforms and black berets- which was the common but unofficial headgear of Ranger units in Vietnam. Two-Leaf and Costigan would occasionally join Tanna in investigating various mysteries.

Episodes[edit]

Supporting cast[edit]

Phyllis Davis played Beatrice Travis, Tanna's assistant, who is a single mom and a former showgirl. There is evidence that she was married before, but her husband had died. Although she and Tanna made a dashing couple, their relationship seemed to be purely platonic. Greg Morris played Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lt. David Nelson. Nelson was a no-nonsense cop who often had Tanna's back (and he, his). While Nelson was never one to breach protocol, he often secretly assisted Tanna in cases Metro Police couldn't officially touch. Actress Naomi Stevens played police sergeant Bella Archer, who also assisted Tanna and Nelson. Bart Braverman played "Binzer," a college student who did Dan Tanna's leg work and usually provided comic relief. In the beginning of the series, Binzer was a petty thief who fled to Vegas to escape his former partners in crime from back east, as described in one episode, where his real name is revealed to be Robert Borso. Tanna seemed to have taken him under his wing and used his knowledge and connections of the street. Judy Landers played Dan Tanna's other assistant, Angie, who was also a showgirl, but unlike the savvy Beatrice was usually an airhead and would get things screwed up. She appeared only during the first season. Despite being initially billed as a co-star, Tony Curtis appeared infrequently during the first season, and only made a few appearances in subsequent years.

Guest stars[edit]

The series featured numerous performances and cameos by notable guest stars including: Muhammad Ali, Morey Amsterdam, Eve Arden, Kim Basinger, Demi Moore, Barbi Benton, Shelley Berman, Savannah Smith Boucher, Dick Butkus, Captain & Tennille, Kim Cattrall, Sid Caesar, Michael Cole Shelley Fabares, Lola Falana, Erin Gray, Lorne Greene, Melanie Griffith, Lisa Hartman, Jack Kelly, Kurt Krakowian, June Lockhart, Gary Lockwood, Robert Loggia, Randolph Mantooth, Dean Martin, Maureen McCormick, Heather Menzies (Urich's real-life wife), Wayne Newton, Leslie Nielsen, Eleanor Parker, Slim Pickens, Pernell Roberts, Tanya Roberts, Cesar Romero, Isabel Sanford, Doc Severinsen, Alex Trebek, Mamie Van Doren, Abe Vigoda, Rudolph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone, Shelley Winters, and Wolfman Jack.

Crossovers[edit]

In the Season 3 premiere of Charlie's Angels titled "Angels in Vegas", Robert Urich does a cameo as his Vega$ character Dan Tanna at the end of the episode. This episode aired the week before the Vega$ series premiere.

Syndication[edit]

Vega$ was one of the first shows to air in off-network syndication on the FX Network when it began in 1994 but has not aired in the U.S. in over a decade. FX ceased airing episodes around 2000.

DVD releases[edit]

CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) has released all 3 seasons of Vega$ on DVD in Region 1.

In Region 4, Madman Entertainment has released the first season on DVD in Australia.

DVD Name Ep # Release Dates
Region 1 Region 4
The First Season, Volume 1 11 October 20, 2009 July 14, 2010
The First Season, Volume 2 12 February 9, 2010 September 27, 2010
The Second Season, Volume 1 11 December 7, 2010 TBA
The Second Season, Volume 2 11 March 29, 2011 TBA
The Third and Final Season, Volume 1 11 May 8, 2012 TBA
The Third and Final Season, Volume 2 12 August 14, 2012 TBA

See also[edit]

  • Las Vegas – another TV show with Las Vegas as setting
  • Vegas – 2012 TV show with Las Vegas as setting

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dan Tanna's '57 T-Bird, TV Acres.com Retrieved on 5 April 2014

External links[edit]