Amazon TV show ‘Bosch’ showcases seldom-used Vegas locations

Spend enough time watching Vegas-based episodes of TV series, and you’ll notice a pattern to how they begin.

It’s almost always with a sweeping aerial view of the Strip followed by a long-distance shot of the main character’s car — often while the show’s star is hundreds of miles away — and then a cut to him/her standing next to some slot machines that could be anywhere, from an Indian casino to a soundstage in Vancouver.

True to form, the third episode of the new season of “Bosch” (Friday, Amazon) begins with that shot of the Strip from on high. But that’s the last time the detective series takes a predictable path through Las Vegas.

Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch (Titus Welliver) drives past the Flamingo, with its neon lights just beyond his profile. Later, as he approaches The Mirage, the camera catches his eyes in the rearview mirror as if to prove he’s really there. Then he walks across hotel’s casino floor and into the back.

“We had a great welcome. We got access to some amazing stuff,” Michael Connelly, who’s authored the LAPD detective’s adventures through 18 novels, says of the nine-day local shoot. “We got inside (The Mirage) security room, which you rarely see.”

Eric Overmyer, who co-created the Amazon series with Connelly, has plenty of experience filming in iconic locales thanks to his New Orleans-based HBO drama, “Treme,” which eschewed typical tourist settings in favor of a more lived-in look. “That’s kind of the guiding principle” on “Bosch” as well, he says, “to not do what’s familiar.”

During its three-episode road trip, “Bosch” leaves the Strip to visit the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department headquarters and the Regional Justice Center. At one point, Harry and his partner, Jerry Edgar (Jamie Hector), tear out of the Rio parking lot and speed west down Tropicana like Dan Tanna in “Vega$”

Some of the episodes’ most striking visuals come during two trips to Container Park. That’s where Bosch takes his daughter, Maddie (Madison Lintz), for gelato — after she explains what gelato is. And it’s where her mother, former FBI agent turned professional poker player Eleanor Wish (Sarah Clarke), takes her shopping for sunglasses at Monocle Optical.

Overmyer wrote those scenes specifically to fit the downtown shopping center. “I’m very fond of the Container Park stuff,” he says, “because it’s so odd. And it’s not glitzy.”

During season one, Harry came to visit Maddie and his ex-wife for an episode, stopping by Aria and pausing for a phone call in front of the neon Circus Circus sign. It was arguably as nice as the hotel has looked since 1971’s “Diamonds Are Forever.” This season, Harry taps the motel section of the North Strip mainstay for his home away from home.

“We love that sign. We love the neon of it. But it felt right for Harry. It didn’t feel right for Harry to stay at The Mirage,” Overmyer says. “Harry’s kind of a retro guy, so I think he’d gravitate to a place like (Circus Circus), because it felt like old Vegas as opposed to new Vegas. It’s the same stuff he does in L.A. He goes to sort of iconic places there (that are) kind of fading away.”

On the opposite end of the glitz spectrum, “Bosch” went to the trouble of securing the two-story sky villa at the Palms to use as a mobster’s hideout for less than 40 seconds of screen time. “We love that location,” Overmyer says. “It was so crazy Vegas over the top.”

“Bosch’s” first season was structured from Connelly’s novels “City of Bones” and “Echo Park,” with hints of “Concrete Blonde” and just a bit of “The Last Coyote.” For season two, Connelly and Overmyer mostly relied on “Trunk Music,” which follows the investigation into the murder of an L.A. pornographer who made regular talent scouting trips to Las Vegas strip clubs.

Likewise, Connelly is no stranger to the valley. He’s sent Harry here numerous times, edited the short fiction collection “Murder in Vegas” and chosen the city as the setting for the female-thief novel “Void Moon.”

“I think L.A. and Las Vegas are so linked, not only close by but on social levels. It’s just something that I’ve always been drawn to exploring,” he explains. “You write about where you go, places that are fascinating to you personally. I don’t live in L.A. full-time anymore, but when I did, I spent many weekends in Las Vegas playing poker and stuff like that.”

The reason for having Harry spend so much time on the road this season, though, was more personal.

“I have to be honest, it wasn’t because we wanted to explore Las Vegas,” Connelly says. “It was because we wanted to explore (the relationship between) Maddie and Harry.”

In a departure from the novels, the teenage Maddie lives in Las Vegas with her mother on “Bosch.” So 1997’s “Trunk Music,” more than half of which unfolds here, was an obvious choice for inspiration. The fact that Maddie doesn’t appear in the book — she wasn’t introduced until 2003’s “Lost Light” — wasn’t a concern for the author. Connelly says he told the “Bosch” writers, “There’s 18 books. Who knows how long we get to do this, so take whatever you need from any book.”

Despite his busy schedule, Connelly, whose books have sold more than 60 million copies, is a regular presence around the production.

“He’s actively collaborating in the room with the writers,” Overmyer says. “He’ll do some rewriting on scripts. If there’s a scene he has a notion about, he’ll do it and toss it back to me.” That’s in addition to the one episode he writes each season, all while cranking out at least a novel a year.

Connelly says he averages about four hours a day with the writers, who are currently prepping season three in anticipation of a renewal. Before and after those trips to the studio, the self-described “binge writer” goes back to his next Harry Bosch novel, “The Wrong Side of Goodbye,” that’s due out Nov. 1 despite being “only about halfway finished.”

But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Connelly first sold the Harry Bosch rights to Paramount in the ’90s while he was a crime reporter for the L.A. Times. “It was money that allowed me to quit my day job and be a full-time writer, so I don’t really regret it. But I was going to have zero to do with it.”

When he regained those rights from the studio, Connelly made two decisions. The first was to forego movies, the route that was taken with his novels “Blood Work” and “The Lincoln Lawyer,” in favor of a serialized TV drama in order to flesh out the stories.

“The other thing was, I’m going to be part of this project, or I’m not going to sell it,” Connelly reveals. “(Harry is) too dear to me. I have ongoing plans to keep writing about him, and I don’t want to damage that. You’re playing with what is sacred about reading. When you read, you create in your mind. And you’re messing with that when you make a movie or a TV show.”

Connelly says he knew going in that some fans would accept the choices being made on “Bosch,” while others would be more critical.

“Bu I just wanted to be a part of that. If we’re going to play with a character that’s that sacred to me, I have to be there. I have to have a say, or it’s not worth it to me.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com. On Twitter: @life_onthecouch

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