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Anchor Bay Entertainment presents
The Commish: Season 1 (1991-1992)

"I'm not going to press charges this time, but if I catch you guys in that uniform, I'll toss you in the coop. Understand?"
- Tony Scali (Michael Chiklis), speaking to two guys dressed in chicken outfits

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: November 28, 2004

Stars: Michael Chiklis, Kaj-Erik Eriksen, Theresa Saldana
Other Stars: Geoffrey Naufts, Jason Schombing, Ian Tracey, Gina Belafonte, Pat Bremel, Alex Bruhanski, John Cygan, Nicholas Lea, David Paymer, Michael Patten
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suitable for television audiences)
Run Time: 17h:09m:00s
Release Date: November 16, 2004
UPC: 013131280593
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Michael Chiklis has gained considerable prominence in the television world recently due to his role as Detective Vic Mackey on The Shield . That series was my first lengthy exposure to Chiklis' talents, as he played the brutal and rule-bending cop perfectly. Numerous viewers remember him from a show with a much-different lead character who used his mind instead of violence to catch the killers. This character was The Commish, Tony Scali, a family guy who discovered unique ways to catch the criminals of an upper-New York precinct. Fans of this series were undoubtedly surprised by the drastic change in Chiklis' demeanor for his role in The Shield . He did retain the witty, bright mind, but took this aspect and moved into darker territory. This showed the impressive range that he originally developed as the likable Tony Scali.

Tony must strike a delicate balance between the constant duties of his job and time at home with his wife Rachel (Theresa Saldana) and 11-year-old son David (Kaj-Erik Eriksen). While dedicated to his work as the police commissioner, Tony also cares deeply for his family and tries to treat them right. A prime example is the Pilot episode, in which two police officers go missing and might be dead. Tony diligently strives to catch the criminals, but his focus doesn't stray too far from his attempts to have a baby with Rachel. When David grows irritated at receiving less attention in the future, Tony talks to him and helps to assuage his fears. Everything is a bit too cute and cheesy, but the actors help to sell the material and keep it from going too far into Hallmark territory. That episode also brings Tony into conflict with a close friend, which reveals the intimate nature of many of the crimes committed. The cases often connect to the Commish in varying ways, which might be a bit too convenient, but they do allow Chiklis to prove his talents on a weekly basis.

This series becomes more interesting when you consider that Tony is based on a real-life police commissioner from New York. That guy wowed co-creators Stephen J. Cannell and Stephen Kronish with his knowledge on a diverse array of subjects and remarkable anecdotes from his professional life. His personality seemed perfectly suited for a different type of cop show, with a lead actor who wasn't tall, dark, and handsome. Instead, Cannell and Kronish lobbied hard with the network for the unknown Chiklis, whose regular-guy appearance fit the character. Although catching the bad guys was still the primary motive, this show also provides some less-serious moments for the police commissioner. Nothing to Fear But...'s primary story line involves death threats made on Tony and his family from an unknown source. But it also includes a story about a deer poacher who the Commish must trick into confessing his crime. Tony also relates a very odd experience to his son David in Japan during a Kendo match. These supplemental scenes keep the episodes from becoming too stilted and conventional within the typical stories.

One of the season's most gripping episodes is The Fourth Man, which involves the shooting of Tony's friend and Chief of Detectives Irv Wallerstein (Alex Bruhanski). The search for the killer is difficult and frustrating, and the cops try all types of methods to discover the killer's identity. Chiklis does a great job in this story, as his feelings for Irv make this story very personal. This tale also marks a major development in the ongoing plotline of Tony and Rachel's attempts at having a baby. The events will culminate in the season finale The Puck Stops Here, where possible complications may cause them to terminate the pregnancy. Tony and Rachel's discussion of this matter is adult and serious, but them even considering the possibility probably alienated some less-open viewers. Other noteworthy episodes includeIn the Best of Families, where a suicide in jail causes difficulties, Commissioner's Ball, where a serial killer terrorizes homeless people, and True Believers, where Tony must deal with white supremacists.

The Commish lasted through four full seasons and several full-length movies during a fifth year. It will not stand as the most groundbreaking series ever to hit the airwaves, but it is especially memorable for the remarkable acting from star Michael Chiklis. Theresa Saldana also does a great job in making Rachel a real person who does far more than act as a cop's wife. Kaj-Erik Eriksen may improve in subsequent years, but his moments during the first season are not generally the best in each story. The supporting cast is mostly impressive, especially David Paymer as Rachel's oddball brother, who's often involved in some type of peculiar scheme. The strong cast makes even the most familiar stories somewhat interesting, which earns this series a solid recommendation.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The Commish: Season 1 appears in its original full-frame transfer, which provides a solid but unspectacular picture. It retains the look of an early '90s television series, which isn't easy to change on DVD without considerable remastering. The picture is generally free of defects, but some considerably grainy moments do exist during the episodes. The overall result is an acceptable transfer that shouldn't distract too much from viewers' enjoyment of the series.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: This release includes a 2.0-channel Dolby Surround transfer that presents the extensive dialogue clearly. There are few above-average elements within this track, which keeps the audio very centralized and lacks the power of some of the better television DVD transfers. However, it does provide a solid presentation with no significant flaws, so it deserves a recommedation.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 107 cues and remote access
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
6 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Interviews with Michael Chiklis, Theresa Saldana, Stephen J. Cannell, and Stephen Kronish
Extras Review: This collection's lone extras are brand-new interviews with Michael Chiklis (Tony Scali), Theresa Saldana (Rachel Scali), Stephen J. Cannell (co-creator), and Stephen Kronish (co-creator). The conversations are split into four parts and run for about a total of 45 minutes. The best entry is a 17-minute interview with Chiklis, who always has plenty to say and speaks intelligently about his involvement. Cannell also provides an interesting look at the series' origins and the casting process. Kronish gives some of the same information as Cannell, but in a slightly less compelling manner, and Saldana offers some brief details about her experiences. The overall result is an effective overview of The Commish from its key players. While some commentary tracks would have been a nice inclusion, these interviews should please devoted fans and educate new viewers.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

My tastes in police series generally have more rough edges than , but this series deserves considerable credit for its unconventional lead character. The episodes sometimes follow conventional patterns, but Michael Chiklis always keeps them grounded with his superb performance. If you're a fan of cop shows and are unfamiliar with this one, I suggest at least a rental; it could be a pleasant surprise.


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