By 1978 the television detective model had been nearly complete and possibly already a cliché. Dan Tanna might have well been the complete model as far as the formula goes. It was almost as if you could go down a checklist and, like Dr. Frankenstein creating a monster, check off the necessary elements. The scripts could then almost write themselves, and you let the show fly on autopilot for three seasons or so until someone decides to look behind the curtain.
So let’s go down that checklist, shall we?
Charismatic leading man? Robert Urich. Check.
Glitzy location? Vegas. Check.
Distinctive wheels? Vintage fire-red Thunderbird. Check.
Hot scantily-clad girls? Did I mention this was Vegas? Showgirls galore. Check.
Eccentric millionaire boss? (and well known star) Tony Curtis as Phillip Roth. Check.
Ex-con shady street informant? Binzer (Braverman). Check
Sexy secretary? Beatrice Travis, played by model Phyllis Davis. Check.
Inside police contact? Sergeant Archer, later Greg Morris as Lt. Nelson. Check.
Eccentric fat friend? Diamond Jim played by Victor Buono. Check.
Ethnic buddy? Indian Chief Two-Leaf. Check.
Do something cool with the title like replace an S with a $? Check.
Now you mix that checklist with a surly murder case each week where it seems at times that the detective is in over his head or about to get killed. Throw in some witty one-liners. Top it all off with some car chases and a few fisticuffs, and you have the 1970’s cop/detective series. Vega$ was the poster child for those kinds of shows. While it had all of the action and pieces of the formula going, it never really rose above the crop. Once the formula got old, the series was gone. This was an early series created by Michael Mann, who would go on to bring us such music video style shows like Miami Vice.
You get 11 episodes on 3 discs that include some of the following capers: Binzer has been hypnotized and turned into a killer in Lost Monday. It turns out that Binzer’s situation ties into a basketball point-shaving scheme that Dan’s investigating. Dan’s reminded of Vietnam when a war buddy visits. His wife is killed by a bomb that reminds both men of their days in Vietnam. The explosive episode is called Comeback. In The Golden-Gate Cop Killer, Dan heads to Sa Francisco on the trail of a cop killer who taunts his victims with a note that their death will be connected to a particular number. It’s a two-part episode that gives Dan a welcome change of scenery. Wolfman Jack and The Captain and Tennille guest star this season.
Each Vega$ episode is presented in its original television full-frame format. We’re talking about a 40-year-old television show, and your expectations should be adjusted accordingly. While colors are a bit soft, the picture itself is rather clean. The most notable standout is the rather generous level of grain, but this should never be considered a defect, but rather the result of the film’s stock and a legitimate part of the presentation. Print defects are minimal when you consider the age. Black levels are relatively weak but do not seriously take away from the experience.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track does what it needs to do, nothing less, nothing more. You get to hear the dialog and the energetic and jazzy theme perfectly, even if not in a more modern dynamic presentation. The show never sounded better and is not likely to at any time in the future.
Sadly, only “episode promos”.
This is the last of the second season. One more to go. This is much too small a helping of the high-flying action the show delivers. Of all of these half-season sets, this one I understand perhaps the least. I know, I’ve said it a hundred times, but Paramount is not listening. Hey guys, “I’m a professional, and you’re denying your family my expertise”.