Pilot on Fast, Furious Path

Apr 21, 2003  •  Post A Comment

All eyes are on Las Vegas.
At least that’s what NBC and screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson are hoping.
NBC has been looking to launch a show set in Vegas for the past few seasons. Mr. Thompson, whose feature credits include The Fast and the Furious, is the writer-executive producer behind the surveillance-themed Las Vegas pilot, on which NBC finally may roll the dice.
“We’ve made a couple of attempts,” said Karey Burke, executive VP of development for NBC. “None of them felt special enough. Gary came along and painted this picture of what life is really like there and it was just infectious. We really needed somebody who understood the sex appeal and wish fulfillment of that city.”
“Surveillance is everywhere in Vegas,” Mr. Thompson said. “They are the eyes and ears of Vegas and can see and hear everything. People don’t realize how many cameras there are in hotels and casinos. It allows us to go anywhere and do anything because from the point of view of the surveillance room you can see everything and be there instantaneously to whatever scene you want.”
James Caan stars as the head of security and surveillance of a multibillion-dollar hotel corporation, while Josh Duhamel (best known for playing Leo on All My Children) plays his protege. The large ensemble cast also stars Cheryl Ladd as Mr. Caan’s wife, Nikki Cox as an escort, Vanessa Marcil as a casino host, Marsha Thomason as a pit boss and model Molly Sims as Mr. Caan’s daughter.
The series will balance the lives of the locals who live and work in Vegas with the stories of people who visit the 127,000 hotel rooms available in the city. While the show was in development, the original audience target was a slightly younger 18 to 34 demographic than NBC’s key demo of 18 to 49, Ms. Burke said. But the addition of Mr. Caan to the cast ended up broadening the appeal of the show. The show could air in an 8 p.m., a 9 p.m. or a 10 p.m. time slot, Ms. Burke said.
The pilot, which was produced by NBC Studios and DreamWorks, was filmed entirely in Las Vegas over 15 days last month, with the majority of it shot at popular places such as Mandalay Bay, The Palms, outside on the Strip and on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. Only two days were filmed on a soundstage built in a vacant warehouse, where crew members built a surveillance room based on several they had seen at hotels.
“We wanted it to be real,” Ms. Burke said. “We wanted it to be authentic and not feel like a back lot somewhere and two days in a casino. The way Gary constructed the story was from the real insider’s point of view of Vegas, and there’s no way to fake that.”
The pilot cost more to shoot than an average episode of an hour-long drama because it was done entirely on location in Vegas. Ms. Burke said if the show gets picked up, the entire series could be shot in Vegas. However, it’s more likely that it would only be partially shot in Vegas because of the higher costs of shooting there.
Not to mention the unpredictability of filming in Vegas.
“Our first night there we shot on Fremont Street on St. Patrick’s Day with 50,000 drunks who kept getting drunker by the minute,” Mr. Thompson said. “25,000 of them actually knew our lead Josh Duhamel’s character’s name from All My Children and were screaming, `Leo, why did they kill you? Leo! Leo!’ The other 25,000 loved the car he was in and wanted to touch it. That night I went, OK, it’s all cake from here. It can’t get worse than that.”
That’s before Mr. Thompson realized the production was being shot in Vegas with Spring Break and the Final Four happening at the same time. One night the crew was shooting outside in the valet area of Mandalay Bay overnight, which was supposed to be a quiet time. That is until all the inebriated Spring Breakers starting heading back to the hotel and wanted to be in the TV show. “Most of them laid down on the ground and said, `I’m not moving until you put me in your show,’ which was funny but starts to cost you a little money while you’re waiting for them to get up,” Mr. Thompson said.
The next morning, Mr. Thompson had to deal with hundreds of angry hotel guests waiting in a huge line for taxis to the airport while the production was still shooting. Part of the shot included a line of taxis, which ticked off hotel guests who didn’t understand they weren’t real taxis and had actors behind the wheel. “There’s so much going on in Vegas that they weren’t paying attention enough to see that we were shooting [a TV show],” Mr. Thompson said.
The production, however, did have three or four real limos and drivers on hand. “We just loaded up our limos and took people to the airport,” he said. “They were getting really mad, and because the hotel had been so good to us we just said, let us do you a favor here and try to help you out.”