Homicide Life on the Street - The Complete Season 7
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Richard Belzer, Yaphet Kotto. One of the grittiest and most authentic-feeling cop shows ever aired wraps up its memorable run with this seventh and final season. Includes the last 22 episodes from the Emmy Award-winning series. 6 DVDs. 1998-99/color/17 hrs., 30 min/NR.
Homicide's seventh season was surely its riskiest. Could they go on without Andre Braugher--should they even try? Fortunately, the answer is yes. As good as Braugher was, Homicide wasn't a star vehicle and the ensemble remained strong. Of course, there were a few cast changes, but that was nothing unusual. In season premiere "Famiglia," two new characters are introduced: Det. Renée Sheppard (Michael Michele, Ali) and Sgt. Giardello's FBI agent son, Mike (Giancarlo Esposito, Do the Right Thing), visiting from Arizona. In the follow-up "Brotherly Love," Mike decides to stay and becomes special liaison to the Baltimore PD. In addition, Austin Pendleton (Oz) would appear frequently as Chief ME George Griscom.
As ever, a variety of charismatic performers dropped by during 1998-1999. They include Aerosmith's Joe Perry, Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU), Jena Malone (Donnie Darko), Wallace Shawn (My Dinner With André), and Reed Diamond (Judging Amy), reprising his role as Mike Kellerman. In addition, a crossover with Law & Order ("Sideshow") brought Benjamin Bratt, Jerry Orbach, and Sam Waterston into the fold. Notable seventh season directors include Lisa Cholodenko (High Art), Miguel Arteta (Chuck and Buck), Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost), and Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark).
The general consensus is that Homicide's seventh season was its weakest. Even at its worst, however, it was still the smartest crime drama on network television. Although year seven would turn out to be the last, the show didn't really end until broadcast of Homicide: The Movie the following year. In it, the surviving cast members reunite to solve the attempted assassination of mayoral candidate Giardello. The TV movie also ties up loose ends from series finale "Forgive Us Our Trespasses" (like whether Kyle Secors Tim Bayliss killed a murder suspect). Unfortunately, it isn't included with this 22-episode set. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
- 22 episodes on six discs, in the order intended by the series producers
- Live panel discussion with Tom Fontana, Barry Levinson, James Yoshimura, and David Simon
- Barry Levinson's acceptance speech for the 2004 Video Software Dealers Association Career Achievement Award
- Cast biographies
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But its not only the lack of decent characters that hurt the show; bad writing and gimmicky plots further drove Homicide downward. There is no better evidence of this than the introduction of Lt. Al Giardello's son Mike (Giancarlo Esposito) as an FBI liaison to the Baltimore police department. The conflict between father and son is supposed to be compelling, but the two actors and characters are so different and share so little chemistry that its impossible to regard their ongoing struggle to reconnect as little more than a bad soap opera subplot, not worthy of Homicide's past creative achievements. The other new face is Det. Renee Sheppard (Michael Michele.) She is little more than just a new face. She has no personality and adds nothing to the group dynamic of the show. Other players from the previous year (Gharty, Falsone and Ballard) take center stage in this season. They were tolerable before, but their personal relationships and watery portrayals only show why a good ensemble drama needs good actors and authentic characters to be successful. There's a third and final crossover with Law & Order, but it tries to press too many political buttons in the midst of the Lewinsky/Starr scandal and comes off as too heavy-handed and manipulative for its own good.
Despite the final season's many obvious flaws, there's just enough to bring diehard fans like me back for the finish. The two-part "Kellerman, P.I." gives us some closure to Mike Kellerman's character that we won't find in the subsequent movie. Several other noteworthy episodes include "Lines of Fire," "The Same Coin," "Homicide.com," "Self-defense," and "Truth Will Out." Old Homicide veterans like Munch, Lewis and Giardello Sr. still put in quality performances, though they aren't as effective when they're not given good stories and actors off which to play. Tim Bayliss is one of the few compelling characters that remains, though he is a mixed bag for much of the season. After returning from his near-fatal shooting in the sixth season finale, he seems to be adrift without Pembleton and clings to Buddhism for comfort. This comes off as cliché and cornie for much of the season, but his strange trip is worth the pay-off in the excellent series finale, "Forgive Us Our Trespasses," when Bayliss ends his series arc in a dark and disturbing fashion. Viewers left hanging can find some answers in the Homicide movie, though it too suffers from its own problems.
The extras are sparse in this set, though not necessarily as bare as previous offerings. The panel interview is insightful and the commentary is pretty good. This DVD set may not be worth 100 bucks, but its really necessary to complete the collection of an otherwise excellent and vastly under-rated network series. If the price tag puts you off, just do what I did and buy it used. Enjoy the great series finale and the few other gems in this season and thank David Simon, Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson for bringing us this truly outstanding television program.
Just an Old Fashioned Love Song
The Twenty Percent Solution
Red, Red Wine
Wanted Dead or Alive: Parts One & Two
Kellerman, P.I.: Parts One & Two
Shades of Gray
Bones of Contention
The Same Coin
A Case of Do or Die
Sideshow Part Two (Part One an episode of "Law & Order")
Truth Will Out
Zen and the Art of Murder
Lines of Fire
The Why Chromosome
Forgive Us Our Trespasses
Extras on the DVD set include:
Live Panel Discussion with Tom Fontana, Barry Levinson, James Yoshimura, and David Simon
Barry Levinson's Acceptance Speech for the 2004 Video Software Dealers Association Career Achievement Award
Commentary with Tom Fontana, Julie Martin, and James Yoshimura on the Episode "Forgive Us Our Trespasses"
While not exactly "loaded" with extras, this final season set is a necessary addition to any fan's collection, if only for the addition of Giancarlo Esposito and the unresolved plotline of the relationship between Gee and Mike which comes to a head in the movie.
Full of ups and downs, season seven isn't the greatest, but it was television at its finest, and no show has come close to achieving what "Homicide" did from beginning to end: tell gripping stories with a well-developed cast of characters that entertained for seven short years.