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Cracker: The Complete US Series [Import]

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Robert Pastorelli, Carolyn McCormick, Josh Hartnett, Robert Wisdom, Scott Sowers
  • Producers: Ilene Amy Berg
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Import
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 4
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Studio: Koch International Inc.
  • Release Date: June 14 2005
  • Run Time: 960 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B00096S3XG
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There's no way this U.S. version ever could have equalled the UK original by Granada Television, even though the U.S. show was co-produced by Granada. If for no other reason, the necessary constraints of American network television when this series aired on ABC instantly resolved the question. Nudity, profanity, and violence more freely play on British broadcasts as, now, they do on American cable TV programs. Still, in this U.S. version there is more than enough of what made the UK original great to warrant watching and even owning the DVDs.

The striking difference between the appearance of the U.S. and UK casts makes sense: in the U.S. version, the cops look and act like American men and women. Robert Pastorelli plays a New Jerseyite transplanted to L.A., not a Scotsman transplanted to Manchester. More important, his Fitz is as much an abusive, arrogant, intellectual bully as Robbie Coltrane's reading and just as worthy of comeuppance. Angela Featherstone portrays an American version of Jane Penhaligon with nuance and subtlety, spot-on for the repressed, passive/aggressive character. Robert Wisdom (more recently of The Wire) plays the Jimmy Beck character without the angst that yielded the Grand Opera character arc (more on that below) of the later Jimmy McGovern-penned UK episodes. Instead, African-American Wisdom embodies the "black vs. blue" issue that's more relevant in the States than in the UK. Smoldering R. Lee Ermey is alternately threatening and paternal as the cops' boss. Carolyn McCormick plays the beleaguered Judith Fitzgerald well, but it's unfortunate that as written she's less fiery and less ethically ambiguous than Barbara Flynn. That's a shortcoming of the U.S. version.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
THIS IS AN AMERICAN "RE-DO" OF THE EXCELLENT BRITISH SERIES,,,, IT DID NOT TRAVEL WELL,,,, I WATCHED MOST OF IT ON FAST FORWARD.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa41d6360) out of 5 stars 15 reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1eb83b4) out of 5 stars Worthwhile in its entirety Sept. 14 2006
By Bawlmer Guy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
There's no way this U.S. version ever could have equalled the UK original by Granada Television, even though the U.S. show was co-produced by Granada. If for no other reason, the necessary constraints of American network television when this series aired on ABC instantly resolved the question. Nudity, profanity, and violence more freely play on British broadcasts as, now, they do on American cable TV programs. Still, in this U.S. version there is more than enough of what made the UK original great to warrant watching and even owning the DVDs.

The striking difference between the appearance of the U.S. and UK casts makes sense: in the U.S. version, the cops look and act like American men and women. Robert Pastorelli plays a New Jerseyite transplanted to L.A., not a Scotsman transplanted to Manchester. More important, his Fitz is as much an abusive, arrogant, intellectual bully as Robbie Coltrane's reading and just as worthy of comeuppance. Angela Featherstone portrays an American version of Jane Penhaligon with nuance and subtlety, spot-on for the repressed, passive/aggressive character. Robert Wisdom (more recently of The Wire) plays the Jimmy Beck character without the angst that yielded the Grand Opera character arc (more on that below) of the later Jimmy McGovern-penned UK episodes. Instead, African-American Wisdom embodies the "black vs. blue" issue that's more relevant in the States than in the UK. Smoldering R. Lee Ermey is alternately threatening and paternal as the cops' boss. Carolyn McCormick plays the beleaguered Judith Fitzgerald well, but it's unfortunate that as written she's less fiery and less ethically ambiguous than Barbara Flynn. That's a shortcoming of the U.S. version. But in general, the cast is a fine ensemble, just different from the UK original--although it's fair to say that UK casting is always excellent from top to bottom, and some of the guest stars in the U.S. version are not quite up to snuff. However, the final episode of the U.S. series almost single-handedly makes this collection worth the price of admission. It's a treat to see guest star Robbie Coltrane as a murder suspect who says to Pastorelli's Fitz, "I know your work." Clearly the show offered enough to warrant Coltrane's participation.

Of the sixteen episodes here, six are distillations of UK originals (the entire first UK series, as well as "True Romance" and "Best Boys"). Also, the two-part U.S. episode "First Love" is written by Paul Abbott, who wrote the UK episodes "True Romance," "Best Boys," and "Lucky White Ghost" and who was a producer on the UK show. It would be interesting to learn whether Granada originally intended "First Love" for the UK Cracker. The script certainly would have capped off the Grand Opera story arc (centered on Bilborough, Beck, and Penhaligon) that infused the UK episodes "To Be A Somebody," "Men Should Weep," and "Brotherly Love." The episode never aired on ABC and wasn't seen until the show ran on A&E (according to the liner notes). Still, "First Love" is a high point of the series, both for the tense script and for the performances of the regular cast and the guest stars--Lucinda Jenney (the multiple-personality murderer from the "Extreme Unction" episode of Homicide: Life On the Street) and Nick Chinlund (the death-fetishist killer from The X-Files episode "Irresistible"), surely a welcome pair on any show. But for the most part the U.S. producers avoided such Sturm-und-Drang plots in favor of straightforward case-of-the-week stories. Note that the U.S. episode "An American Dream" is erroneously credited as based on "To Be Somebody" (with "To Be A Somebody" it shares only the heart-attack subplot).

So half of the episodes here stem from Cracker's creative team at Granada. Of the episodes based on Jimmy McGovern's originals, the format demands the diminished returns of distillation. In other words, how do you pack three 50-minute UK episodes into one 44-minute U.S. episode with commercial breaks? The only answer is "the best that you can," retaining the minimum necessary exposition and the high points of character and theme. Speaking of which, the U.S. version captures much of the UK original's feel in that it uses rapid editing to move the story along, then lingers on the meat of Fitz interrogating his "victims." The result is generally as bleak and ambiguous as the UK show, a more interesting mix than the high (but cookie-cutterish) quality of NYPD Blue or Law and Order.

All of the U.S. Cracker episodes not based on the UK originals are very much in keeping with the Cracker spirit. Each offers something worthwhile, and those written by producer Natalie Chaidez are especially good. Her two-episode teleplay "If" is on par with the Paul Abbott-penned installments produced on either side of the Atlantic. From start to finish "If" is a tense, provocative showcase for tough issues and good acting. Also, it's better than "Lucky White Ghost," "Best Boys," and writer Ted Whitehead's "The Big Crunch."

Which illuminates the bottom line: the U.S. Cracker at its best offers more than the least interesting of the UK Cracker installments. Jimmy McGovern's work on Cracker stands above the vast majority of television ever produced. Anyone else's Cracker script is a reinterpretation of McGovern's original, powerful work, regardless of who plays the central characters. So if Granada says it's Cracker, and it's written by Paul Abbott or Ted Whitehead or Natalie Chaidez, then it's Cracker. And like the UK original, this show works well when viewed as a lengthy body of work rather than on an episode-by-episode basis. For the open-minded Cracker fan, there's enough tasty meat to recommend the U.S. version, even if it doesn't stack up to McGovern's originals. How could anything, really?
40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1eb8408) out of 5 stars Give it a Chance Aug. 29 2005
By Kenneth L. Owen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The American version of Cracker needs to been seen.

When it played on ABC, I'm sure those who were unfamiler

with the U.K. version didn't know what to make of this

show. Pretty damn faithfull to the original version,

American audience's didn't quite know what to make of

it. Way Way too dark for the U.S.. Too Smart??

Most likely. So no matter how good it is, it will fail.

The series was not dumbed down, and many of the episodes

were taken directly from the U.K. versions. Episodes where

there is no such thing as a happy ending.

Americans don't seem to like that. Things that they

have to think about, and things that don't really

work out. But that is life. We don't seem to

be able to grasp reality here in the states.

Anyways the late Robert Pastorelli, equals

Robbie Coltrain's performance as Fitz.

I loved this show when it first premiered, then

it disappeared. I'm so happy to be able to

own it now. It will stand proudly right next

to the U.K.'s Cracker in my DVD collection.

Robbie Coltrain
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1eb86e4) out of 5 stars Not a rip off April 13 2006
By Sam Tyler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
One of the reviews states that this Cracker is a ripoff of the UK show. How can it be a rip off when you are told in the credits this show is based on the Granada TV show. Granada, the original producer of the UK show, created a US arm to co produce this show for ABC. So please be careful how you use the word "rip off".

If anything, Granada should have made sure the show could live up to its British cousin. And in a way I think it did. Another comment written here says US audiences don't usually like a challenge when watching tv. Dark stories challenge you and the feel good factor isn't there at all. So maybe the fault is in the network not knowing how what to do with this show. Perhaps if the show was produced now it would be a hit since people are in a darker place in this post 9/11 world. It is a shame we don't have Robert Pastorelli to play Fitz anymore, but I am sure there are other actors out there who would take on such a role.

In some ways wouldn't you say House is a distant cousin of Fitz? And House is a top rating show. So maybe ABC can resurrect Cracker.
HASH(0xa1eb8c00) out of 5 stars Ignore the naysayers; You're in for a (dark) treat Oct. 18 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This American adaptation of the British series CRACKER has been much, and unfairly, maligned for not being as good as its UK antecedent, but I think closer to the truth is people are upset at it simply not *being* the UK CRACKER, in the sense that it's not a direct parallel. But then, it isn't supposed to be. Nor should it have been. Headwriter/show runner James Sadwith did an excellent job of transposing creator Jimmy McGovern's British series to an American key. The tone is similar but not slavish, and while certain key characters are of course Americanized versions of the originals, other characters in the ensemble are new or composite; this is CRACKER reimagined comprehensively within an American sensibility. (And to emphasize how well the show delivers on its own terms, this was my first exposure to CRACKER; I delved into the UK original -- which is also extraordinary -- long after. Never through that initiation did I feel as if I were being shortchanged, nor was I confused as to the show's intention and style. Nor do I think you'll be disappointed.)

Furthermore, I submit that (the alas late) Robert Pastorelli's turn as the haunted, dissolute criminal psychologist Gerry "Fitz" Fitzgerald is every bit as compelling as Robbie Coltrane's Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald. Though a man of somewhat smaller physical stature, Pastorelli has the same-but-different bigness of personality and easy facility for grandness of gesture that's endemic to Coltrane. I live in NYC where I'm a constant theatregoer and I've seen many a production numerous times to experience new cast members -- for example, in AMADEUS I saw three brilliant Salieris: Ian McKellan, Frank Langella and David Dukes -- and there's a similar thrill awaiting any who open mindedly experience both Pastorelli and Coltrane. Each is a brilliant virtuoso bringing his own unique imprimatur to the role. The contrast is profound, yet at the core, both ARE Fitz, not merely playing him, but inhabiting him, and for me it's impossible to say who has the more iconic spin.

Also note that this listing is for the first release of the DVD set. Tango re-issued it this summer (2010) with a new slipcase design (the reissue also sold cheaply at Amazon). A second printing and a new cover design don't get bestowed upon an obscure Americanized reboot that's 14 years old, and a broadcast TV failure of only 16 episodes, unless there's some expectation that it'll keep selling, and that new fans will continue to discover it. The US CRACKER is a glorious sleeper surprise. There's a lot to recommend here...
HASH(0xa1eb84c8) out of 5 stars nearly exact copy of the UK version Jan. 4 2010
By Stefan Huber - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
this show focuses on a psychiatrist working as a freelance consultant for the police. his understanding of the criminal mind helps find, catch or predict perpetrators and deliver them to the justice system.
the protagonist has a lot of flaws and the antagonists usually suffer from psychological problems which motivate them, thus making them not completely responsible for their actions. this creates a believable world where one often asks oneself who the 'bad guy' really is.

whereas the UK version of this series did have development and proper introduction of characters, as well as several strings of plot spanning over all episodes (mainly the psychiatrists private live, his family etc), the US version seems to have picked random episodes and cloned them exactly - even the dialogues are often identical word for word - whilst forgetting key scenes from the original series.

Having seen the UK version one already knows the characters and their motivations, which helps a lot, since the US version doesn't seem to care about the background at all.

the idea for the story itself is fascinating as proven by the British version, but was poorly adopted by the American television. The actors try their best to convey a message which has been scrambled by the writer.

I strongly recommend to watch the UK (ie Cracker: The Complete Collection ) version instead, the US version cannot convince at all.



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