Las Vegas is one hell of a city. There’s quite literally nowhere else in the world quite like it: the Vegas Strip is one of the most outrageous streets in America, providing a seamless blend of wildly over-the-top, ridiculously tacky ultra-decadence, and rousing nightlife. The street is overflowing with hotels, all seeking to be more spectacular than the next, offering dozens of restaurants and even full shopping malls inside. They all have unique features too, like a rooftop roller coaster at the STRAT hotel, a lavish shopping center with spiral escalators at Caesar’s Palace, or an indoor canal with gondola rides at the Venetian. If you can dream it—and afford it—in Vegas, it can happen.
That kind of madcap, unpredictable energy fuels Netflix’s Obliterated, the latest series from Cobra Kai creators Hayden Schlossberg, Josh Heald, and Jon Hurwitz. Obliterated, which premiered Nov. 30, is quite a departure from that nostalgia-fueled karate series and is perhaps a more boisterous sibling of the Harold & Kumar movies written by Schlossberg and Hurwitz—only with military-caliber action set pieces taking place on the Vegas strip in lieu of White Castles.
The show follows an elite team made up of the very best of the U.S. military. They’ve traveled to Vegas for one hell of a mission: They’ve got to stop a vicious terrorist group from destroying Sin City with a nuclear bomb. It doesn’t take long for this group of highly skilled individuals to succeed, effortlessly dismantling the nuke with time to spare. The success leads to the kind of partying and debauchery that only Vegas can offer: drugs, booze, sex, and camels(!?). It’s like the creators of Obliterated took the mantra of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” literally, and ran gleefully with it.
Partying late into the night, the extremely intoxicated crew receives unfortunate news: The bomb they thought they dismantled is a fake, and they have until 9 am until the real explosive vanquishes Las Vegas for good. The series is a hysterical, action-packed romp through the iconic city. Ahead of the show’s premiere, we traveled to Vegas to see how the action was filmed amidst all the crowds, iconography, and neon; speak to the creators; and soak up Vegas’ unique atmosphere.
“We’ve been friends since we were teenagers, and we all moved to L.A. in our early twenties,” Schlossberg told The Daily Beast’s Obsessed. “From then, the three of us went on so many trips to Vegas. We’ve seen the highs, the lows, the in-betweens. The pretty, the ugly—we’ve seen it all in Vegas.” For Schlossberg, Heald, and Hurwitz, getting a show in Vegas was a way to not only celebrate the city they loved but to have a helluva good time, which comes through vividly in Obliterated’s energy.
“Every time of day, Vegas has its own feel—especially when you’re a visitor,” says Heald. “There’s the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed noon where you’ve got a good night’s sleep, you’re feeling the vibe. Then there’s that sexy kind of sunset, where the mood sets in and the booze sets in. There’s that crazy in between where it feels like anything can happen, and finally that sticky, yucky feeling where you never went to sleep and try to remember your mistakes. It was important for us to reflect all of those distinctly Vegas feelings in the series as it takes place over one night.”
A big way to explore every Vegas mood was through the show’s outrageous stunts and ballistic action sequences. At times, our intrepid crew are on top of their game, clearly feeling the Vegas vibe as they take down their enemies. Our heroes are Navy SEALs Chad McKnight (Nick Zano) and Trunk (Terrence Terrell), team leader Ava Winters (Shelley Hennig), and sharpshooter Angela Gomez (Paola Lázaro). Despite their world-class skills, the effects of partying wear heavy. While there’s a solid narrative throughline (they’ve got to stop the nuke!), each episode offers its own distinct challenges, obstacles, and zany set pieces. Often, the team is really feeling the effects of the various drugs and booze they ingested, and really struggle to get the job done. The show cleverly rides the ebb and flow of a city that refuses to sleep—fitting, because if our heroes sleep, the whole city will be vanquished.
One of the wildest action set pieces in Obliterated takes place on something I saw a whole lot of while walking along the Vegas strip: a party bus. “Before we even wrote the series, we wanted to have a speedy scene on a party bus,” Heald explained. “We wanted every episode to have a distinct vibe, and in this one [Episode 2] we really wanted them to feel the hit from all the partying.”
In the scene, the gang commandeers a bus from a group of bros ready to party the night away. Their debauchery gets cut short, and the night for our heroes gets a whole lot worse: a double agent is following them in a car, rocket launcher in hand, primed to wipe them out. But despite some seriously high stakes, it’s a tremendously funny, high-octane sequence, filled with strip teases and Viagra-related anxiety while the squad tries to escape with their lives. “It was an intense, but fun situation. People could die, but fun stuff could happen too! It was important we had really strong action, a believable car chase with stakes, and also very R-rated things happening on the bus.”
Filming such a scene in a bustling city like Vegas was no small feat, especially at night, when it’s at its busiest. While the cast filmed their scenes on a stage in Albuquerque, the actual stunts all took place in Vegas. As Heald explained, the chase took place “in the Arts District, over near the Stratosphere, and up and down one section of Las Vegas Boulevard between Caesars and the Flamingo.”
Pulling it off took a lot of assistance. “The police were incredible,” Heald added. “They told us we were only able to shut down the street for five to seven minutes at a time, but sometimes we got 15 minutes. They held traffic while 17 precision drivers, two stunt drivers with a camera car, and a very scared director—me—sat in the passenger seat watching. They really were careening down the strip at 80-90 miles an hour!”
Another key scene in the penultimate episode of Obliterated took a lot of coordination. “There’s a huge sequence that takes place right near the strip, at the corner of Flamingo and Las Vegas Boulevard. It involves explosives, debris falling from the sky, motorcycles, gunfire, and huge crowds,” Hurwitz, who directed the episode, said. “It’s very difficult to wrangle all those elements, but it was so satisfying once we were able to do it. It gave the whole series that big action set-piece we promised from the first episode.”
A rooftop scene in the finale was a lot of work too. “It was just a monster,” Heald said. “We shot it over multiple days on the rooftop of the Rio. You have gun battles, rocket launchers, martial arts, all with the looming threat of a nuclear bomb that could go off any minute.”
A lot of the action in Obliterated is perfectly over the top, and frankly a little ridiculous. But not too ridiculous. Getting a taste of Vegas, where half-naked showgirls and shirtless men regularly walk around promoting shows, where excess is very much the name of the game, and where buffets serve the most outrageous feasts you’ve ever seen, the madness of Obliterated feels very apropos.
As I flew through Fremont Street (where another key action scene takes place) on the zipline before being whisked away to the famous Little White Wedding Chapel where four full-time Elvis impersonators work to meet the demands of dozens of weddings a day, I couldn’t help but feel that the most bonkers and brazenly outrageous show of 2023 needs an equally bombastic city. And what better than Las Vegas?
Post source: TDB