It’s really no great surprise that casinos have been used as a rich source of material for tv and film writers over the years. Gaming and gambling is a great way of creating tension, bringing characters together, or tearing them apart. Whilst a lot of these shows might be set in the more obvious gambling mecca of Las Vegas, that isn’t the only gaming place used to bring drama and/or comedy to the small screen. Here’s a list of some of the more memorable shows….
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Really, where else could we start but the grand daddy of procedural science based cop shows. After 15 seasons, the original CSI finally went off air last year, but as it was based in Las Vegas, had a myriad of stories over it’s run based in and around casinos. Of course, you don’t need to travel all the way to Vegas these days to play the slots. You can visit places like slots.info – hands-down the best website if you want to try out online slots for free, but that doesn’t give you the quite the same feeling as being in ‘Sin City’ itself. Despite the fact that Vegas is home to the ‘CSI Experience’ where you can go and test out your own CSI skills, almost all of the series was actually shot in Los Angeles. The same applies to CSI: New York and Miami, both of which were actually shot in LA.
When you have a show about a group of con-artists, it seems inevitable, the writers are going to include a number of stories set around casinos. In fact, just 2 episodes in, we saw a major plot line involving the loveable Albert (Robert Vaughn) being beaten up by a shady casino owner who catches him cheating at cards, which has the rest of the gang set up a con to teach the casino boss a lesson. Even they can’t resist the draw of Vegas though, and in season 4, we see the gang fly out to, once again, help Albert, as he’s, once again, been beaten up, this time by a Mafia boss… Albert really should stay out of casinos!
Star Trek: Deep Space 9
It’s not only Earth based shows that feature Casinos. One of the most prominent ‘off-world’ gambling establishments was of course Quarks, it the brilliant Star Trek: DS9. Based on the Deep Space 9 space station floating around the planet of Bajor, Quarks was a place for visitors and station residents to blow off some steam with drink, chat, and of course, gambling. In this case though, the game of choice is Dabo, a roulette wheel of sorts, with rings of various shapes around the edges. Depending on what shapes you bet on, and how the rings line up, you could stand to win (or lose) large amounts of gold pressed latinum. It’s popular for the owner of the Dabo establishment to employ ‘Dabo girls’ who were instructed to ‘distract’ the players into making bad bets and losing, hence the popular phrase “Watch the wheel, not the girl.”
How I Met Your Mother
Anyone familiar with the show How I Met Your Mother will know the Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) was never someone to shy away from a bet. Sometimes his gambles paid off, but sometimes, when he lost, the consequences could be dire, such as the infamous ‘Slap Bet’. This started in a season 2 episode, and was a bet which Barney lost, allowing Marshall 8 free slaps of Barney at a time of his choosing. Amazingly, they managed to keep that gag running right until the penultimate episode in the 9th season.
It’s during a trip to Atlantic City casino that Barney’s admits he had a gambling problem in the past, but had stopped when he realised. However, the gang need cash to pay a boat captain to marry Marshall and Lily, so he dives back in, and takes part in a seemingly indecipherable Chinese game called Xing Hai Shi Bu Xing… Marshall somehow catches on to the ‘rules’, and points out a way for Barney to triple his money (by finding the jellybean!) and they win enough to pay the captain!
Unlike a lot of the other shows on this list, which visited casinos for occasional episodes, Las Vegas was actually set inside one. Starring James Caan (star of the Godfather, and father to Scott Caan – Hawaii Five-O’s Danno), and Josh Duhamel (Battle Creek and the upcoming 11.22.63), the show followed the team at the fictional Montecito Resort & Casino. Along with showing the day to day workings of the casino, from landing ‘whales’ (big spenders), to catching cheats and crooks, the 2 main lead characters had backgrounds in the CIA and marines, which also managed to catch up with them…
Las Vegas was notable for it’s long list of guest stars and cameos throughout it’s 5 season run, from Jean-Claude Van Damme, to Dennis Hopper and even Sylvester Stallone! Sadly NBC cancelled the show leaving it on somewhat of a cliffhanger, but it’s still well worth picking up if you want to experience some of that Vegas magic!