Vegas on TV

October 22-28

The Cooler (Oct. 22, 1:05 a.m., Oct. 28, 1 p.m., HBOSG): Though set at a fictional casino just off Fremont Street (the Shangri La), this touching 2003 tale about a sad-sack loser (William H. Macy) whose mere presence brings bad luck to gamblers, and his romance with a waitress (Maria Bello) was primarily filmed in Reno. (The producer reportedly got a great deal to film and house the cast and crew at Reno’s Golden Phoenix Hotel.) Yet atmospherically, this one is Vegas-centric all the way, plus there are scattered aerial shots of Las Vegas. Oh, and for implosion fans, the demolitions of the Aladdin, Sands, Landmark and Dunes unspool over the closing credits.

Leaving Las Vegas (Oct. 22, 1:45 a.m., TMC): Downbeat but poignant — and featuring an Oscar-winning performance from Nicolas Cage — this 1995 drama finds Ben Sanderson (Cage), an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter, arriving in town for an intentionally fatal bender. Along his drunken path, he connects with Sera (Elisabeth Shue), a sympathetic prostitute, forming a sad but unique bond. Famously intense in his acting approach, Cage reportedly prepared for his role by filming himself drunk to study his inebriated speech patterns. Whether that constitutes method acting or a weird way to pick up bar hookups is up for debate.

Aerial Cities — Las Vegas 24 (Oct. 22, 6 a.m., SMITHSONIAN): Pop a Dramamine tab and hop aboard an aerial tour of our town, including our famed casinos, zip lines, Red Rock and 200,000 acres of protected wilderness. Vegas, take a well-deserved bow.

Rain Man (Oct.22, 6:30 p.m., Oct. 28, 7:40 a.m., SHO2W; Oct. 24, 5:45 p.m., SHO):  With the possible exception of employees of a certain department store chain that was famously dissed (“Kmart sucks!”), 1988’s Rain Man remains a universally popular comedy-drama road flick. Exceptional performances by Tom Cruise as a callow wheeler-dealer, and Dustin Hoffman as his autistic savant brother light up this gem. As the pair hit Vegas and win big at the blackjack table, look for scenes filmed at Caesars Palace, including the Emperor’s Suite in the Forum Tower, which is still known as “Rain Main Suite.” Other Caesars scenes include those filmed at men’s shopping store Cuzzens, and Cleopatra’s Salon. And for the record: We’re very fond of Kmart.

Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies (Oct. 23, 12:34 a.m., 12:04 p.m., SZENW): In this 1999 made-for-TV sequel, that deliciously wicked genie, Djinn, grants wishes to Vegas casino patrons in exchange for their souls. Hey, whatever gets you a win at the tables, right?

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation — Slaves of Las Vegas (Oct. 23, 6 a.m., USA): Ready to plunge into the Vegas underbelly? Well, it doesn’t get more underbelly than this episode, in which a woman’s body is found buried in a playground sandbox, which somehow leads Grissom (William Petersen) and Catherine (Marg Helgenberger) into the world of sadomasochistic sex. They’ll figure it out. They’re whip-smart.

Lucky You (Oct. 23, 7:40 a.m., HBOSG): Aspiring lounge warbler (Drew Barrymore) meets poker stud (Eric Bana) with a problematic relationship with his World Series of Poker-winning papa (Robert Duvall) in this 2007 drama, in which Robert Downey Jr., Debra Messing and a slew of poker pros also pop up. Where was it filmed here? Where wasn’t it? A sampling: Dino’s Lounge, the Bellagio fountains, Binion’s Horseshoe, the Jockey Club, Summerlin’s Bear’s Best Golf Club, Tiffany’s Cafe inside the White Cross Drugs and the then-under-construction Cosmopolitan. Oh — and the Silverton Casino Lodge’s 117,000-gallon aquatic tank. That’s where Messing spent 16 hours filming a scene dressed as a mermaid — for a scene that was cut. No wonder she went back to Will & Grace.

Futurama: Viva Mars Vegas (Oct. 23, 8:30 a.m., COMEDY): Animated satire sets its futuristic sights on Las Vegas — on Mars, of course. Among the visual Vegas riffs: a shrimp buffet, a white tiger, a jacuzzi, acrobats and a suit made entirely out of cash. In this episode, the crew attempts a casino heist to recover stolen goods. Isn’t it nice to know that even in the 31st century, the central plot point from Ocean’s 11 still survives?

Vegas Rat Rods (Oct. 23, 3-9 p.m., Oct 24, 1 a.m., DSC): Think of this as a “Rat” infestation — those “rats” being Steve Darnell and his “band of oddballs and misfits” who are also more charitably described as “the Picassos of automotive fabricators.” What happens during these Rat marathons? Well … Oh, heck — just pick an episode. Any episode.

The Hangover (Oct. 23, 8 p.m., Oct. 26, 10:05 p.m., MAX): Cinematically speaking, our city is still hung over from The Hangover, the raucous 2009 comedy about a missing groom and a bachelor party gone off the rails that is a veritable Vegas smorgasbord. Bradley Cooper, Zack Galifanakis and Heather Graham (as a stripper/escort, of course) topline this Vegas joyride that gives us such sights as a tiger in a bathroom, a chicken in a living room, a baby in a closet, a mattress impaled on a Caesars Palace statue and a naked man in the trunk of a Mercedes. … Oh, and Mike Tyson.

Fright Night (Oct. 24, 11:29 a.m., SYFY)This 2011 remake of the 1985 comedy-horror flick does use Vegas for its plot: A teen (Anton Yelchin) from a Vegas suburb realizes his neighbor (Colin Farrell) is a vampire and enlists a local magician (David Tennant) to rid the world of the bloodsucker before he sucks Vegas dry. And it was all filmed in … New Mexico.  Yes, there’s the Hard Rock Hotel-Casino — wrongly placed on the Strip in the flick, and actually lensed at a New Mexico Hard Rock. However, if you’re not from Vegas or are not a regular visitor, you won’t know the difference. Hey, it’s Vegas, baby — even if it’s not!

Rush Hour 2 (Oct. 24, 3:45 p.m., Oct. 27, 6:10 a.m., MOMAX): Cop cutups Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker somehow wind up in our town (don’t ask how) at the “Red Dragon” hotel-casino to solve a counterfeit money laundering scam in this 2001 martial arts laugher-sequel. Guess who played the Red Dragon? The now-defunct Desert Inn, which had already closed before filming began, but was all dressed up in a Chinese-palace theme.

Friends: The One in Vegas (Oct. 24, 10 p.m., NIK): In the opener of this two-parter, the gang goes to Vegas to visit Joey, while Chandler and Monica celebrate their first anniversary as a couple and literally roll the dice on whether to get married. Quippy one-liners spew out like the Bellagio fountains. Now everybody sing: “So no one told you life was gonna be this way …”

Hot Shots! (Oct. 25, 11:30 a.m., IFC): As a fond remembrance, keep an eye out for fleeting glimpses of the late, much-loved Dunes Hotel (may it rest in peace) in this 1991 Top Gun spoof. A pre-“tiger blood”-ed Charlie Sheen stars, along with Carl Elwes, Valeria Golino, Lloyd Bridges and Sheen’s future Two and a Half Men cohort, Jon Cryer.

Flipping Vegas (Oct. 25, 2 p.m., FYI, Oct. 27, 7-9 a.m., A&E): In the FYI episode (repeated on A&E), catch Scott Yancey and his Flipped-out crew try to deal with an odor issue in a house that was formerly a kennel. And on another A&E installment, Scott contends with a home that was “abused” by tenants. Subtitle: “Renters From Hell.” All those late-night parties featuring that punk-rock band, Beelzebub and the Fallen Angels, must have taken their toll.

Independence Day (Oct. 26, 12:37 a.m., 11:48 a.m., STRZ): “Kick the tires and light the fires, Big Daddy!” — so sayeth Harry Connick Jr.’s hotshot pilot, who winds up as sky-high roadkill in this campy 1996 defend-the-planet blockbuster, which features scenes set in our own Area 51. Here’s some trivial trivia on that: In the briefing room scene, a night vision pan shot of the base is an actual photo taken by a conspiracy theorist at “Freedom Ridge,” an area no longer accessible to the public. Why? … The truth is out there. (Oh wait, that’s from some other paranoid alien-conspiracy show, isn’t it?)

Breakdown (Oct. 26, 5 a.m., Oct. 28, 1:45 a.m., FLIXW): In this seriously intense 1997 thriller, Kurt Russell searches for his wife who was abducted in our spooky Western desert environs by even spookier trucker baddie J.T. Walsh and his villainous cronies. Look for scenes filmed across the Nevada desert landscape, including at Nelson’s Landing. And cheer on Russell in a strong performance as a man whose desperation memorably ratchets up with every scene. 

Damnation Alley (Oct. 26, 10:25 a.m. FXM): Fun, fun, fun (well, not really) with Vegas casinos partially buried in sand in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust in this 1997 doomsday thriller. Jan-Michael Vincent, George Peppard, Paul Winfield and Jackie Earle Haley star — alongside killer cockroaches. And no, that isn’t the name of a band playing in one of the lounges.

Drag Racing: Live Las Vegas (Oct. 26, 3 p.m., Oct. 27, 5 a.m., Oct. 28, 8 a.m., FS1): Those speed demons need a lot of room to vroom, and that’s why they’re at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 

The Hangover Part III (Oct. 27, 1 p.m., TBS): All hail the return of the Wolfpack in this 2013 trilogy-ender in which the gang (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha) try to get off-his-meds Zack Galifianakis back on track with a road trip to You-Know-Where. Bring on the mayhem, dudes.

Ray Donovan — Las Vegas (Oct. 27, 4 p.m., SHO): One of TV’s grittiest (and most melancholy) dramas comes to town in a flashback episode about Ray (Liev Schrieber) and Abby (Paula Malcomson) celebrating their 21st anniversary here in town. By the way, as has been all over the news, the title character was reportedly the role model of the President’s ex-lawyer. Fact. Fiction. Take your pick.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (Oct. 28, 3:30 a.m., TBS): Oh behave! Well, that’s no fun when you’re vacationing in Vegas, is it? But Mike Myers’ orthodontically-challenged spy is all over our town in an absurdist 1997 comic stew that takes us on a local tour of spots including the Stardust, the Riviera, the Imperial Palace (now the Linq) and even good ol’ Burt Bacharach, doing his swingin’ cat thing on a double-decker rollin’ down the Strip.


Bar Rescue — Down and Out in Las Vegas (Oct. 28, 2 p.m., SPIKE): Sept. 29, 9 a.m., PARAMOUNT): No one is EVER down and out in Las Vegas. That being said, this episode focuses on a longtime bar owner who spends less time serving drinks than he does guzzling them. Not exactly a world-class business model.

Godzilla (Oct. 28, 3:30 p.m., TBS): What did we ever do to tick off Hollywood? In this 2014 reinvention of the monster classic, we get stomped by an eight-legged creature called a MUTO (“Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism”). Hey Hollywood, go pick on someone else — Washington, D.C. perhaps. They haven’t had a good movie wipeout since Independence Day. (And goodness knows, they deserve it.)

 — Steve Bornfeld

Dates, times and channels provided by All times are Pacific, check your local listings for your time zone and channel guide.


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