There are many series from the pre-streaming age that are worth a revisit, and Las Vegas is certainly up there with them. Had the offering from Gary Scott Thompson been released in the Breaking Bad era of the 2010s on a platform like Netflix, it may have also achieved classic status.

It may also have been helped by the online casino boom that occurred during the same period. Indeed, one could argue that the title set in the fictional Montecito Resort and Casino is an underrated classic in the crime genre, simply released at the wrong time.

A picture of Las Vegas

How Popular Was Las Vegas?

During its five-season run between 2003 and 2008, Las Vegas attracted an average of 10.25 million viewers. It should be noted that the ratings started high and gradually dropped off as the seasons went by.

The casino landscape has changed significantly since then, though, and it would be reasonable to assume that it would attract larger audiences in the modern age. This is thanks to the booming online casino industry, which gets bigger every year. Sites in the sector attract a diverse demographic by offering varied genres, with slots like The Wicked Dead and live games like Crazy Time.

This wide-ranging array of online casino titles means that a much broader collection of people play them nowadays. Back when Las Vegas was on television, these titles didn’t even exist. That highlights that the show was before its time and that it may have stood a better chance of achieving higher ratings if it was released now or in the late 2010s.

Still, despite preempting the online casino boom, Las Vegas was still relatively popular. The viewing figures for its first and second seasons put it in the top 30 of the Nielsen Ratings for the 18-49 age group. It hadn’t been expected to do this well upon its release and had to compete with shows like Monday Night Football and Joe Millionaire. Thanks to strong reviews that described the show as slick and fast-paced, it managed to find an audience and hold on to most of those viewers throughout its run.

What Was Las Vegas About?

One of the main draws for Las Vegas was James Caan in the lead role. The man who made his name as Sonny Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s mafia epic The Godfather in 1972 provided some serious star power and helped in the marketing process. Caan played Ed Deline, who began the series as the security chief for the Montecito. Later, he was promoted to president of operations.

Deline had a murky backstory as a former CIA counterintelligence agent which often came back to haunt him throughout the series. The character was layered, though, and was often depicted as a kind and caring family man who cared about the well-being of his employees.

Caan played the multifaceted character exceptionally well and reminded viewers of his tough streak at times when Deline was forced to use violence.

The other main character was Danny McCoy, who was played by Josh Duhamel. The 50-year-old actor is best known for his film roles nowadays, with one of his biggest parts coming in Transformers: The Last Knight in 2017. Las Vegas gave the actor his big break and got him the attention he needed to kickstart his career on the big screen.

McCoy was Deline’s apprentice in Las Vegas, and he was later promoted to head of security for the casino. McCoy was a former US marine, and the series often delves into the character’s checkered past. Indeed, by the end of season one he ended up getting recalled to the army and serving in Iraq. This allowed the series to explore other locations and storylines outside of the famous gambling hub.

Las Vegas followed an episodic format with self-contained stories each week. However, it did also include some overarching plotlines that spanned multiple episodes. This was the tradition of television in that era before the streaming age brought in a greater focus on plotlines that continued throughout entire seasons.

Some of the other notable stars from the series included Nikki Cox as Mary Connell, James Lesure as Mike Cannon, and Vanessa Marcil as Samantha Jane Marquez.

Did Las Vegas Pay Off in the End?

Unfortunately for fans of Las Vegas, it joined a long and ever-growing list of television series that have been cancelled before the writers had planned on ending them. The showrunners had drafted a concept for a sixth season but, ultimately, they had to stop after season five.

This was because of the declining ratings, and some of the show’s storylines were left unresolved. This was far from a satisfying end, and one that has made it impossible for Las Vegas to go down in history as one of the all-time great shows.

Luckily, viewers did get some closure from the final episode, with Deline moving to Europe with his wife. There was also McCoy and Marquez’s wedding. However, this all happened in a rushed and abrupt fashion and could have used a lot more pacing out in advance. If the series was to be remade for modern audiences, it would certainly need to address this weakness.

Las Vegas’s creator, Thompson, was well-known before Las Vegas for his work on the Fast and the Furious. However, since the cancellation of Las Vegas, he hasn’t done any film work. His next project is God’s Country, a television film on which he is serving as a writer and executive producer. Caan starred in numerous pictures and series after Las Vegas but unfortunately passed away in 2022 at the age of 82. He is set to star in the upcoming Fast Charlie, though, which will be released posthumously.

Las Vegas could be considered an underrated crime show classic, but one that never quite lived up to its potential. It was released a decade too soon and would have achieved greater success if it dropped during the online casino boom.