Viva Laughlin

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Viva Laughlin TV Poster Image
Casino-set musical drama is an iffy gamble.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Ripley is in search of the American dream, but isn't willing to sacrifice his family or his marriage for it. His business involves some shady characters who engage in gangster-like behavior. Most of the main cast members are Caucasian; Marcus is African-American. People of various ethnic and racial backgrounds are visible on the casino floor.


Lots of references to gangster-like activity. A man is found shot to death. Blood visible, but no guns. Ripley threatens his daughter's boyfriend.


Hugging, kissing. and sexual innuendo. Bunny wears negligees, and women in skimpy attire are frequently visible on the casino floor and during some musical numbers. Many references to extramarital relationships.


Relatively mild, including "hell" and "damn."


Various Las Vegas landmarks are visible. Lots of flashy cars, including makes like Mercedes Benz and BMW. Natalie drives a Chevy Avalanche. Songs performed on the show range from traditional Vegas tunes like "Viva Las Vegas" to various pop songs by artists like Debbie Harry.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent consumption of hard alcohol, cigarettes, and cigars.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this mediocre musical drama -- which revolves around a fast-talking man who's trying to achieve the American dream by opening up a casino -- has some strong sexual innuendo. Because of the casino setting, material wealth is frequently on display, as well as behavior commonly associated with the Las Vegas nightlife, including gambling, drinking, and smoking. Even though the main character is a good husband and father, his work connects him to some gangster-like people, and there's some crime-related violence, though it's not graphic.

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What's the story?

A remake of Britain's hit series Viva Blackpool, VIVA LAUGHLIN is a musical drama about a man trying to achieve the American dream one chip -- and one tune -- at a time. Ripley Holden (Lloyd Owen) grew up in a trailer park and now owns a chain of successful convenience stores. His next big venture? Opening the Viva, a posh hotel/casino in Laughlin, Nevada, 129 miles south of Las Vegas. But opening a casino isn't easy, especially when the money runs short. Fearful of losing his dream and being unable to support his wife, Natalie (Madchen Amick), and his two teenage kids, Holden tries to drum up cash by wheeling and dealing with some slick Las Vegas players, including sleazy casino owner Nicky Fontana (Hugh Jackman) and his ominous, shade-wearing sidekick Marcus (DB Woodside). Holden's life gets further complicated when deviously oversexed Bunny Baxter (Melanie Griffith) accuses him of killing her husband, and Natalie is followed by womanizing police detective Peter Carlisle (Eric Winter).

Is it any good?

While the show isn't exactly boring, it isn't especially entertaining, either. It's a convoluted mix of thin plot lines that are jarringly interspersed with lackluster characters who suddenly burst out dancing and singing to popular songs. These awkward (and somewhat corny) performances don't really enhance the story or provide the glamour and glitz of traditional Vegas numbers (which at least would put them in context). In fact, they seem so out of place that they actually make you wonder if the series is meant to be a comedy.

In the end, Viva Laughlin is an unfortunate example of how mixing TV dramas with musical theater isn't always a good gamble.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the show depicts gambling. Is it innocent fun, or something more serious? Do you think TV shows and movies glamorize gambling and the businesses that depend on it? Do you think it's more or less glamorous (or corrupt) in real life? Families can also discuss shows -- like this one -- that depart from typical genres/styles. Do TV dramas and musicals mix well? What kinds of things seem to work and not work on TV? Why?

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