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Law & Order Special Victims Unit - The First Year
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Wolf penned series premier "Payback," which sets the scene, but not the tone. It's a lively, if uneasy mix between horror (rape) and comedy (risqué banter). As the show progressed, humor would be written out altogether (leaving Richard Belzer's Homicide-derived John Munch with increasingly less to do). Less emphasis would also be placed on the home lives of this "elite squad of dedicated detectives." Mostly, "Payback" introduces us to the unit, centering around partners Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni). For two people with so little in common, they make a terrific team--arguably one of TV's best. Stabler is married with four children; Benton is single and her closest relationship is with her mother (Elizabeth Ashley). While Stabler can get a little rough with suspects, Benton tends to over-empathize with the victims. They report to the no-nonsense Captain Cragen (Law & Order vet Dann Florek). Like the parent program's Lenny Briscoe, he's a recovering alcoholic. Dean Winters and Michelle Hurd round out the rock-solid cast.
As it would continue to do in successive years, SVU's first season proved that network TV could explore sex crimes without being salacious or exploitative. "Uncivilized," for instance, concerns a child murder that is automatically pinned on a local sex offender, when the actual perpetrator isn't quite so obvious. "Disrobed," in which Brian Cassidy (Winters) leaves the department and Benson (with whom he had a brief affair) shoots a suspect is another standout in a strong year. SVU was followed by Criminal Intent in 2001 and features several guest appearances from Jerry Orbach (Briscoe) and Angie Harmon (Abbie Carmichael) from the original Law & Order. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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Although the original Law and Order was very much a story-driven show, this incarnation focused much more on the lives of the detectives on the Special Victims Unit. Christopher Meloni plays Detective Stabler, a family man who is very dedicated to his work. The fact that he has a wife and daughters makes him a very interesting character and adds to his movivation to get the job done, to get the bad guys off the street, so that it won't be his daughters being abused next. His partner, Detective Bensen, is played by Mariska Hargitay. She is in the work for different reasons. The fact that she herself was the product of a rape makes her also a very interesting character, as her motivations for being in the unit are very complicated. Richard Belser reprises his role from 'Homicide' as Detective John Munch, and he brings a lot of black humor to the show. It's just fun to watch him work, and Belser is a terriffic actor. His partner in the first year was Michelle Hurd, although she would later be supplanted by Ice-T. Hurd played a slightly off-kilter policewoman who wasn't quite prepared for the rigors of the job and was forced off the squad at year's end. Rounding out the cast was Dann Florek, reprising his role as Captain Cragen from the original Law and Order.Read more ›
As the intro to each episode states, the SVU, or Special Victims Unit, is in charge of particularly heinous crimes that are sexually based. Lead detectives are Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Stabler (Christopher Meloni). Detective Munch (Richard Belzer) is paired first with Cassidy (Dean Winters) and later with Jefferies (Michelle Hurd). Ice-T doesn't become Munch's partner until season two. The entire group of detectives is commanded by Captain Don Cragen (Dann Florek).
As a previous viewer stated there are commercials at the beginning of disc one, but on that disc only. The set includes 22 full length episodes including the pilot for the series. Two featurettes are also on the final disc. Special Victims Unit: The Beginning features cast members and producers giving insight into the making of and success of the show. Dann Florek's Squad Room Walk Through clues us into life on the set and little tidbits about the squadroom such as the photo on Olivia's desk (that of Mariska's real mother, Jayne Mansfield with her two dogs Momsicle and Popsicle), the wanted pictures on the bulletin board (actually crew and office workers), the rationale behind props in Captain Cragen's office, and many more insider scoops.Read more ›
Now, the question you want answered is: Is it worth the money? The series alone is. It's highly entertaining and captivating. The special features are a little scarce, with only two good but short featurettes. In my opinion, ever dvd set of a television series should really go all out with the features. Let the public in on the process! Give us some outtakes and behind the scenes goodies. We know you have them! The show gets 5 stars, the set 4. Definitely worth the 40 bucks, but it would be nice to be let in on a little more.
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