Where to find Vegas on your TV, Dec. 6-12
IN THE SPOTLIGHT:
Ocean’s Eleven (Rat Pack Original) (Dec. 12 @ noon on TCM): You can certainly make the argument that this one — the original 1960 Rat Pack-starrer, not the Clooney/Pitt remake — is the ultimate Vegas flick. After all, it’s Sinatra, Dino, Sammy, Joey and Lawford. And it’s the Sahara, the Riviera, the Desert Inn, the Sands and the Flamingo. And it’s the Vegas legend, in which the all-night carousing and performing was followed by filming the following day. It even has all the political incorrectness of its day (brace for the blackface joke). It was the nonstop party that reflected the nonstop party town. It’s Vegas, baby.
Midnight Run (Dec. 10 @ 1:40 a.m. on MAX): Co-stars Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin and Las Vegas split the laughs in this 1988 odd couple-buddy action comedy that bubbles from the unlikely but very real chemistry between bounty hunter De Niro and mob-embezzling accountant Grodin. Revel in several scenes featuring totems of Classic Vegas, including the Blue Angel Motel (and Betty Willis’ iconic signage) and the Aladdin Hotel; catch the camera finding the signs for the Stardust and the Dunes; and wander the cavernous environs of McCarran International Airport, where the departure terminals and ticketing lobby host some of the action. Oh, and anytime you see the famously grizzled face of Dennis Farina, you know you’re in Vegas — the late actor filmed all his scenes here, as he was headquartered in Vegas while shooting the TV series Crime Story at the time.
Harry and Tonto (Dec. 11 @ 7 p.m. on TCM): Should we be proud that Art Carney won an Academy Award for a movie in which his character urinates on the Plaza Hotel wall and gets tossed in the Vegas pokey? Small price to pay for movie gold, and this sentimental 1974 road movie about an elderly man, his beloved cat (Tonto), his relationship with his kids (including one played by Larry “JR” Hagman) and a Vegas, um, lady of the night (Barbara Rhoades) is worth it. Enjoy the glimpses of Downtown’s Golden Gate and Las Vegas Club along the way.
Ridiculous Cakes: It’s Vegas, Baby (Dec. 12 @ 11:30 a.m. on Food Network): Exactly how ridiculous is Ridiculous? The episode is described thusly: “A cake artist needs more than luck to deliver a wedding cake worthy of the famed Vegas Strip. And a music-inspired cake and a penguin sculpted out of cake are made.” Of course, it’s ridiculous. It’s Vegas, baby!
BIG-SCREEN VEGAS THIS WEEK:
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Dec. 6 @ midnight, Dec. 9 @ 7:30 a.m. and Dec. 10 @ 4:45 a.m. on IFC): In this 2013 Strip-magicians-at-war comedy, marquee prestidigitators played by Steve Carrell and Steve Buscemi (and partially based on Siegfried & Roy) take on an aggressive, hipster challenger practicing a danger-brand of street magic, played by Jim Carrey (partly based on Criss Angel). MGM magic maven David Copperfield served as a film advisor and shared a few confidential secrets with the filmmakers —for which they had to sign secrecy contracts. Look for scenes shot at Bally’s Las Vegas, Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas, Fremont Street, Binion’s Gambling Hall and exterior shots up and down both the Strip and Downtown Las Vegas.
The Great White Hype (Dec. 6 @ 10:45 a.m. and Dec. 12 @ 2:30 a.m. on MAX): The MGM Grand gets a major promotional workout, albeit in a flick that reviewers and audiences were more inclined to think of as The Great White Tripe. This limp, 1996 wannabe sports-comedy stars Samuel L. Jackson (as a Don King caricature named Rev. Fred Sultan) and Damon Wayans (playing a boxer named James “The Grim Reaper” Roper). And it’s the MGM that plays host to the doofus boxing matches between characters played by Wayans and Peter Berg. Satirical points about racism miss their targets and hit the comedy canvas with a resounding thud, but some fun is to be had thanks to contributions from Jeff Goldblum as an anti-boxing crusader and Jon Lovitz as a PR toady.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (Dec. 6 @ 5 p.m. and Dec. 7 @ 1 p.m. on POP): 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 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.
Another Stakeout (Dec. 6 @ 9 p.m., Dec. 7 @ midnight, Dec. 9 @ 5:05 a.m. and 8:05 a.m., Dec. 11 @ 7: 55 a.m. on MAX channels): Vegas makes a few appearances — highlighted by some shots of the Plaza Hotel — in this underwhelming 1993 sequel to the original 1987 Stakeout. This time out, squabbling cops Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez are back on the gig, tracking Cathy Moriarty, the missing witness in the case of a (guess what?) Vegas mobster. Not that it (Heaven forbid!) trades in clichés or anything.
Very Bad Things (Dec. 6 @ 11:50 p.m. and Dec. 7 @ 2:50 a.m., 9:50 a.m. and 12:50 p.m. on Starz channels): Though we’d never claim the title of this pitch-black comedy as a marketing slogan, it’s an apt description of what develops in this vicious 1998 thriller that is more or less The Hangover in hell. A cast including Jon Favreau, Cameron Diaz, Christian Slater, Jeremy Piven, Daniel Stern and Jeanne Tripplehorn topline this tale — about a third of which was filmed here — in which a group of party-hearty pals invade Vegas for a bachelor party. However, when a prostitute is killed, bodies begin piling up and buddies turn on each other as a coverup escalates. But hey — we do get to enjoy scenes including the merriment on Fremont Street and the vistas of Red Rock Canyon.
Bugsy (Dec. 7 @ 2:40 p.m. and Dec. 11 @ 10:25 a.m. on EPIX): First, the minuses: You won’t see much of honest-to-goodness Las Vegas in director Barry Levinson’s 1991 gangster epic that purports to chronicle Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s rise in our town and his “creation” of the Flamingo hotel-casino. For one thing, it was mostly shot in California, where a full-scale, time-warp replica of the Flamingo was built near Palm Desert and La Quinta. And for another, the mob dynamo gets more credit than history allows by the film never mentioning William Wilkerson, who actually conceived of and built the resort, and owned nearly half of it (Siegel only got involved as it neared completion). We know — details, details. But Bugsy remains a triumphant piece of film-making, thanks largely to the towering lead performances of Warren Beatty as Siegel and Annette Benning as gal pal Virginia Hill. And Siegel’s embrace of Las Vegas (and checkered life) has helped fuel the mystique of Vegas to this day. An old expression applies here: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” And film it, too.
The Godfather (Dec. 8 @ 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Sundance) and The Godfather Part II (Dec. 8 @ noon and 8:30 p.m. on Sundance): C’mon, you remember this 1972 classic’s Vegas connection, don’cha? Ya know, when the Corleones in Part I muscle in on the territory of Bugsy Siegel-inspired Moe Green (Alex Rocco) — who is later shot through the eye (Bugsy-style!) but not before he accuses Corleone weak link Fredo (John Cazale) of, um, making love to (not exactly his phrasing) cocktail waitresses two at a time. It’s coming back to you, right? Yes, that’s the Tropicana hotel-casino featured in the original, with some interior scenes shot at the former Riviera. Catch glimpses of The Desert Inn in 1974’s Part II — and in a nod to the northern reaches of our state, stretches of Lake Tahoe smile for their closeup in the sequel.
Diamonds Are Forever (Dec. 8 @ 5 p.m. on EPIX): Vegas. Las Vegas. Where the martinis (shaken, not stirred) are endless, and so are the legs of Bond gals Jill St. John and Lana Wood. After exiting the series post-You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery made his return in this often campy 1971 caper about diamond smuggling, the villainous Ernst Stavro Blofeld, a slot machine-playing Q and gay assassins — most of it within our cozy neon confines. Pay particular attention to the two biggest casino co-stars, the Tropicana and Circus Circus. And that theme song by Bond musical stalwart Shirley Bassey is one of the series’ best.
Honeymoon in Vegas (Dec. 9 @ 10:30 p.m. and Dec. 10 @ 1:30 a.m. on STARZ): Nicky Cage is back (yes, if you add in Leaving Las Vegas and Con Air, he’s got a thing for us, since he lives here, at least some of the time). In this 1992 laugher, gambler/con man James Caan wins $65K from broke PI Cage, so fiancée Sarah Jessica Parker goes off with Caan to pay off the debt. Comic hilarity ensues when Parker falls for Caan and Cage must win his gal back.
Star Trek: Generations (Dec. 10 @ 9:45 a.m. and Dec. 11 @ 3:15 a.m. on IFC): Where did Almighty Capt. James Tiberius Kirk die? And where did Capt. Jean-Luc Picard bury him in some sort of space-time/sci-fi/don’t-ask-why plot twist? Just a couple hours from Vegas, baby! That’s our own way-off-Strip tourist hotspot, the Valley of Fire, portraying a rock in space called Veridian III, the M-Class, Beta Quadrant planet in this generation-bridging 1994 entry in the movie franchise. But 11 years later, William Shatner would turn up in Vegas Proper in 2005’s Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. Whether that counts as a resurrection is debatable.
Rush Hour 2 (Dec. 11 @ 3:30 p.m. on HBO2): 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.
Sgt. Bilko (Dec. 11 @ 9:35 p.m. and Dec. 12 @ 12:35 a.m., 7:45 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 3:55 p.m. and 6:55 p.m. on STARZ channels): This 1996 throwaway, with Steve Martin trying to step in for the legendary Phil Silvers in the sitcom role that is etched in TV history, features a scene shot at the Mirage. Perhaps you want to see it for that. Then again, perhaps not. A box-office bomb-e-roo, it also grabbed the award for “Worst Resurrection of a TV Show” at the 1996 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. YEESH!
VEGAS HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE:
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Dec. 6, 9, 10, 11, 12 @ 6 a.m. on USA; Dec. 9 @ 7 a.m. on OXYGN; and Dec. 12 @ 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on SYFY)
Flipping Vegas (Dec. 7 @ 7 a.m. -10 a.m. on A&E; Dec. 9 @ 1 p.m.-midnight and Dec 10 @ midnight-2 a.m. on FYI)
Top This Party: Las Vegas (Dec. 7 @ 10 a.m. on LRW)
Pawn Stars (Dec. 9 @ 7 a.m.- 3 p.m. on HISTW)
Friends: The One in Vegas (Part 1: Dec. 9 @ 11 p.m. and Part 2: Dec. 9 @ 11:35 p.m. on NICK)
Keeping Up with the Kardashians: What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas (Dec. 10 @ 5:30 a.m. on E!)
Monster Jam: All-Star Las Vegas Friday (Dec. 10 @ 9 p.m. on NBCSN)
Mecum Auto Auctions Muscle Cars & More: Las Vegas (Dec. 10 @ 10 p.m. on NBCSN)
Property Brothers: Vegas for Good (Dec. 11 @ 11 p.m. and Dec. 12 @ 2 a.m. on HGTV)
Boxing: Pacquiao vs. Thurman from Las Vegas (Dec. 12 @ 5 p.m. on FS1)
— Steve Bornfeld
All listings are subject to change, and are Pacific time. Also check for listed programs on streaming and on-demand services.