This box set has restored my faith in television. I actually don’t have cable or satellite or anything, and if you ask anyone that knows me, they’ll tell you that I’m a steadfast refusenik when it comes to watching TV. Law & Order, however, is intelligent, well-cast, and has very high production values – all the ingredients of a winning series, as its ridiculously long run (14+ years) is testament to. Each episode has a well thought-out plot, usually with some sort of twist – and generally without any glaring plot ho…es. The interplay between characters is fantastic too – the division between the police on the street and the prosecuting attorneys makes for great characterizations, and interesting interactions when the two halves are bought together. The other thing that struck me about the series was relevance – issues in each episode coincide with events actually taking place in the real-world (SARS, for instance, in the episode “Patient Zero”), which lends the entire series credibility and ratchets the interest level up one notch higher.
One thing that struck me while watching a few episodes was how different shows can have an impact on society, or not. Consider the original Star Trek for instance – a three year run with horrible production values that somehow spawned a subculture, many movies, and however many spin off series. Law & Order, despite all of its general greatness (11 Emmy nominations and one win) hasn’t quite penetrated society to the same degree – no one attends Law & Order conventions, and there aren’t any Law & Order fanzines. Perhaps is the day-to-day nature of the subject matter (culled from newspaper headlines) doesn’t lend itself to cult followings, or perhaps the fact that there isn’t much soap-opera to the show keeps the characters at arms length – hard to say. Or maybe I’m just off-base here – if you’re a member of a Law & Order fan club, by all means post a comment and correct me.
The sound on these discs is shockingly good for a TV series. Its 2.0, but its 2.0 taken to the extreme. Check the bass on the theme song – it just pours out of your speakers. Personally, I think the theme song is waaaaay too Kenny G. or Michael Bolton, but it sounds great nonetheless. Ambient sounds on the street (rain, police sirens, etc.) are very well rendered and well mixed – always present, never overpowering. Similar mixing excellence is applied to the voice tracks through-out – dialog is always easy to hear and sound levels compliment scenes perfectly. All-in-all, this is as good as 2.0 gets.
Another example of the TV format (1.33:1) taken right to the edge – the video is fullscreen, and excellent. Beautiful quality through-out – no graininess in night scenes, no particulate damage of any kind. Colours are universally gorgeous – reds and blues come through bright and powerful from police cars in night scenes, and daytime city scenes capture New York’s contrasts perfectly.
A little thin here. The special features that are included are generally of good quality, but they don’t go very far. Plus, they’re marred by the inclusion of a “Profiles Teaser” as a special features – this is an advertisement for cast profiles contained in other box sets. A strange inclusion to say the least, and not what you’d expect in a not inexpensive box set. I suppose with at least 13 other box sets to populate with extras they couldn’t put all of the cast profiles in this one – but it seems strange to taunt paying viewers with a teaser of what their dollar didn’t buy them. Anyway, here’s the goods:
Cast Profiles: The two that you do get are Detective Green, and District Attorney Branch. These are good, long, in depth interviews that cover the actors origins, their interpersonal relationships with other cast members, their character’s personalities and foibles, and lots of general chit chat. All told, these are well done features that definitely add a third dimension to the characters and put a personality to the actors behind them.
Set Tour with Jerry Orbach: Sadly, I’d call this a filler feature. Sad, because Jerry Orbach is great – probably my favorite character on the show. The tour consists of Jerry wandering around the set, pointing out obvious things like “This is the set of the courtroom” as he steps into the courtroom set. Also, you’ll get tired of hearing about how everything (walls, etc.) can be moved – as (brace yourself) – they’re all just movie sets! The tours of the prison set and so on – I’m not sure how amazed were supposed to be that they’re just movie sets – I mean, did people think that they were filming on location at Rikers Island? Anyway, it looks like Jerry could’ve used a little more artistic direction on this one – not much effort seems to have gone into the production of this feature on anyone’s part.
Interview with Park Dietz: Park Dietz is a consultant to the show for police and forensic matters and has lots to say about the process of police work, the technologies used in the labs, and provides good example of events from the show. Another good feature, this could be another Cast Profile is Park Dietz got any screen time. Incidentally, you can visit the website for Park Dietz’s consulting company here (www.parkdietzassociates.com) – pretty unassuming site for a popular and highly technical enterprise.
One thing to note is that the high quality of video and audio may not be universal to this series – i.e.: these comments are the “Fourteenth Year” only. I would expect that earlier years would have poorer video and audio as the series wouldn’t have been as well funded with good equipment or staff in its infancy. The corollary to this is maybe some other years have better features than the Fourteenth.
In any event, this is a great box set for fans of Law & Order, or just lovers of good drama. I have yet to come across an episode I didn’t like yet, and there’s over 17 hours of content here – so lots to enjoy.
Special Features List
- Jessie L. Martin Cast Profile
- Fred Dalton Thompson Cast Profile
- Set Tour with Jerry Orbach
- Interview with Park Dietz