Winter TV

''Las Vegas'': Against All Odds

As NBC's prime-time soap celebrates its 100th episode, its creator shares some crazy tales from its longshot run of success, from not recognizing Molly Sims to shooting with Josh Duhamel and ''55,000 drunks'' to...nipple wars

Nikki Cox, James Caan, ... | LAS VEGAS A longshot pays off, with the series reaching episode 100
LAS VEGAS A longshot pays off, with the series reaching episode 100

Las Vegas has been the redheaded stepsister of NBC since its fall 2003 debut. Actually, ''I'll go further than that,'' says creator Gary Scott Thompson. ''We're the fat, ugly, bastard, redheaded stepsister. That season [we premiered], the acclaimed shows at NBC were Coupling, Whoopi, Happy Family, Lyon's Den, and Miss Match. We were the one that was not supposed to succeed. That underdog mentality brought the cast together. It became Screw them. We'll show them.''

And, for better or worse, they have. In honor of Las Vegas' 100th episode (Jan. 11, 10 p.m.), we asked Thompson to share a few of his fondest memories from the Montecito Resort & Casino. Sadly, he couldn't think of a Lara Flynn Boyle story that was printable (man, you gotta love her), and the only tidbit he shared about Nikki Cox was that her legendarily low-cut wardrobe wasn't necessarily his idea. ''She was very proud of her breasts,'' he says. ''I would be, too.''

''The Great Nipple War of the first season''
We should probably acknowledge that Thompson didn't lead with this little gem — but that we must. In the first season, the show got nailed by NBC's Standards and Practices when an actress appeared on screen with — how do we say this? — pointy nipples. ''They wanted me to cut the scene,'' Thompson says. ''I'm like, 'I can't cut the scene. It's attached to this scene — it's all one.' And then they told me I had to digitally take out nipples, and I'm like, 'That's five grand a nipple!' Then we got into an argument because I'm like, 'I just saw Friends and Jennifer Aniston's nipples were hard for the entire 30 minutes, and it's on at 8 o'clock. This is a 9 o'clock show, and it's two seconds' worth.''' The fall-out: the female cast members began asking Thompson if he could see their nipples through their clothing before the cameras rolled. ''I'm like, 'I'm not sure how to react to that. Do you want me to look? Are you accusing me of already having looked?''' Thompson reports having had one ''Nipple Controversy'' this season: ''We wanted to say nipple — as in, ''You can see his nipples'' — and they wouldn't let us. It's like, wait, The Office just said nipple 56 times. Their argument was, 'Well, that's a comedy.' It's called the standard for a reason — it's the standard.''

The casting of Molly Sims
Thompson saw 350 women for the role of Delinda Deline, but couldn't find the perfect person. ''The problem was [that] in the script, Josh Duhamel's character, Danny McCoy, says, 'She may actually be worth dying for.''' You'd think when a supermodel walked in, the decision would be simple, but it wasn't. ''Molly showed up in ripped-up jeans, no shoes, a camouflage T-shirt, no makeup, and had her hair back. I saw so many people that I didn't put Molly Sims together with Molly Sims the supermodel. She auditions well, and then proceeds to tell this story about how when she was 16 or something she got caught by her dad sneaking a boy into the house. That's the Delinda I'm looking for, but still, I was concerned about the hair and the makeup and why this girl didn't want to look glamorous. So I'm standing in my living room looking at all 350 tapes, nervous because the studio and network were like, Pick one now or we'll pick one for you, and I didn't really want the person they wanted. I'm watching her audition, and I'm going, 'Why isn't she wearing makeup? What's her problem?' And my wife happens to be walking by, and looks at the picture, and says, 'She's a supermodel, idiot.' What? I raced into my computer, pulled up Molly Sims and was like, 'Oh, THAT Molly Sims.' So I sent off an e-mail to NBC and attached her Sports Illustrated photo from that year where she's actually straddling a fence, and I added the caption, 'Hi Daddy' — which is what Delinda says in the [pilot] script when she's caught straddling Danny. NBC said, 'Great. Great. We finally have our Delinda.' Then like 45 minutes later, an e-mail came that said, 'Can she act?' And we replied, 'Do we care?'''

The education of Josh Duhamel
He may have had fans from his soap opera days, but according to Thompson, Josh Duhamel never got to see them. ''When he was in New York on All My Children, he was just convinced that Susan Lucci hated him, and so he spent every weekend rehearsing and rehearsing and rehearsing,'' Thompson says. ''I remember pulling him aside and saying, 'Hey dude, this is what's gonna happen. I just want you to be aware.' And sure enough, it happened on the first day of shooting in Las Vegas, which was St. Patrick's Day, by the way. Not a good day to start shooting in Las Vegas. We're down on Fremont Street, and we've got that cool Camaro, Josh, and 55,000 drunks. He's supposed to run across the street and jump in the car. The women want to jump on him; the men want to jump in the car and drive it.... Shooting in Vegas is nuts because everyone wants to be in your movie, and they will do anything — including laying down in front of cars or taking their clothes off. We had numerous women strip and say, 'Let me in your movie.'''

NEXT PAGE: Working with Tom Selleck, Jimmy Caan, and...Little Richard!

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