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Universal Studios Home Video presents
"In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories."
DVD ReviewWhen director/writer Kevin Smith appeared on television's Law & Order, he joked on his website that soon everyone would be able to see him in reruns five times a day for the next five years. It's true. Law & Order has earned its place in pop culture, having aired on NBC for the better part of fifteen years. Finally, the first season has become available and it is a treasure for fans of the show.
The series shows the process that occurs when a criminal is brought through the justice system from beginning to end. It begins with the police officers handling a case that is often "ripped from the headlines" of the time period. Detectives Logan (Noth) and Greevey (Dzundza) investigate the crime and track the suspect while District Attorney Benjamin Stone (Moriarity) and his staff fight for their conviction.
The power of the show comes largely from the writing, which is perhaps the strongest on network television. Series creator Dick Wolf has crafted a show that will please lovers of good old-fashioned police dramas as well as those looking for tense courtroom scenes with undeniable power.
The show also does a fine job of distinguishing between each half of every episode; they could easily stand alone if need be. The first act deals with police procedure, and the show becomes an electrifying and tense half hour and at times, a very thought-provoking piece of television. The performances by Dzundza and Noth play perfectly with the style of writing and direction. The pair share good chemistry and the way in which they see the case from opposing views makes for very entertaining television.
By the time the police aspect of the show has passed, the pace of the series keeps rolling with the attention shifting to the district attorney's office. In a lesser series, the shows would have become procedural and less interesting, but what Law & Order does well is that it maintains that tension and shifts it to a completely different arena with no breaks in the storytelling.
The series is meticulous in its structure and pacing and the way in which each side interacts while working towards a common purpose. There is real magic here in the first season, including episodes such as The Torrents of Greed and Sonata for a Solo Organ that reach heights that sometimes even feature films fail to obtain. This is a terrific way to begin a series that would become a critical and cultural favorite.
In terms of sheer excellence there is no better show than the original Law & Order airing on network television today. I say "the original" because, since the stunning success of this series, there have been a seemingly endless string of spin-off shows that, while are each very fine in their own right, have lessened the historical and critical impact that the original show had in its first several years.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Each episode is presented in the full-frame aspect ratio that accompanied the original broadcast. Colors are done nicely with nice vibrancy but at times the transfer washes away some of the stronger colors and they come across as dull. Sharpness and detail are greatly improved over broadcast airings, while the sources used allow for numerous instance of dirt and grain.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for each episode offers nothing in terms of groundbreaking sound but what is here is certainly a fine effort. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout with no distortion, but the left and right speakers recreate the musical score with a tinniness that is often distracting.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Packaging: Book Gatefold
Extras Review: A brief featurette is provided that offers little insight into the show, but does provide a few nice factoids about the history and other aspects. Light and fluffy, yet informative.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsThis is one of, if not the best series to have come along. It is worthy of your time and as well as your hard-earned money. Highly recommended.
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