1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS, 2000- ): Whether led by William Petersen, Laurence Fishburne or Ted Danson, the CSI-ers fascinate us with crime-solving that is both gross and engrossing. And we love it when they show up at a scene on Lake Mead Boulevard or Green Valley Parkway. Who cares if it’s actually Santa Clarita, Calif.?
2. Vega$ (ABC, 1978-81): Yes, it fetishized, romanticized and stereotyped us, but Robert Urich created one of TV’s best private dicks in Dan Tanna and Vega$ gave us enduring pop-culture cachet.
3. Crime Story (NBC, 1986-88): Could have been a template for the new Vegas. Ferocious cop Dennis Farina takes on Chicago mobster-turned-Vegas mobster Anthony Denison in the early 1960s. Gritty and great.
4. Las Vegas (NBC, 2003-2008): Paternal tough guys James Caan and Tom Selleck (in the final season). Eye candy Vanessa Marcil and Josh Duhamel. Sharp inside peek into a hotel-casino. Love Boat-ish parade of guest stars. (Tony Orlando to the rescue of a ruined leisure suit!) Good, trashy fun.
5. Lucky (FX, 2003): Unfairly short-lived—it ran only four months—Lucky starred John Corbett (Northern Exposure) as a $1 million poker tournament winner and gambling addict who goes broke. A dark, edgy comedy—Emmy-nominated for writing—it was a creative jackpot that crapped out in the ratings.
1. Dr. Vegas (CBS, 2004): Rob Lowe as an in-house doc at a high-end casino. One-month run. Deserved less.
2. The Defenders (CBS, 2010-2011): Lame legal comedy-drama starring James Belushi and Jerry O’Connell, based on real-life local lawyers Michael Cristalli and Marc Saggese. Seeking inspiration, perhaps producers should have made one call—that’s all—to Glen Lerner.
3. Blansky’s Beauties (ABC, 1977): Quippy, kvetchy Nancy Walker and glamorous showgals. A Happy Days spinoff. What went wrong? Maybe one of the girls should have been Pinky Tuscadero. Or Mrs. C.
4. Hearts Are Wild (CBS, 1992): No-star, two-month series set at Caesars Palace. Worst publicity for one of our most iconic hotels except for …
5. The Strip (ex-UPN, 1999): Sean Patrick Flanery and Guy Torry as hip-hop ex-cops troubleshooting at Caesars. Acting was surpassed only by the Forum Shops’ talking statues.