113 of 124 people found the following review helpful
One of the finest TV series ever aired
, June 11, 2009
This review is from: Homicide: Life on the Street - The Complete Series (DVD)
I will warn you that this review contains spoilers.
This is the collection that every "Homicide: Life on the Street" fan has been waiting for - and got - back in 2006. For some reason it is being rereleased and repackaged. It includes all 122 episodes of the seven seasons of the original series, the Law and Order cross-over episodes, plus the movie "Another Homicide" that aired in February 2000 and was the last we fans ever got to see of our beloved series.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, "Homicide" was an original crime drama that aired on NBC between January 1993 and May 1999. It was based on David Simon's book, "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets", which was based upon Simon's experiences in 1988 when he spent a year as a civilian assistant to the Baltimore Police Homicide Unit so that he could document what life was like in a big city homicide squad. His extensive notes, interviews, and observations were eventually published as the book.
Much of the cases chronicled in the first two seasons of the show are adapted from actual events in the book. The first two seasons focus on rookie Tim Bayliss's first case - the murder of 11 year-old Adina Watson whose murder is never solved and haunts him for the duration of the series. The original cast was truly brilliant, but to get a third full season the show's producers had to delete veteran actor Jon Polito (Crosetti) from the cast and pretty up the cast by adding Isabella Hoffman as shift supervisor Megan Russert.
There was an entire episode, perhaps the best of the series, dedicated to detective Crosetti's suicide at the beginning of season three. Crosetti left no note, and apparently had no huge looming problems in his life. He just chose to fill himself with alcohol, tranquilizers, and antidepressants and then throw himself into the Chesapeake rather than return to his job after his vacation, in spite of his deeply held religious beliefs that would make you think this is a choice he would never have made. This is one thing you'll see on Homicide time and time again - the writers are not afraid to leave the tough questions unanswered...forever.
Season four is also great, although two more original castmembers depart - Beau Felton and Stan Bolander. The two additions to the cast include Mike Kellerman, whose boyish, fun-loving exterior hides a cagey and complex detective with a penchant for self destruction. He is transferred from arson to homicide as a result of the help he renders on closing the case of an arson-related homicide when a dead body is found in a burned warehouse. Also, J. H. Brodie, a news cameraman who is fired because he gives a tape showing the attacker of an elderly woman to the police rather than to the station for which he works, is also added to the cast. He is apparently meant to be an analog of David Simon. The only problem is, Simon took great pains to keep himself out of the story while Brodie is constantly included in the plot, making him a somewhat awkward although likeable addition.
By season five, the "NYPD-Blueing" of Homicide is becoming a bit more pronounced. Never having stellar ratings, the series was forced by the network to show less detective work and gritty realism and more of the personal lives of the cast members. Still, the episodes are excellent. In this season, Michelle Forbes, the new M.E. with a "Queen of the Dead" vibe, speeds into town and becomes involved with Mike Kellerman. Frank Pembleton is shown recovering from the stroke he had at the end of season four and struggling to return to full duty. Elijah Wood stars as a the spoiled sociopath son of a Baltimore judge who believes he can get away with anything, including plotting the murder of his own judge mother. Finally, there is the apparent suicide of a long-since departed detective that turns out to be a murder.
Season six is where things begin to go downhill in the show. At the conclusion of season five it was determined that detectives would rotate between departments. This was used as a vehicle to introduce three largely uninteresting and even unlikeable castmembers - Det. Ballard who actually comes from a Seattle homicide unit, Det. Paul Falsone and Det. Stu Gharty. Falsone always came across as a sneak and Stu Gharty had already been shown up as a coward in an episode from a previous season. Melissa Leo's character, Kay Howard, is now completely evicted from the series. Still, there are some interesting developments. In "Subway" Pembleton gets an opportunity to speak with the dead for a change rather than for them. Bayliss, at the ripe old age of 37, decides to explore other facets of his sexuality, much to the surprise of Pembleton. Kellerman's execution/shooting of arch-criminal Luther Mahoney in the previous season leads to all out war between the police and Mahoney's family that ends up in a shootout in the squad room and also with Bayliss taking a bullet for Pembleton. Both Pembleton and Kellerman resign from the force.
Season seven is largely forgettable. Bayliss has converted to Buddhism following his brush with death and becomes "The Zen Detective". Giardello's son joins the cast as liason between Baltimore PD and the FBI, although the two look more like brothers than father and son - the age separation is just not there, and neither is any semblance of a believable family connection. Michael Michele joins the cast as ex beauty queen/detective Rene Sheppard and does as good a job of helping this show jump the shark as Ted McGinley could have ever hoped to do.
The main episodes from season seven worth watching include those that wrap up Mike Kellerman's story after his exile at the end of season six - the two parter "Kellerman P.I". There are also the episodes that further Tim Bayliss' character development where he is forced to shoot the killer of a Buddhist monk in self defense - "Zen and the Art of Murder". The other storyline worth watching involve episodes on the Internet killer, who is released on a technicality but vows to Bayliss that he will kill again. These two storylines - the Internet killer being freed and Tim discovering that he can kill if he has to - collide in the excellent series finale "Forgive Us Our Trespasses".
The movie aired about nine months after the series finale and has Giardello running for mayor. He is shot by a man whose son is addicted to drugs who does not like Giardello's stand on drugs as more of a treatment problem than a crime problem. The entire cast from the series - and I mean everybody - shows up in this film. Besides helping solve the case, Pembleton gets to hear one more confession - that of Bayliss admitting to the shooting of the Internet killer and demanding that Pembleton "bring him in". This is a crime that Bayliss' heart can get past but his head cannot. As a final revelation, we discover that the dead have ready access to coffee, but not expresso.
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