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Homicide: Life On The Street: The Complete Season 5

Richard Belzer , Andre Braugher , Clark Johnson , Kyle Secor    NR (Not Rated)   DVD

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Homicide: Life On The Street: The Complete Season 5 + Homicide: Life On The Street: The Complete Season 4
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Big changes were afoot for Baltimore's finest during the fifth season of Homicide. The fourth season ended with a shocker--Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher) suffering a stroke while interrogating a suspect. In season premiere "Hostage," directed by the late Ted Demme, Pembleton is back on the job, but he's a changed man. His reflexes aren't what they used to be and his pride has taken a beating. Meanwhile, Megan Russert, who had been demoted the previous year, has moved abroad. Never fear, two strong women will join the squad in the form of detective Teri Stivers (Toni Lewis), on loan from narcotics, and medical examiner Julianna Cox (Michelle Forbes, just as formidable as she was on Star Trek: The Next Generation). This is especially good news for Lewis (Clark Johnson) and Kellerman (Reed Diamond). Alas, Lewis is married and Kellerman has just been accused of police corruption.

Standout episodes include "Documentary", directed by Oscar-winner Barbara Kopple, and "Prison Riot," with Charles S. Dutton and Dean Winters, a precursor to Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana's Oz. (Scott Winters, who appears in the last two episodes, would join brother Dean on that show.) But "Bad Medicine," in which drug kingpin Luther Mahoney (Erik Todd Dellums) makes his first appearance, is the most significant. With the introduction of Mahoney, Homicide would begin to deal with the drug war in earnest. Author David Simon would continue to explore the issue in his HBO series The Wire.

Aside from the brilliant acting, writing, and directing, Homicide was known for its savvy song selections, such as Tom Waits's "Cold, Cold Ground" and "Till the Money Runs Out" in "Bad Medicine." In addition, the episode "The Heart of a Saturday Night", directed by Whit Stillman, was titled after--and inspired by--Waits's composition of the same name. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Homicide's Darkest Season, But Worth the Watch Oct. 2 2004
By Ryan - Published on Amazon.com
The fifth season of Homicide saw tragedy strike every single member of the squad, making for the series' darkest, most introspective year. The two hardest hit were Frank Pembleton and Mike Kellerman. Pembleton, who was felled by a stroke in the previous season's finale and spends the first half of the fifth season regaining his basic ability to write, talk and move properly, also struggles to regain his top-notch investigative prowess in the box solving murder cases. But just when things return to normal for him on the job, his marriage falls apart at home ("Valentine's Day.") Andre Braugher's portrayal of a recovering Pembleton proves him to be one of the finest dramatic actors on television during Homicide's run. Meanwhile, Kellerman finds himself grounded when he is the target of a police corruption investigation stemming from his time in the Arson unit ("Bad Medicine.") To make matters worse, Kellerman finds himself facing his old drug lord nemesis Luther Mahoney, who keeps slipping through his grasp again and again. These events drive Kellerman to a suicidal night on his boat ("Have a Conscience") and ultimately, to a violent confrontation with Mahoney ("Deception") that will reap consequences for Kellerman throughout the following season.

The other members of the Homicide unit have their share of problems as well. Lewis' surprise marriage is also in trouble and he finds himself tempted by a female cop (Teri Styvers) assigned to help him nail Mahoney ("Control.") Bayliss finds himself struggling with demons from his past when he works yet another child murder ("Betrayal.") This case ultimately leads Bayliss to drop Pembleton as his partner, destroying the strongest relationship in the squad. Munch must face his past as well when he works the brutal murder of his old high school crush, leading him back to his Jewish faith ("Kaddish.") Also, the new Medical Examiner Juliana Cox (Michelle Forbes) meets with tragedy in her very first episode when she loses her father to a long illness ("M.E., Myself and I.") Even recurring D.A. Ed Danvers (Zeljko Ivanek) watches his fiancé get shot down during a botched robbery in a bridal shop ("Blood Wedding.") SGT. Kay Howard nearly escapes tragedy, but in the heartbreaking season finale ("Partners and Other Strangers"), she finds herself solving the murder of her old partner, Beau Felton (Seasons 1-3.) This two-part closer would see the return of former cast members Daniel Baldwin and Isabella Hofmann, as well as future cast regulars Jon Seda and Peter Gerety.

Some fans felt the show began to decline at this point in the series, but the personal drama does not intrude on Homicide's basic formula of success. In some ways, it helps to enrich the characters that made the show so special. We are treated to intense interrogations, gritty realism and unexpected twists. A particularly noteworthy episode is, "The Documentary," in which crime scene videographer Brodie pays homage to the cops that speak for the dead. His documentary went on to win a fictional Emmy and would be his reason for leaving the show at the end of the fifth season, along with Kay Howard. Other noteworthy episodes include "Prison Riot," a foreshadowing of Tom Fontana's bloody HBO prison saga, Oz. Also, "Double Blind," "The Heart of a Saturday Night," and the two-part premier, "Hostage."

As always, the video presentation is superior to VHS and the scenes are a bit less gritty since Homicide's first two seasons. I was glad to see that A&E took care to present the episodes in chronological order, since many story arks run throughout multiple episodes. I was also glad that they finally included the previouslies, even though they are separate from the episodes. The commentaries by David Simon and others are always interesting. I do have to blast A&E for not including song lists in this package. The music is an important part of the series and if they did it before, they should stay consistent. Still, its good drama and definitely worth adding to your collection.

Episode List:

*Hostage 1
*Hostage 2
*Prison Riot (guest star Charles S. Dutton)
*Bad Medicine
*M.E., Myself and I
*White Lies
*The Heart of a Saturday Night (guest star Rosanna Arquette)
*The True Test (guest star Elijah Wood)
*Blood Wedding
*The Documentary
*Have a Conscience
*Woo's On First
*Valentine's Day
*Double Blind
*Partners and Other Strangers 1 (guest star Daniel Baldwin)
*Strangers and Other Partners 2 (guest star Isabella Hofmann)
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars darkest emotional road for the series Oct. 27 2004
By Deborah MacGillivray - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
The first season saw changes in the cast. Gone were Ned Betty and Daniel Baldwin, to depart at the end of the years Isabella Hufmann and Melissa Leo. For the "characters", this season was a rough one personally.

Frank Pembleton, who was now partnered with Bayliss, sees their partnership coming apart for two reasons. Pembleton has suffered a stroke and chaffs at the medication, chaffs at the desk duty. While Bayliss is once more haunted to the point of obsession over a child murder case. To add to the strain, Pembleton stroke is destroying his marriage. Mike Kellerman, who joined in the 4th season, is hounded by an old nemesis, Luther Mahoney, and threatened by Internal Affairs over problems that occurred when he was on an arson squad. A corruptions investigation looms and Kellerman feels he is being made to take the fall, pushing him to consider suicide. Lewis' recent marriage is going through a tough period and this is amplified as he is attracted to a new female cop assigned to help bring down Mahoney. Michelle Forbes (ST:NG) starts a two year run as the new Medical Examiner, who has a problem with the bottle and getting involved with Kellerman. The end of these episodes has Melissa Leo faces solving the murder of her former partner (Baldwin), and you meet the new members Seda and Gerety. They have a touch of humor with Brodie dashing about with his camera filming everyone (he leaves at the end of the year, too.)

Some of the changes were good; some - in many eyes - thought them brought about the decline in the show. I cannot say I agree with. Things change. If you stay the same you stagnate. Homicide brought forth strong drama, that was gritty, powers and above anything else you'd see on telly.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seasons 1&2 on DVD Aug. 5 2004
By A. D Reaser - Published on Amazon.com
Some reviewers have commented on the "poor" and "grainy" picture quality of the discs for seasons 1&2. Disregard that comment. The show's first two seasons, which were barely long enough to be called seasons, were filmed with an intentionaly gritty look. And the sound is hard to hear much of the time. They were going for a "realistic" feel, which the DVD reproduces. Turn up the volume, it's still a fantastic show.

Starting with season 3, you will notice the picture quality improves a great deal. With a full season pick-up and slightly bigger budget, the show was able afford better lighting and sound.

The stories are just as good, though. The writing was in no way affected by the slightly glossier look. And they brought on Exec Prod. Henry Brommel, a great addition to an already great staff of writers.

If you've never seen this show, you should. It was amazing. And it holds up ten years later. Better than ever.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What A Season... March 28 2005
By R. Fobes - Published on Amazon.com
I agree with most that Season 5 was the best for this outstanding series. What's terrific is that these episodes hold up and can be viewed multiple times. I can't believe no reviewer has mentioned the "Deception" episode...where Mahoney gets scammed by the delivery of bad drugs, Munch leads a "to be murderer" to his victim, and the critical Mahoney meeting, which leads to a scramble to his apartment, which leads to his shooting and death.
That scene when Mahoney smiles and the tension builds with all three detectives at bay,and then he is shot when he starts to lift his arm,is classic TV, and led to the major storyline in Season 6, where all the big guns came in to resolve this plotline.
Speaking of music, does anyone know the name of the song played as a background for the drug distribution mid-way thru the episode, and again at the end, when the depositions for Mahoney's murder are taking place? What a powerful soundtrack!(Just found out:"Evidence", by Faith No More).
Kudos to the "Homicide" team for a great Season and series....
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The downhill slide begins in earnest Dec 29 2005
By Adam M. Miles - Published on Amazon.com
If season four saw Homicide:LOTS lose its footing, season five was the one in which it slipped and began sliding downhill in a hurry. Everything that was so brilliant about the first few seasons gets tossed aside here.

Gone are so many of the brilliant characters like Crosetti, Felton, Bolander, and Russert. The strongest characters who remain (Giardello, Pembleton, and Howard) are largely relegated to the background. In their places are the one-note Kellerman, the obnoxious Brody, and the grating Cox.

Before this season, the show was largely about the interpersonal dynamics of the squad room and how that added up to a functional police unit; in season five, each character is isolated by ever-more contrived personal crises. The newer actors bring hystrionics and annoying acting tics to a show in which subtlety and wry nuance used to take center stage.

Gone too this season are some of the best writers on the show, and their replacements show only the most superficial understanding of what make these characters tick. Bayliss, Lewis and Munch are caricatures of themselves in these episodes, and Giardello is pushed so far into the shadows it's suprising that Yaphet Kotto isn't just given a guest starring credit.

Oh, and the original, brilliant opening credit montage--with it's overexposed, gritty urban scenes and unsettling percussion--is replaced with a CSI-esque montage of forensic gobbledegook and bleating sound effects. The original perfectly encapsulated the mood of the show; the new one completely misses the point.

By all means, get the first four seasons. More perfect television has never been made. But only get season five if you can't sleep at night without knowing how Andre Braugher plays a person recovering from a stroke. Six and seven you can skip altogether.

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