on April 27, 2004
Law and Order, Season One is perfect for all of the obsessed Law and Order fans! It takes you back to the gritty begining of a show that has become such a phenomenon! For true Law and Order fans, there is no better way to enjoy watching your favorite early episodes than on this DVD. However, in a way it is almost sad to see all of the old characters that are no longer on the show, but it is sure nice to see them again! I would recomend getting the first and soon to be released second season of Law and Order for any real fan you know. They will love it!
on May 2, 2004
When Dick Wolf's innovative prime time cop drama hit TV in 1990, few, if any, could have predicted the longevity and impact that Law & Order would accomplish. Each hour long episode begins with partners Greevey (George Dzundza) and Logan (Chris Noth) investigating the crime and making the arrests, while the second half focuses on the ensuing trial, prosecuted by assistant D.A.'s Stone (Michael Moriarty) and Robinette (Richard Brooks) under the supervision of Adam Schiff (Steven Hill). These 22 episodes contained herein display the series in it's early stages; having not yet perfected it's now patented style, but on it's own it still manages to be an above average cop drama that would lay the groundwork for brilliant future seasons, spin-off's, and other shows that attempted to mimic it's style; many of which failed while Law & Order kept rolling, even when it suffered wholesale changes to it's cast season after season. Look for guest appearances by Samuel L. Jackson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and William H. Macy.
on December 5, 2003
Although "Law & Order" has been on television since 1991, I did not watch my first episode until sometime in 2000 (this would have been during the time that Angie Harmon played ADA Abbie Carmichael). I saw three or four episodes that year, and did not watch it again until 2002. At that point, I became a very dedicated fan and have not missed an episode since.
I was certainly in for an awakening when I started watching the first 22 episodes from "Law & Order"'s premier 1990 season.
It is obvious from watching these episodes that Law & Order was ahead of its time. I can see why some people were turned off. Many of the topics the show touched on in this inagural season had rarely, if ever, been done before: AIDS assisted suicide; sadomasochism; abortion clinic bombings; gang rape; kidney theft.
As is to be expected of a series' freshman year, the writing was loose (no where near as tight as it is today). Many episodes contained lines that were out-of-place, like they had just appeared out of nowhere for no particular reason. In addition, there were quite a few episodes, especially during the first part of the season, where there were awkward silences, almost like someone was suppose to say something but forgot.
Although the familiar split format between the law and order sides were here, there were some differences, especially on the order side. Several of the episodes showed the DAs either in the grand jury room or continuing the investigation portion of the case. It was not too uncommon for very little action to occur in the courtroom itself.
Acting wise, the order side handily won the case against the law side. George Dzundza (Sgt. Max Greevey) and Chris Noth (Det. Mike Logan) never quite managed to find the right chemistry. In addition, Dan Florek (Capt. Donald Cragen, now portraying the same character on "Law & Order: SVU) didn't seem quite sure of himself during the first half of the season, although he did settle into his character later on. Michael Moriarty (ADA Benjamin Stone), Richard Brooks (ADA Paul Robinette), and Stephen Hill (DA Adam Schiff) not only found their characters early on, but also figured out how they relate to each other. The disparity in acting between the two sides would often make the law side drag on while the order side generally flew right by.
Despite the differences, I am glad I have seen the origins of this great TV-drama. It will be fun to catch up on the other seasons I have missed to see the transformation of what this show used to be into what it is now.
on April 17, 2004
The first season of Law and Order lacks the bang-bang short attention span plot advances and twists of the later years, but more than makes up for it by deeper plots and better acting, along with some nice background. Unfortunately, the DVD quality isn't what it could be, which is why this is 4 stars and not 5.
From season 3 or 4 on, the Law and Order formula came into full flower. Every 'donk-donk' signifies a quick advance in the plot as a year-long investigation and trial gets compressed in an hour, except for those delicious times when it reverses in a wild plot twist. Three spinoffs prove this works regardless of who is in the role. Season 1 isn't quite like that. For instance, it often meanders slowly, spending 4 or 5 minutes at the beginning actually witnessing the crime, having the cast walk down the street talking to each other rather than going from one interview to the next. (This actually gives some great background - you finally see the full precinct room and DAs office!) The slower pace even reflects in the way the guest stars seemly act - an L&O trademark is to have an interviewee continuing to do their job while the cops grill them. Not so here. No quick hot dog lunch for meetings between the Captain and the detectives. Logan even complains when someone doesn't give them their full attention!
While not having the formula down means that action slows down, it allows for better acting and better plot development. The 'ripped from the headlines' aspect remains as large as it ever was, with the Mayflower Madam, Tawana Brawley claiming rape, the Lisa Steinberg child abuse case, and city council corruption along with several cop corruption cases. The difference is that because the actors aren't forced to move through hoops they actually get to perform. Robinette gives a soul searing performance in the the Brawley case (Half-Light) and the corruption case (Bagman) as he examines his race versus his job - and race and class in general get explored a lot more than in later years (in episodes like Homeboy Blues and Poison Ivy.) Logan acts like a rookie as he screams at people who don't help him, and nearly comes to blows with Greevey over their views on abortion and morality in Life Choice and Kiss the Girls. Stone shows actual rage in Indifference, and Schiff is a motivated caring boss and not just his normal fun cantankerous let's-cut-our-losses self. Finally, the caliber of the guest stars before they became big (Cynthia Nixon, William Macy, Epatha Merkerson!) helps as the give and take is unrestrained. This is a fair tradeoff for a slower show.
My only objection to the DVD set is the transfer is somewhat mediocre, especially for the first few episodes where you get flecking. I can't believe the original tapes weren't in better shape. Also, the features side borders on the unacceptable. Dick Wolf does talk about the original development of the show, for about 10 minutes. Other than that, nothing - except for an unbelievable ad about the Law and Order game! I can't believe there aren't outtakes or they couldn't get someone from the cast to walk through the episodes ala the Simpsons DVD sets. Definitely worth marking down a star for that.
Still, a great beginning to a great show.
on October 3, 2003
I began watching Law and Order when I was in eighth grade and have been a loyal viewer ever since. I have seen nearly every episode and at one point could name every actor who ever starred in the show and their character's name. I think that, although the show is heavily story-driven, it is the chemistry between the leads that makes the show so memorable, as well as the great storytelling and the intriguing look at morality and politics.
The show's chemistry wasn't what it was in later seasons. The show would hit its stride once Jerry Orbach came on as Lenny Briscoe in the show's third season. Nevertheless, it was not due to bad acting. George Dzundza has always been great and he is definitely believable, if not incredible, as Detective Max Greevey. Chris Noth was very memorable (especially with Orbach) as Mike Logan, a hotheaded cop who would eventually be outed for assaulting a man in public. Dann Florek played Captain Cragen, a perfect CO that supported his people but was also tough enough so that they would get the job done. On the Order side, we have Michael Moriarty, Richard Brooks, and Stephen Hill. Moriarty was great in his years as ADA Ben Stone, especially in his confrontations with frequent defense attourney Green. That relationship always dripped with conflict. Brooks played Paul Robinette, Stone's partner. He would occasionally give performances of great power, such as the episode in which he is forced to come to terms with one of his African-American heroes being a corrupt swindler (Subterranean Homeboy Blues). Stephen Hill was the heart of the series for many years, always bringing the legal matters into perspective, often with a bit of wry humor. One of the show's most beloved characters of all time, he is at his best here as DA Adam Schiff, helping Stone appropriate justice fairly and responsibly.
The show's first season occasionally produced some truly fantastic episodes. Indifference, for one, is unforgettable. It has been a favorite of mine ever since I bought the VHS collection a few years ago. It is a truly haunting, disturbing look at a very depraved and irresponsible man. The aforementioned Subterranean Homeboy Blues, also, is fantastic.
The Reaper's Helper is a painfully provocative episode about AIDS and euthanasia. By Hooker, By Crook is also an interesting look at a call-girl ring.
All in all, Law and Order not only rips from the headlines, it also precedes them. I remember watching a show on pedophile priests from the early nineties that I couldn't help but remember when the scandal broke last year. This show deserves to be in your DVD library.
on August 5, 2003
Law and Order first came to my attention from channel-surfing. A handsome green-eyed,dark-haired man riveted my attention who was unknown to me as Christopher Noth who plays Detective Mike Logan. I watched this interesting criminal & legal program with interest and kept watching until the End of Season Five when Chris Noth was asked to leave the show as they wanted a "younger,cheaper actor" to replace him quoting Noth. This is like N.Y.P.D. Blue in it's first year- David Caruso left after the first season and that is the end of my interest in that show. Not everyone will be watching this for the handsome actor who holds the main interest of many of the viewers as this program holds it's own. The first five seasons are the best- not just because of Chris Noth but also because they had not yet started changing cast members like they were daily clothes changes,they had also kept to the first half being law with the second half being order which is a very different approach to television. This is a G-rated show compared to the follow-up shows like NYPD Blue which is very R-Rated in it's language & nudity which isn't what Law & Order is about.Law and Order is more of a less gritty legal documentary rather than a cop show.If you like criminal investigation and legal prosecution this is an excellent dvd set to enjoy. The acting,writing & stories alone are worth viewing. The crimes and the joint police/attorneys process of catching the correct people to prosecute is quite fascinating. After season 1, one just wants Season 2,Season 3,Season 4, Season 5.The present day Law & Order is not worth watching unless you don't mind that it is a completely different program than when it first began. This first season is a glimpse of why it was a great show and why all things end for a reason.
on July 28, 2003
I first saw an episode of L&O on Irish television about nine years ago. For some reason I had the impression it was a soap opera, so hadn't started viewing it properly. I was particularly impressed by the depth, complexity and intelligence of the episode, but had assumed that this was just a fluke, and nothing could be that consistently good.
I was completely mistaken.
L&O does not concentrate on the personal lives of characters, but has marvellous acting, ingenious, dense plots and excellent direction.
Why not 5 stars? Well, this first series is slightly dated (unsurprising for episodes recorded 13 years ago). For example there is little use made of forensics, DNA testing, and obviously the computer references seem archaic. Also the cases which give inspiration are quite old (for example there is an episode which seems to be based on the 1984 Bernard Goetz case).
And in one or two cases the episode scripts simply do not come up to scratch (By Hooker By Crook is particularly weak, and it is not clear what the defendant is being charged with).
Apart from the occasional Ted Post power chords, and some of the women's fashions (The men, wearing suits for the most part get off more lightly), the presentation stands up very well. And the performances and direction are excellent.
All in all, exceptional TV.
on May 2, 2003
The first season of NBC's long running Law & Order is a solid, but not spectacular season. The show's now familiar format of telling the story from the police side in the first half-hour and lawyers side in the second half-hour is intact, but the show hadn't found its footing. That's not to say that these shows aren't any good (they are), they just don't measure up to the incredible high standards that the series set in later seasons. The police side is made up of Chris Noth as Mike Logan, George Dzundza as Max Greevey and Dann Florek as Don Cragen and the law side is made of Michael Moriarty as Ben Stone, Richard Brooks as Paul Robinette and Steven Hill as Adam Schiff. Mr. Noth's & Mr. Dzundza's characters never really click. Obviously the producers thought so as well as Mr. Dzundza's character is killed off the show and was replaced by Paul Sorvino in season two. The teaming of Mr. Moriarty & Mr. Brooks works better and their work is more fruitful. The two season one standouts are Mr. Hill & Mr. Florek. Mr. Hill would enjoy the longest run of any character on the show and his work from season one on was exemplary. He was the rock of the show and his absence has been felt since he left. Mr. Hill was not the original choice to play the D.A., the failed pilot that was produced for CBS appears as episode six and Roy Thinnes played the D.A. Alfred Wentworth. Series creator and producer Dick Wolf made an incredibly wise decision to employ Mr. Hill in the D.A. role. Mr. Florek plays Captain Cragen with perfect balance. He is a by-the-books cop who stands by his men, but adds a sense of humor to tense situations. He was also missed upon his departure after the third season and Mr. Wolf wisely revived the character for series spin-off Law & Order: SVU. Season one also features a plethora of then unknown actors who would rise to fame in either television or films including William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson, Patricia Clarkson, Christine Baranski, Courtney B. Vance, Gil Bellows, future co-star of Mr. Noth on Sex & The City, Cynthia Nixon, Six Feet Under star Frances Conroy and future Sopranos stars Dominic Chianese and Aida Turturro. Also making a guest appearance is S. Epatha Merkerson would become a series regular in season four as Lt. Van Buren. She plays a different role in the Mushrooms episode.
on March 4, 2003
Thanks to my wife, I have become a Law & Order addict. This DVD set contains the 22 episodes of the first season of this show that has become an institution. A rather simple formula for each hour episode: the first half of the story shows the police action [Law], and the second segment of each episode covers the court trial [Order, in the court!]. The first season's cast is wonderful, but the fact that the show is still alive and strong, with a totally different cast, proves the power of the formula.
There is much to be said for watching the show without commercials; you can better appreciate the tight story lines and the wonderful writing, without a bunch of annoying commercials popping up every few minutes.
Everything works wonderfully on this show-- the great music by Mike Post, the opening narration, the formula of seeing the crime before the opening credits. The joys and challenges of life as a NY cop and life in the DA's office are artfully portrayed (and interestingly, we learn almost nothing about the personal lives of the characters). Note that there is very little on-screen violence here, even though violence is a key driver in many episodes. You will notice the absence of violence when you observe, in one episode, a storekeeper being beaten up--it is quite a shock, and makes you realize that the violence is usually just suggested (or it happens before the viewer is brought into the scene).
It is a lot of fun to notice who pops up in some of the small parts or one-episode roles. My favorite is Frances Conroy, the mother on Six Feet Under, who plays a high-class, horrid dominatrix. Cynthia Nixon plays someone quite different from her Sex and the City persona (and it is funny to see her with Chris Noth, who grows up to be Mr. Big). Also watch for Peter Frechette, Gil Bellows, Mandy Patinkin, Faith Prince, Courtney Vance, Camryn Manheim, John Spencer, William H. Macy, Andrew McCarthy, Ron Rifkin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson, Frances Sternhagen, S. Epatha Merkerson (in a small role, not related at all to her later starring role), Christine Baranski, plus scores and scores of New York City actors and actresses in bit parts.
Some of the recurring roles are marvelous; my personal favorite is Lorraine Toussaint, whom we first meet in Episode 2, as the in-your-face defense attorney Shambala Green.
L & O has given birth to several spin-offs, and it continues to dominate in its thirteenth season. I strongly recommend this DVD, whether you are a first time viewer or faithful addict as I have become. The only frustrating thing will be waiting for seasons 2-13 to come out on DVD!
on March 2, 2003
This DVD set is a real treat for those of us who feel that Law & Order was at its best during its early years. The first season features an entirely different cast from the current program and story lines that are more intense, raw and unpredictable than the watered-down L&O of today. The characters of Ben Stone and Mike Logan are particularly interesting, as many fans labeled them the "heart and soul," of the series. Often times, we find that we know who is guilty within the first 20 minutes of the show and the moral complications come in. This is best exemplified in the episodes, "Subterranean Homeboy Blues," "Life-Choice," and "Indifference." It is also neat to see recurring characters such as the fiery Shambala Green and the cop's cop, Tony Profaci. These supporting players, along with the main cast, had personality and helped drive the show, unlike their bland, cardboard counterparts of today. Although the show is focused on the plot, we get small glimpses into the personal lives and personalities of the characters through incidental dialogue. This era of the show may have been a bit too preachy at times, but it is made up for by riviting drama that has long since died on the L&O set. I'd recommend this set to anyone who wants to see Law & Order at its dramatic best.