LA to Vegas: What it's really like to take this flight
Have you ever wondered what the quickest trip to Las Vegas would be like?
As you wind down from the holidays and feel your wallet thinning, it may not be so easy (or wise) to take the trip to Sin City yourself. Fortunately, EW has done it for you. And trust us, it was not easy (or wise) for us to do it either. But it was all in the name of, well, a new TV show.
On Jan. 2, Fox will debut LA to Vegas, which is basically a workplace comedy that takes place 30,000 feet in the sky. It’s a common flight for those of us who live in Los Angeles. The premise is simple and one Angelenos know all too well: The weekender flight to Vegas is all excitement on the way out and regret on the way back.
The series stars Dylan McDermott as the cocky and overly friendly Captain Dave, Kim Matula and Nathan Lee Graham as miserable flight attendants, and a hodgepodge of regular passengers that includes Ed Weeks, Peter Stormare, and Olivia Macklin.
EW joined the aforementioned cast in early December for a premiere party that would take place both in the skies and at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It seems like a good idea in theory: Fly to Vegas for a couple of hours, roll them bones and make it back at a decent hour to sleep in my own bed. But anything that ever seems like a good idea which includes the word “Vegas” is never going to work out the way you planned. I kept a “detailed” and “timecoded” journal for the night. Based on the show’s premise, you’re probably expecting a rather juicy story of drunken debauchery from this quick trip to Vegas. Let’s see if dreams really do come true.
2:53 p.m.: It’s about 3 p.m. on a Thursday and I’m in an Uber en route to Jackpot Airlines. WTF am I doing? That’s not real!
2:56 p.m.: This was a good idea in theory, but I’m quite sure it’s going to be terrible. I have to be on the radio in the morning. Live. What am I doing?
3:06 p.m.: Still in the Uber. This is actually the second time I’ve done this trip for work. A few years back, The CW did the same thing for Fly Girls, a reality show about Virgin America flight attendants. That premiere was also in the air, but the party was at the Palazzo. Not saying I remember that night well, but it happened.
3:29 p.m.: Now I’m in a charter bus headed for the airline. The parking lot where everyone met is by In N Out, which I feel will be in my future in a few hours. We’re heading for a nearby airplane hanger. Shoot, I forgot gum!
3:47 p.m.: A pilot is walking into the hanger in front of me. He better be good.
3:48 p.m.: Wait, he just turned around and it’s Dylan McDermott in full pilot gear. Please tell me he’s not flying this plane.
4:07 p.m.: I walk onto the tarmac to go through “security.” It’s a single metal detector, so I’m on the LA to Vegas-branded plane in no time. This is the only way to travel. It’s not actually branded Jackpot Airlines, so if they lose my luggage, who do I sue?
4:10 p.m.: There’s a Jackpot Airlines cocktail menu awaiting me. It offers the Mile High Club, The Tipsy Pilot, and the Turbulence, which is just any hard alcohol on the rocks. Yes, please.
4:15 p.m.: Plane fills out with cast, press, and “tastemakers.” Don’t ask.
4:31 p.m.: The show’s creator, Lon Zimmet, welcomes the crowd to Jackpot Airlines. His mom told him this was the first premiere at 30,000 feet. Sorry, Lon, your mom is wrong.
4:32 p.m.: Executive producer Steve Levitan (of Modern Family fame) says he hopes the lack of oxygen at 30,000 feet will make us laugh more at the pilot, which they’ll be screening once we take off. Levitan jokes that McDermott will be attempting to land the plane when we make it to Vegas. “Call your loved ones now!” McDermott shouts. Oh great, airplane crash humor right before we take off. Did I mention I was afraid to fly?
4:34 p.m.: McDermott comes over the loudspeaker, welcomes us aboard, notes he’ll point out landmarks along the route. “Mother nature still has her curves, so let’s take a peek.”
4:46 p.m.: Following a real safety video, we get to see a hilarious Jackpot Airlines spoof version, which concludes with Captain Dave saying, “May you win big enough to fly home on a better airline.”
Here’s the video:
5:01 p.m.: We reach cruising altitude, where we get to see another inappropriate video of Captain Dave’s tips.
5:02 p.m.: We screen the pilot episode while real flight attendants start handing out drinks and snacks.
5:31 p.m.: The first episode ends and the flight attendants finally reach us, but the plane is already making its initial descent. Yeah, that’s how short this flight is. The flight attendant hands me two small Johnnie Walker Black Labels. She’s frantic. She wants to keep serving everyone but knows she has to go sit down. After serving two more rows, she relents and makes it to the back of the plane just before we touch down.
5:38 p.m.: The plane lands, and now I know why you must return drinks and put your tray table up before you land: DRINKS SLIDE WHEN YOU LAND. Almost lost Johnnie!
5:43 p.m.: Feeling bad for the middle of the plane that didn’t get alcohol, that flight attendant walks down the aisle with a tub full of miniature booze bottles, handing them out like it’s Christmas. A second attendant follows with cups of ice. Let’s get this party started!
5:59 p.m.: As I deplane, I notice each seat is basically like a graveyard for mini booze bottles. Matula and Graham stay in character as flight attendants, welcoming us to Vegas as we exit the plane. We jump on a shuttle bus, and basically, everyone around me is drinking. Rules don’t apply anymore. We’re in Vegas.
6:00 p.m.: Mark the time, people: We have to be back on the bus at the Bellagio 8:45 p.m. We have less than three hours to be in Vegas. Let’s do this!
6:32 p.m.: Buses have taken the long way around to Bellagio because of a car accident on the Strip. At least we pass the front of the hotel and catch the tail end of the water show. I feel like I’m in Oceans 11, except without all the money. Let’s go win some money!
6:39 p.m.: Realizing how little time we have left in Vegas, two party guests sitting across from me on the bus book $40 flights home for the next morning and find a hotel on the strip for roughly the same price. They’ve given up and are staying in Vegas now. This is their home. For now.
6:42 p.m.: The bus finally makes it to the Bellagio. Let’s do this!
6:54 p.m.: We weave our way through the casino to Lily Lounge, which has been closed for this private event. As soon as I walk in, flight attendant-dressed cocktail waitresses ply us with alcohol.
7 p.m.: I sit down with Levitan, who is an executive producer on the show with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. “It’s a well-known flight for people who live in L.A.,” he says. “It’s called the stripper flight. So when I read the pilot, I was like, ‘This is really funny, but I don’t know how you sustain it.'” In truth, he turned it down at first, but after reading a pile of other scripts that didn’t make him laugh, Levitan went with his gut and signed on. Levitan says this is how they’ll sustain it: They very quickly expand the world beyond the plane and follow some of these characters home.
7:09 p.m.: I ask Levitan whether the Dunphys from Modern Family will ever make it on the plane for a crossover. He likes the idea, but it doesn’t sound like it’s in the cards. “I doubt it,” he says. “We kid about it at Modern Family, because it’s that thing that would happen, but it would be just a little bit too cheesy. Though now with Fox and Disney becoming the same company, who knows what will happen? It totally makes sense that they would be on this flight.”
7:10 p.m.: I chat with the show’s creator Lon for a few minutes. We’ve both done this L.A. to Vegas trip several times. There’s a line in the pilot about the flight home always being delayed that’s based on his own experience — but seriously, also mine. That flight home always gets delayed. The line, by the way, is: “I just want to throw up in my own home.” Lon teases they’ve booked a familiar name as the owner of Jackpot Airlines, but it can’t be revealed yet. It’s good. Trust.
7:18 p.m.: I join a table with McDermott, who hands me a giant stuffed poker chip when I sit down. But he quickly drops the Captain Dave act for some genuine honesty about joining the show. “I had done a couple things that didn’t work,” McDermott says. “At some point in every actor’s career, they have to reinvent themselves, and I was at that point and I was very aware of that.” Hence, McDermott read everything he could get his hands on, and that’s when he stumbled across LA to Vegas. Even though he had worked with Ferrell and McKay on the 2012 comedy The Campaign, McDermott says Levitan and higher-ups at Fox were unsure about him in the role. “‘Dylan’s not funny, are you sure?'” McDermott jokes.
7:25 p.m.: “I’m having the best time of my life,” McDermott says of this role. “I love it. It’s the best way to go to work. You laugh all day, they pay me, they feed me. What’s better?” McDermott concludes our chat by saying he’ll see me at the craps table.
7:30 p.m.: Second drink down. Some quick bites of pizza to stay afloat. Time to go gamble.
7:35 p.m.: There’s a row of craps tables not too far from the party. I settle in at one and watch my money quickly dwindle. Damnit. Welcome to Lost Wages.
8:03 p.m.: McDermott hits the craps table next to me, still in full pilot gear. I wonder if passersby think he’s a real pilot and are at all worried.
8:08 p.m.: McDermott is killing it on the craps table. Everyone is cheering. “Captain Dave! Captain Dave! Captain Dave!” He’s enjoying this way too much.
8:18 p.m.: “What time is it?” McDermott yells. Everyone responds: “Captain Dave Time!”
8:30 p.m.: Many of the show’s writers join my craps table. We play until the very last second. I only end up losing $20.
8:44 p.m.: Have to be back at 8:45 p.m.! Luckily the cash out is so close.
9 p.m.: We’re still here. Outside that party. Why am I not still gambling?
9:05 p.m.: Everyone stumbles back to the buses. Most everyone doesn’t want to leave. I’m ready. This is the least I’ve ever lost in Vegas. Time to go!
9:20 p.m.: We’re stopped at an intersection for a very long time, so I walk up to the front of the bus to see what’s up. Turns out, there’s another car accident on the Strip, but we didn’t go the long way around, so we’re waiting to see if the police will escort us.
9:43 p.m.: We finally move again. Imagine a bunch of drunk people being stuck on a bus. It’s not pretty.
10 p.m.: We make it back to the airport to fly home. Security is much more lax. They’re only checking every fifth person or so.
10:11 p.m.: As soon as we board the plane, the flight attendants are waiting to offer alcohol.
10:41 p.m.: The lights dim, but there are noticeably less people on this flight home. Many people had that same idea to stay in Vegas.
10:49 p.m.: The flight takes off back to Los Angeles. I fear this journal is not nearly as cool as I hoped it would be. Should I have raged? Would that have made this better? Should I have caught a flight home the next morning? Nah, I’m not that cool. I have to be live on the radio in a few hours. Oh, why did I do this to myself?!
10:53 p.m.: We see a funny video come on screen. “Clearly you didn’t want to stop gambling because you’re still flying with us.” Oh right, I’m afraid to fly. Thanks for the reminder. Oh hey, the show debuts soon. Jan. 2. Yeah, I wrote that in my notebook to remind myself to write this story soon.
10:54 p.m.: They start screening episode 2, but it’s not as loud, or my ears haven’t popped, so I can barely hear it.
10:55 p.m.: I should call this story “An Unfiltered Diary About LA to Vegas.” A reminder to note that You’re the Worst‘s Kether Donohue is in the pilot. She’s fantastic. The second episode has Dermott Mulroney taking the lead in the cabin when Capt. Dave breaks his arm. DERMOTT SHOWDOWN! I wish I could show you how poorly I’m writing this. Maybe I’ll take a pic of this page to show you how fantastically lame this is. Yaaaaasss.
11:02 p.m.: I have to go to work tomorrow. Crap.
11:29 p.m.: Wheels touch down. Everyone claps and starts cheering, “Captain Dave! Captain Dave!” Actual captain welcomes everyone home. Someone yells, “Thank you!” He responds, “No, thank you!” HE CAN HEAR US?! WTF.
11:39 p.m.: Get off plane. Walk among private jets. Shhh, I touched the front of one.
11:41 p.m.: No one will go to In N Out with me.
11:57 p.m.: Transpo back to the car lot.
12: 15 p.m.: Home alive, an hour later than expected, but I’m alive. What happened in Vegas did not stay in Vegas. I really wish I went to In N Out.
LA to Vegas debuts Tuesday, Jan. 2 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.