Law & Order: The Third Year

by Aaron on May 31, 2005

in Uncategorized

Dick Wolf’s legal behemoth is set to become the longest running police procedural show, and second longest running drama in television history. To date there are three spin-offs, and I’ll wager we’ll be seeing Law & Order: Hall Monitors, and L&O: Bathroom Key Attendants before this decade is through. All kidding aside though, Law & Order has earned it’s longevity by keeping current, handling it’s material as un-sensationally as television will allow, and by having a stellar cast portraying interesting characters. Universal has just released the third season on DVD, so we sat down for some 17 hours worth of hard-hitting justice.

Law & Order: The Third Year
4 Stars

The Babyfaces meets Mr. Craggly

Dick Wolf’s legal behemoth is set to become the longest running police procedural show, and second longest running drama in television history. To date there are three spin-offs, and I’ll wager we’ll be seeing Law & Order: Hall Monitors, and L&O: Bathroom Key Attendants before this decade is through. All kidding aside though, Law & Order has earned it’s longevity by keeping current, handling it’s material as un-sensationally as television will allow, and by having a stellar cast portraying interesting characters. Universal has just released the third season on DVD, so we sat down for some 17 hours worth of hard-hitting justice.

For the unfamiliar, Law & Order broke new ground for police shows by spending the first half of the show detailing the detective and police work and the second half detailing the criminal trial. While on occasion this can lend itself to some unduly compressed storylines, all in all the format is infinitely more rewarding than just seeing either story by itself. The 1992-1993 season saw the introduction of Det. Lennie Briscoe, played by fan favorite Jerry Orbach (who passed away late last year), and the exit of Paul Sorvino, but otherwise the show was business as usual. Across the 22 episodes included in this set, the topics range from straight-up murder, to corporate fraud & malfeasance, sweatshops, new partners, drug-running, computer crimes, weapons dealing, mentally handicapped defendents, government cover-ups, and animal rights activists. It’s a pretty breathtaking list of subjects to cover, and they’re all handled with L&O’s trademark style and heft.

As a set this is a pretty satisfying collection, with 3 double sided discs covering the show along with deleted scenes and a tribute to Jerry Orbach. Few television show sets have deleted scenes, and it’s interesting to see what gets cut on a show like Law & Order. Most often you can assume it’s due to running time, but occasionally you can see that some scenes either just don’t work, or detract from episode as a whole. The picture and audio quality is top notch, so you can chuck your A&E taped episodes and enjoy it in digital glory.

There’s a six-minute interview with Jerry Orbach that’s interesting, if a little dry, but the tribute is mostly just clips of various cast members talking about the star.  Strangely, a lot of the actors are from the recent spin-offs of Law & Order, and the whole thing seems like a good idea that wasn’t given much care or attention.  Who cares what the cast of Trial By Jury thought of Orbach?  Bring on the Sam Waterson!

While my own interest in Law & Order has waned over the years, the third season was one in which they’d hit a creative stride that would continue for some time, and this set showcases a show at it’s absolute best. At a standard retail price of $59 dollars, it might be a bit pricey for a show that’s constantly in re-runs on TV, but the great storylines, excellent chemistry between Chris Noth & Orbach, and the overall quality of the show should make this a must have for fans.

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