'Vegas' odds and ends


No Exit: Memo to "Vegas" characters -- buy extra insurance

Character departures, "Las Vegas" style, are as colorful as Sin City itself. Consider the following ways the show has dispensed with its heroes and villains:

* Ed Deline (James Caan) and Mary Connell (Nikki Cox): Both the Montecito Resort & Casino president of operations (Caan) and special events director (Cox) went into hiding -- Deline because he was accused of killing Connell's father.

* Jean-Claude Van Damme (as himself) died while attempting a motorcycle jump for a movie he was filming in town.

* Gold-digging Montecito owner Monica Mancuso (Lara Flynn Boyle) was blown off the roof of the casino by a strong gust of wind and died after crashing into a shoe store below.

* Casey Manning (Dean Cain), another former Montecito owner, was both poisoned by botulism and then roughed up by a giant squid while on a fishing trip.

On Location: Does what's portrayed about Vegas stay in Vegas?

"Las Vegas" characters are involved in all manner of shady dealings -- including cheating and murder. Fortunately, the real-life city isn't worried about any possible negative portrayals. "It's almost like a free commercial for Las Vegas," says Ed Harran, production manager for the Nevada Film Office.

His only complaint is that the show only films a fraction of each season in his home state.

"If you're a Nevadan, when you see the show you know there's no trees like that over here. Sometimes they shoot exteriors and you can tell it's California," he says. But when the show is in town, "It has a good impact on our economy," because of the use of local crews and equipment.

"It's also a good impact on tourism," he adds. "They had an episode where they featured some guys at a bachelor party driving on a bus to a topless donut shop. And we got, I think, 50 phone calls over the next week, all from out-of-town guys asking where they could find that donut shop."   

Home Game: When it comes to DVDs, the sales are respectable, while the content skirts the edge

"Las Vegas" (NBC) Seasons in the Sun: 4. Ka-ching? Currently, DVD sales for all seasons combined have been around 500,000 in North America, according to Lea Porteneuve, vp publicity for Universal Studios Home Entertainment. That's "a number we're really happy with," she says.

The Bottom Line: From the outset, NBC Universal and the creators of "Las Vegas" have considered the series' addictive DVD sets as some of the best advertising for the show itself. In a few ways, the DVDs offer less than the telecast -- some of the original music is missing, for example. (Music supervisor Jennifer Pyken oversees the replacement cuts, though, "So that I know the music stays in sync with what we want.") But in other ways, the DVDs offer more -- the "uncut and uncensored" first season ups the amount of bare flesh in the poolside scenes.

Global Bet: The instant recognition of Las Vegas doesn't guarantee international sucess for its namesake show.

It's fair to say that, other than Los Angeles and New York, Las Vegas is one of the few American cities with an instantly recognizable image around the world. But as for NBC's "Las Vegas" -- which currently airs in approximately 165 countries in addition to the U.S. -- the picture is mixed.

It's been a hot ticket in Australia for the past four seasons on Seven Net, where it garners a 20% share in the 18-49 demos in a competitive time slot. But while in countries like France and Spain it outpaces other American dramas like "Nip/Tuck" and "Law & Order," Germany's Kabel Eins has had less luck -- and had to shift its time slot recently.

"We had hoped it would do better because it's a terrific show, and it's getting 2%-3% audience share in the new time slot, but unfortunately it didn't take off the way we thought it would," said a Kabel Eins spokesperson.

She added, "Maybe it's too American for the Germans."