Law & Order: Special Victims Unit-The First Year (1999)

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Released 19-Jan-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Law & Order Special Victims Unit: The Beginning
Featurette-Dann Florek-Squad Room Walk-Through
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 919:39 (Case: 918)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (6)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Guy Norman Bee
Juan José Campanella
Alexander Cassini
Joyce Chopra
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Christopher Meloni
Mariska Hargitay
Richard Belzer
Michelle Hurd
Dean Winters
Dann Florek
Case ?
RPI $94.95 Music Rob Dougan
Mike Post


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Dutch
French Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   

    "In the criminal justice system, sexually based offences are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad called the Special Victims Unit. These are their stories."

    The Law & Order franchise is one of the most successful sets of TV series, both in the US & here in Australia. The flagship series, Law & Order, started in 1990 and is now in its 15th season with no signs of slowing down. There have now been 4 spinoff series from the original, including Special Victims Unit (SVU), Criminal Intent, a less successful reality based one, Crime & Punishment and new in 2005, Trial by Jury.

    The basic formula of all of these series is quite similar. They present realistic crimes from the perspective of the police officers trying to solve them and the District Attorneys trying to prosecute the perpetrators. They are all set in New York City (with the exception of Crime & Punishment) and each series focuses on a different squad of officers. The main differences between the series are the types of crimes and the level of involvement of the District Attorneys. SVU is more focused on the detectives and less on the court cases than the original series. There are some court scenes but certainly not in every episode and even when they do appear they are generally quite short.

    Law & Order - Special Victims Unit was first aired in 1999 and this set contains the first complete season totalling 22 episodes. It was the first spin-off from the original series. The special victims unit is the unit which investigates sex related offences such as rape, child abuse and sexually-charged murders. This makes the series by its very nature darker and more confronting than the original Law & Order and some fans of the original series may not enjoy this one. On the other hand, this series is more emotional and dramatic for the same reasons.

    The main characters are (these are the actors included in the title sequence):

    Other important characters who appear less often or only for part of the first series are:

    For those fans who are wondering, Odafin 'Fin' Tutuola (Ice-T) does not appear in this show until Series 2. In addition to those mentioned above, various characters from Law & Order make guest appearances.

    In detail, the episodes included are (episode descriptions are kept brief to avoid giving away the endings):

Disc 1

1. Payback - A taxi driver is found murdered in his cab. His p**** has been removed. He has a false licence and is not who he appears to be. Olivia struggles with her emotions on this case and Cragan becomes concerned about her impartiality. Guest Star: Angie Harmon (ADA Abby Carmichael from L&O). A very good episode to start the series.

2. A Single Life - A half naked woman is thrown out an apartment window. The detectives struggle to find anyone who cares. We learn more about Captain Cragan during this episode. Guest Star: Angie Harmon. Another top notch episode.

3. Or Just Look Like One - A 16 year old model is dumped outside a hospital. She has been viciously attacked and raped with a wooden object. Guest stars: Jerry Orbach & Jesse Martin (Briscoe & Green from Law & Order). A very good episode.

4. Hysteria - A hooker is found dead on a worksite. First cop on the scene is from vice and he doesn't seem to think the case is worth bothering with. Elliot has family troubles, as one of his daughter's friends is pregnant. Guest Star: Jerry Orbach.

Disc 2

5. Wanderlust - A man who travels a lot is found bound and suffocated in his apartment. Patricia Richardson (Home Improvement) guests as his landlady who lives with her daughter. One or both of them may be involved. Olivia & Elliot clash on this case.

6. Sophomore Jinx - Teenagers find a young girl who attends the college dead in a garden on the campus. She was involved in organising parties for the college basketball team and some of the team members become suspects. Guest Stars: Angie Harmon, Rev Al Sharpton.

7. Uncivilized - An eight year old boy is found dead and sexually assaulted in a shallow grave near a local playing field. Elliot struggles with his emotions and Cragan has to fight political interference. One of the darker episodes in this series.

8. Stalked - An  female Assistant District Attorney is found dead and raped in the park where she regularly went to read. Olivia & Elliot investigate her old cases looking for a link but Olivia gets too personally involved.

Disc 3

9. Stocks & Bondage - A successful female wall street dealer is found hanged in her own apartment with various piercings and burn marks on her body. Murder or kinky sex gone wrong?

10. Closure - A terrified woman calls in her own rape to 911. Two members of the squad have an affair. Guest Star: Angie Harmon.

11. Bad Blood - the son of a high-profile morals campaigner is found dead on the rooftop of an apartment building with semen stains after attending a party. More details are revealed about Olivia and her mother. Guest Star: Angie Harmon.

12. Russian Love Poem - A wife & daughter return home to find their rich husband/father dead in bondage gear in the lounge room. Russian girls seem to be involved but so are many other girls (and guys).

Disc 4

13. Disrobed - A Judge is found dead in his car in vacant lot by the bay with gunshot wounds to the head and groin. The case leads to corruption and fraud. Detective Cassidy is offered a transfer.

14. Limitations - Three old cases of rape are nearing the 5 year statute of limitations when they are brought to Capt Cragan's attention by the commissioner in a political move. The team set out to solve the cases before the time limit runs out. Munch is now partnered with Jeffries.

15. Entitled - A dead man is found without pants in his car in Central Park. One of New York's important families is involved. A lot of the Law & Order cast guest in this episode including Angie Harmon, Sam Waterston, Steven Hill, Jerry Orbach & Jesse Martin. Michelle Hurd is upgraded to the credits for most of the episodes from here to the end of the season. This episode is closer in format to the original series with more emphasis on the court case.

16. The Third Guy - An old woman is found dead, tied to her bed with unsavoury stains on her nightdress. Her apartment has been robbed but there are more people involved. This episode includes the first appearance in this series of Dr Emil Skoda (J K Simmons) who clashes with Cragan. A well written episode with good twists.

Disc 5

17. Misleader - This episode is a fictionalised version of a true story. A woman attending a Christian Colleges conference is found dead in her hotel room. Her father-in-law owns the college and is also attending the conference.

18. Chat Room - A young girl calls her mother late at night to tell her that she has been raped by a man she met in a chat room. This episode involves child pornography and is reasonably dark. Elliot gets personally involved. Not the best episode in the series as the ending is a little weak.

19. Contact - A woman is raped on a train but everyone on the carriage pretends not to notice. It is the seventh such attack in a few months. A psychologist is brought in which the team is not happy about. Olivia dates a reporter and Det Ken Briscoe plays an important role in the story.

20. Remorse - A TV reporter who has been raped appeals on her show for witnesses to come forward but gets much more than she bargained for. This is the first case with Munch taking the lead and Jeffries also plays a key role.

Disc 6

21. Nocturne - A photo lab assistant calls the police when a piano teacher drops off suspect photos of children for processing. Elliot is the focus of this investigation. This episode is made quite dark by its subject matter.

22. Slaves - A Romanian street vendor walks into the squad room to report a possible sex crime, which someone he didn't know told him about. Also, the team are being psychologically assessed to determine if they are fit for duty. The psychologist's report leaves a cliffhanger to be resolved next season.

    This is high quality television, with nearly every episode being very well written and acted. The show is amazingly consistent in quality across the 22 episodes, which considering that this was the first season is quite surprising. The show is emotionally intense and gritty. Highly Recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is very good.

    The feature is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio non 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. It does not have the clarity of films but this is to be expected. There was some light grain. The shadow detail was very good.

    The colour was generally good, however it did seem a little dull although this is probably mostly due to the colour palette of this series keeping with its dark and sombre mood..

    From an artefacts perspective there was some minor macro-blocking to be seen, especially on people's cheeks, one white line and some very mild aliasing on a tie and some Venetians. Nothing much to complain about.

    There are subtitles in 3 languages including English. The English subtitles were clear and easy to read but slightly summarised.

    The layer changes occur between episodes.
    

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is very good.

    This DVD contains two audio options, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and the same in French.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of this series by Mike Post features the theme tune which is a slightly different version of the theme tune from Law & Order. There is also incidental music which adds tension as appropriate.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are located on Disc 6.

Menu

    The menu includes stills, music and the ability to select scenes, languages and subtitles. A Play All option is available on each disc.

Law & Order SVU : The Beginning (24:25)

    A worthwhile making of featurette which was made recently but focuses on the first series. It includes interviews with all major cast members plus the creator, Dick Wolf, the executive producer, Ted Kotcheff and others. Topics covered include casting, character development, difficulties in shooting, similarities and differences to Law & Order and that it was originally designed as a stand-alone series rather than a Law & Order spin-off. Worth watching and definitely of interest to fans.

Dann Florek Squad Room Walk-through (5:22)

    I am not sure why this is called what it is called but it contains interview material with Dann Florek where he discusses his character's motivations and his personal reactions to various episodes. Not bad.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    On this basis the Region 4 version of the disc is the winner as forced ads are not present on the Region 4 version. Otherwise the sets are identical except for PAL/NTSC differences.

Summary

    A top quality series of an excellent TV show.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good doing everything this show requires.

    The set has a couple of decent extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Friday, January 14, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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