One of the most critically acclaimed shows in TV history, Homicide: Life on the Street reinvigorated a tired genre by focusing on the grueling work of solving murders instead of an endless succession of bloody crimes and car chases. Inspired by David Simon's Edgar Award-winning account of Baltimore homicide detectives and brought to television by writer Paul Attanasio (Gideon's Crossing) and director Barry Levinson (Analyze This, The Perfect Storm, Oz), Homicide boasted a powerhouse ensemble cast featuring Ned Beatty (Network, Deliverance), Yaphet Kotto (Alien, Midnight Run), Richard Belzer (Law & Order: SVU), and breakout star Andre Braugher (Frequency, Gideon's Crossing). Now this Emmy and Peabody Award winner debuts on DVD with this collector's set featuring all 13 episodes from the first two seasons of Homicide: Life on the Street.
Homicide: Life on the Street was always ahead of its time. As this collection of the first two seasons proves--it still is. Crime dramas that have thrived on cable, like The Sopranos, have benefited from the ground Homicide broke--and inherited many of the talents (like Edie Falco) that made it great. To NBC's credit, particularly then-president and fan Warren Littlefield, it supported the show for seven years, despite several cast changes and lukewarm ratings. Fortunately, critics were enthusiastic from the start and fans were loyal. Awards would roll in, too, culminating in a richly deserved Emmy for Andre Braugher (Frank Pembleton).
Homicide was based on the book by David Simon and created by Paul Attanasio (Quiz Show), Tom Fontana (Oz), and Barry Levinson (Diner). It was filmed in Levinson's beloved Charm City and he directed several episodes, including "Gone for Goode," which introduced the case of Adena Watson (and won another Emmy). It would haunt Tim Bayliss (the underrated Kyle Secor) for the rest of the series. The authentic Maryland locations, unusual cases (many based on real-life incidents), groundbreaking camera work, edgy--often humorous--dialogue, and seemingly improvised acting set Homicide apart from everything on TV. Then there were the directors, like Nick Gomez ("Son of a Gun") and Alan Taylor ("A Dog and Pony Show"), and guest stars, like Gwen Verdon ("A Ghost of a Chance") and Robin Williams ("Bop Gun"). Could this really be network TV? Most times, it didn't feel like it. These 13 episodes present the main characters: Lieutenant Al "Gee" Giardello (Yaphet Kotto), Kay Howard (Melissa Leo), Meldrick Lewis (Clark Johnson), and John Munch (Richard Melzer), whose character would segue to Law & Order: SVU. Ned Beatty, Daniel Baldwin, and Jon Polito also make vivid impressions, but would not remain for the long haul. --Kathleen C. Fennessy