67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
Back in the mid-1990's, I was connected with an organization called "Viewers for Quality Television," or "VQT." It was a group of people championing television programs, especially dramas, that didn't get much attention from the Emmy's, but should have.
"Homicide Life: Life on the Streets" was one of our shows we fought for. While NBC stuck with it, often halfheartedly, for several years while erratically scheduling it alternately in good time slots (following the Superbowl one week, then not showing it for several weeks), then moving it to a different night every couple of months, e.g. January 1993 (Sunday), Feb-March 1993 (Wednesday), then keeping it off the air until January 1994 (Thursday), and then moving it after a few months in October 1994 (Friday), it was doomed to fail, but we watched it anyway...hoping that we'd get to see another episode.
The characters were an odd collection of people who cared about what they did, and we as viewers cared about them: Ned Beatty as Stanley (the Big Man), Richard Belzer as Munch, Daniel Baldwin as Beau Felton, Andre Braugher as Frank, and Yaphet Kotto as Lieutenant Giardello (Gee).
SPOILER ALERT! I could write ten pages about wonderful moments from this show: The "small talk" of Stanley and Munch. The pain Frank felt after the death of Crosetti in December 1994. the shooting of Felton, Kay Howard (Melissa Leo) and Stan in January 1995. The warmth of the snowball fight at the end of one show in December with Christy Hyde singing "Have yourself a very Merry Christmas" in the background.
This was great Television that through the advent of DVD we'll be able to watch again and again. Which only goes to show you that in a world that often, from time-to-time, looks like it is going to hell in a handbasket, something wonderful, like these first two years of Homicide, come along.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2003
I remember stumbling upon the show sometime around 1993 during what is ultimately one of its truly classic episodes ("Three Men and Adena", an episode solely regarding an interview with a suspect in a horrible murder), and stuck around up until it's eventual cancellation years later. The fact that it survived for as long as it did, despite being rather unconvential in its execution (a cop show not revolving around car chases and gun fights) is a credit indeed. The first 13 episodes (which make up the first two seasons it was on the air) boast some truly powerful stories. As impressive is the cast, boasting Yaphet Kotto as Al Giardello, the tough but level-headed Lieuteant of the unit, Richard Belzer as the manic John Munch, who drives his elder partner (played by Ned Beatty) completely nuts. Then there's the twisted partnership between rookie detective Bayliss (Kyle Secor) and the often volatile Pembleton (Andre Braugher), which creates some of the series' truly chilling moments (such as the aforementioned "3 Men and Adena"). And there's more that plays into the intersting tapestry that is "Homicide: Life On The Street." To say it influenced many of the cop shows today would be more than true. In its genre, the show still stands as one of the best of the best, period.
44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
The technical complaints about the "Homicide: Seasons 1 & 2" DVD box set are 100% accurate. The typos on the package, and the lack of English captioning (for one of the most dialogue-intensive shows on TV), betray a lack of planning behind this long-awaited (and relatively expensive) release.
However, watching the first 13 episodes of the series removes all other qualms about the set. It's important just to get these shows on DVD and put them back into the public eye. Here's a cop show with no gunfights and no car chases. Although "Law & Order" mostly followed the same rules, here the cops themselves are the attraction, played by a terrific ensemble cast of character actors. Obviously there's Richard Belzer, whose Detective Munch has been used everywhere else from two "Law & Order" series, "The X-Files", and the film epic "A Very Brady Sequel" (!). And Munch is just a minor character in this box set. More prominent cast members (who sadly didn't make it to the show's later, full-season runs) include Ned Beatty as the worn-out Stan Bolander, Daniel Baldwin as good-old-boy Beau Felton, and Jon Polito's Lincoln assassination conspiracy theorist Frank Crosetti. You may remember Polito from his current role as California lieutenant governor Cruz Bustamante.
A good way to judge the quality of a TV show is to scan the cast and production credits and see what became of the team a decade later. Apart from big-name directors Barry Levinson and Bruce Paltrow, two Season 1 episodes were directed by Martin Campbell, who revived the James Bond franchise with "GoldenEye" a few years later. Familiar names in the guest cast include Edie Falco (recurring as the wife of an injured patrolman), Julianna Margulies (as Bolander's second-season love interest), the always welcome Luis Guzman as a doomed coffin maker, and Jake Gyllenhaal, playing Robin Williams' kid in the second-season opener.
The glue that holds the show together is the Season 1 story arc revolving around the murder of schoolgirl Adena Watson. We trace the investigation through the eyes of nervous rookie detective Tim Bayliss (the underrated Kyle Secor) and his partner Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher, given to mesmerizing fits of Shakespearean fury). Yaphet Kotto ("Koto", as per the box) takes the cliched role of the minority squad leader and turns in a joyful, fiery performance that equals Braugher's at every turn. Also standing out is the episode with Williams, which deftly turns from an examination of victim's rage to a (somewhat sympathetic) look at the killer's mind. By definition, most other cop shows don't go within a thousand miles of that approach.
The commentary by Levinson and Tom Fontana on the pilot episode is above average; however, that's all we get. There's a useless episode from some A&E true crime series; however, the song list, episode trailers, and casting featurette are decent additions. Season 3 is on its way, and none too soon. In the meantime, watch these episodes again.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2005
Homicide: Life on the Street debuted on NBC, when it's 'sister series' Law & Order was in its 3rd season, taking viewers to Baltimore, with a new group of detectives, played by a great cast!
Leading the squad was Yaphet Kotto (Alien) as Lt. Al Giardello (called G by his officers), with Andre Braugher as Detective Frank Pembleton, who took rookie detective Tim Bayliss, played by Kyle Secor, under his wing. Other detectives who partnered up in the first two years of Homicide included Detective Stanley Bolander (Ned Beatty), twice-divorced, cynical wise-cracker Detective John Munch (played by Richard Belzer, who later reprised Munch on Law & Order; Special Victims Unit), Detective Meldrick Lewis (Clark Johnson), Italian Detective Steve Crosetti (Jon Polito), tough female cop Detective Kay Howard (Melissa Leo), and troubled family man Detective Beau Felton (Daniel Baldwin). These varied detectives investigated 2-3 cases in one episode, making a very different style for the series from Law & Order, though it was just as hard-hitting and gritty as the 4-series franchise.
Also filled with recurring support characters, such as politically-minded college educated but inexperienced Col. Barnfather (Clayton LeBoeuf), shot blind Officer Chris Thormann (Lee Tergesen), and sexist/ racist Irish Officer/Detective Roger Gaffney who, IMHO, wouldn't know a murder victim from a Pop Tart. These last 3 characters recurred frequently throughout the entire series, and (to my disappointment) Gaffney never got killed. Oh well.
Special bonus! Robin Williams guest stars in a 2nd season episode as a tourist whose wife is gunned down in front of him and his two kids while vacationing in Baltimore.
Like L&O, Homicide was shot on location in Baltimore, lending an air of authenticity to the series. Sadly, the Fells Point police station this series was filmed in is now closed down, though tourists can still see it, and go to the Waterfront Bar, which Lewis, Bayliss, and Munch bought in Season 3, which sells Homicide merchandise!
This was the beginning of a great series, and you'll enjoy the hours spent watching it, instead of watching these stupid reality shows that are polluting the airways now. Send a message to Hollywood! Buy the DVD sets, and don't watch reality shows!!!
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2005
Homicide: Life on the Street is one of the very few cop shows that is character-driven, combined with great storytelling and superb acting all around. Others have mentioned the fine camera work and visuals and I agree that the gritty images lend themselves to this dark drama. The bonus materials are few and I must admit that the commentary on the pilot, "Gone for Good" was not as rewarding as I had hoped. Still, I bought this DVD set for the episodes themselves and I certainly wasn't disappointed. It is nice to watch the original uncut programs and the sound and picture are superior to the reruns shown on cable. Homicide is not a whodunit mystery program. Often, we know who the killer is early in the show. The conflict comes as we watch these hardened Baltimore detectives
struggle to obtain evidence, confessions and occasionally deal with the morality and immorality of man's inhumanity to man. Nor is Homicide a cut-and-dried affair where the cops always catch the bad guys in the end. Often the murderer will escape justice, as best proven by Tim Bayliss's tracking of the murderer
of Adena Watson. This is a major plot thread throughout the first season and will reappear as the series goes on. There is no graphic violence on this show, save the occasional sight of blood or glimpse of a dead body. Nor do we find any sex; no bare bottoms or breasts to help hype the ratings.
One of the strengths of Homicide is it's ability to deal with racial issues in a realistic manner that isn't too preachy. Tokenism isn't one of
this show's failings. There are several strong black characters in the show and as we come to know and respect them, it is easy for us to look past their
race and appreciate their unique characteristics. The true star of the show is Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher) who rightfully won an Emmy for his performance at the time of his departure after the sixth season. His abilities are best demonstrated when Pembleton forces a confession from a man who is innocent in "Black and Blue." None of these characters are perfect. Some of the detectives are lazy, others are arrogant and others are just burned out. Yet, we can all appreciate them in spite of their weaknesses.
The most powerful episode of the series is contained in the first season, "Three Men and Adena,"
in which Pembleton and Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor) spend 12 hours interrogating a suspect in the murder of an 11-year-old girl. Other standout episodes include "Bop Gun," in which Robin Williams plays a grieving father angry with himself and the process after he watches his wife shot down during a botched robbery. Also, "See No Evil," "Son of a Gun," and the series premier, "Gone for Good." There are times when the plot moves too slowly and we get bogged down in the small details as evidenced by the episode, "Night of the Dead Living," but this problem is cleared up by the second season.
In these first two seasons, we come to know and
love characters who won't last through the entire series run, including Steve Crosetti (Jon Polito), Kay Howard (Melissa Leo), Stan Bolander (Ned Beatty)
and Beau Felton (Daniel Baldwin.) We also meet other characters who will remain as solid staples of the show including John Munch (Richard Belzer), Al
Giardello (Yaphet Kotto) and Meldrick Lewis (Clark Johnson.) With this top-notch cast, combined with authentic police stories and unique visuals, Homicide
is truly a groundbreaking series. Any fan that respects the genre should own this DVD set, for it is human drama television at its finest.
*Gone for Good (Series pilot/premiere)
*A Ghost of a Chance
*Night of the Dead Living
*Son of a Gun (Guest star Edie Falco)
*A Shot in the Dark
*Three Men and Adena (Guest star Moses Gunn)
*A Dog and Pony Show
*And the Rockets Dead Glare
*Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
*See No Evil (Guest star Wilford Brimley)
*Black and Blue
*A Many Splendored Thing (Guest star Julianna Margulies)
*Bop Gun (Guest star Robin Williams)
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2003
the finest and most intelligent writing i have ever enjoyed in a TV show. I can't say enough good things about the people associated with this show. from the actors to the writers and director. a class act all round. I've been a huge fan since episode one. day one starts with Det. Tim Bayless reporting for his first day in the Baltimore Homicde unit. over the 7 years of the series we see him and all the other characters evolve. story lines that took seasons to play out. there are stories so powerful that to this day, i remember "Adena Watson", "Annabela Wilgis" - AKA "JMJ", the evil "Luthor Mahoney" and his equally cruel sister. we also get to see guest actors doing some of their finest work; Vincent D'Onofrio in "Subway" (Peabody winning episode), robin Williams turning in some of his finest work as a father of two who, along with his son and daughter witnessed the murder of his wife. In the end, it's up to the Homicide Detectives to find out who done it. thats what they do. they speak for the dead. it is their solem duty. it boils down to the interrogation room, "the box", and "the board", listing the open and closed cases assigned to each Detective. unique among all of TV history. well worth the price of admission. i will own every episode on DVD.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2003
At last!!!!! The best ... cop show ever on DVD!!!!! Been following the exploits of Gee's squad since 1996; now enjoying the re-runs on Hallmark TV's UK channel!
Based on the award winning book written by David Simon, who spent a year on the killing streets of Baltimore with the Homicide Squad, this innovative series explores the routine investigative hard work rather than the sensational car chases prevalent in other Cop shows, this combines the friction and interaction between partners, and of the victims of Homicide......this is sensational TV !!!!!
First picked this up in Series 5 , before the re-runs, and made me eager to see how the characters developed in earlier series! from the Bayliss-Pembleton partnership to the shooting of Luther Mahoney, the untouchable drugs overlord, the conspiracy theorists Munch and Crosetti, the explosive pairing of Lewis & Kellerman, the insecurity of Howard, the female homicide detective with the best clearance rate in the entire unit, this series explores previously uncharted territory in the lives of the Baltimore Homicide Squad!
The main focal point is Lieutenant Giardello known as Gee to his squad who rules with an iron but fair hand over his detectives.....the focal point of the whole show is the whiteboard which displays the state of play of ongoing (red), and solved crimes (black); according to the different detectives! Gee likes a predominance of black to dominate the board.........
This series post dates ER yet pre dates Oz the series, written by Tom Fontana..........if you only purchase 1 cop show then this is 'a must buy'!!!!! Absolutely brilliant!!!
Allan Dawkins Leeds England !!!!!
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2003
Most episodes of this show were crisp, complex and intelligent. Serious issues like race, poverty and moral character were dealt with sometimes explicitly and sometimes allegorically; but always brilliantly. The various 'character studies' represented by each regular on the show allowed for all shades of gray in life to be pondered. Reed Diamond's Kellerman was fascinating;Andre Braugher's 'Frank' was the moral compass. There were episodes I felt should be played in high school classes, right all with movies like Twelve Angry Men. Now that it's out on DVD I will be buying a DVD player! More seasons please!!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2006
This televised police procedural drama, based on a non-fiction book by David Simon, is some of the best TV made in the past 30 years. Yes, it is gritty and at times unpleasant, as is the reality of a big-city police homicide squad. This is not light entertainment (although there are some ironically hilarious moments), but real fans of serious TV drama can hardly breathe during each episode, as the story unfolds and art imitates life imitates art. The ensemble acting is some of the finest I have ever seen in a half-century of avid TV watching.
The Emmy-winning episode "Three Men and Adena" deserves special mention. Detectives Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor) and his somewhat unwilling partner Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher) spend endless hours interrogating "Araber" Risley Tucker (Moses Gunn) a street-vendor suspected of murdering a 13-year-old girl. This is Tim's first case as "primary" detective, and he needs to succeed, and he and Frank hammer away in "the box", an interrogation room as microcosm of the universe. Good cop-bad cop, finishing each other sentences, shouting and then calmly acting as a "friend", they attempt all the tricks in their bag to try to wring a confession from Tucker. Gunn gives one of the finest performances of his long and storied career, and died shortly after this episode was completed. You will have to see the episode to find out what happens, but the result was to haunt Detective Bayliss during the entire series and beyond into the wrap-up movie.
Homicide received enormous praise from the critics, but low ratings, and was bounced around in various timeslots. Yet it survived for seven seasons, and is now available on DVDs, where one can watch the episodes in the correct order, without commercials. (I almost miss the commercials because during the original telecasts it was difficult to breathe during the show.) This is TV drama that is ABOUT important issues: child & spouse abuse, assisted suicide, estrangement from religion, alcoholism, patricide, just to name a few. As one of the detectives posits: "We speak for the dead". Those aren't the happiest topics, but you can always watch "Friends" or "Seinfeld" if you need to giggle. Homicide is the elevation of television as Dramatic Art to its highest level.
If you are uncertain as to whether to buy this, try to catch a few episodes on re-runs, and you may decide you definitely need to own this milestone in television.
31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2003
Content-wise the show deserves 5 stars.
In terms of picture and sound quality, this set deserves no less than 4 stars.
However, the biggest disappointment as it turns out is that there is not even closed captioning, much less subtitles.
I discussed this issue at length with a few fans who happened to be hearing-impaired, and indeed they voiced their frustration. Those fans were deeply disappointed and felt like they were ignored/abandoned.
While my own hearing is fine, I would hope A&E would be more sensitive towards the needs of hearing-impaired fans and proceed to add closed captioning to future releases.