with Paul Kay
Every city has its share of ups and downs, but few can match the mercurial nature of Las Vegas, where fortunes are won and lost on the roll of a die, turn of a card or spin of a wheel a hundred times a day. Such unpredictability, allied to the city's inescapable neon glitz, makes the 'entertainment capital of the world' an ideal setting for a television show, as fans of CSI will no doubt attest. But while Gil Grissom and his team are scouring the city's seedy underbelly for clues and getting their hands dirty in dumpsters, dark alleyways and putrid apartments, the characters of Las Vegas (TVB Pearl, Tuesday at 9.35pm) are occupied by far more glamorous concerns.
Set in the fictional Montecito Resort and Casino, this flashy comedy-drama follows the lives of the implausibly attractive security and hospitality staff as they try to rumble the con artists and charm the high-rollers. In this week's episode, the finale of the second season, the stakes are higher than usual as the Montecito is the subject of a buyout that threatens everyone's livelihoods on the same day as Las Vegas celebrates its centenary.
James Caan (The Godfather, Misery) stars as Ed Deline, an ex-CIA agent entrusted with running the casino and, in particular, keeping the celebrity clientele safe and the unscrupulous cheats nervous. Assisting him are ex-Marine Danny McCoy (Josh Duhamel; Win a Date with Tad Hamilton) and valet-turned-security-enforcer Mike Cannon (James Lesure), not to mention an impressive array of cutting-edge surveillance equipment, such as thermal-imaging cameras and face- recognition software.
While the boys keep the floor safe, the girls make sure everyone has a good time. Nikki Cox (Mary Connell) is the casino's elegant special events director who has to negotiate not only her workload but an on-off relationship with childhood sweetheart McCoy. The beautiful and sassy Sam Marquez (Vanessa Marcil; General Hospital), meanwhile, is the hostess charged with attracting Vegas' biggest spenders to the Montecito, while Delinda Deline (Molly Sims) is the deceptively intelligent Barbie doll who helps to keep the uber-rich guests in the comfort to which they are accustomed.
As well as the alluring cast and electronic wizardry of the casino's security system (complete with high-velocity zooms a la CSI), Las Vegas impresses with its succession of celebrity cameos, usually playing themselves.
This episode sees the always impeccably coiffed Jon Bon Jovi and American football great John Elway visit the hotel. The two stars, it seems, love to play practical jokes on each other and they provide hearty doses of comic relief. Soul legend Gladys Knight also guest stars, performing Midnight Train to Georgia at the centenary celebrations, before an ending that packs a punch.
Like the city from which it takes its name, Las Vegas is fun, glitzy, titillating and some way removed from real life, making it well worth a gamble as long as you don't take it too seriously.
Also reaching the end of its second season this week is The O.C. (TVB Pearl, Wednesday at 9.35pm), with the achingly hip residents of Newport Beach steeling themselves for the funeral of Caleb Nichol (Alan Dale). Things are also looking black for Trey Atwood (Logan Marshall-Green) after he is involved in a drug deal that goes horribly wrong, while his brother, Ryan (Ben McKenzie), learns the truth about what happened between him and Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton). Back at the funeral, meanwhile, Kirsten Cohen's (Kelly Rowan) alcoholic behaviour reaches its zenith, forcing her husband (Peter Gallagher) to stage an intervention. I haven't witnessed such gripping drama since they cancelled Button Moon.
It may be one of the most watched shows on the planet, but The O.C. is, at best, a poor man's Dawson's Creek and only marginally less melodramatic than American daytime soaps such as The Bold and the Beautiful. Completely lacking in verve, originality or charm, its enduring popularity surely points to some sort of hypnotic message included subliminally in the opening credits. Either that or the cast members have very large families. Don't believe the hype.
From chic to geek, as the technological advancements inspired by Star Trek are revealed in How Techies Changed the World with William Shatner (Discovery Channel, Monday and Tuesday at 9pm). The erstwhile Captain Kirk explores the history of the landmark sci-fi show and its spin-offs to explain the influence it had on scientists and inventors in the past 40 years, while former cast members also pop up to recount their memories of the show.
According to Shatner (below), mobile phones, personal computers and iPods are just some of the inventions spawned by Star Trek. And you thought it just turned grown men into sci-fi nerds.