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Law & Order Special Victims Unit - The First Year

4.6 out of 5 stars 235 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

From the popular and award-winning Law & Order franchise comes Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. This hard-hitting and emotional series chronicles the exciting cases of the NYPD's Special Victims Unit as they try to crack the city's most heinous crimes.With a celebrated cast that includes Christopher Meloni (Twelve Monkeys, TV's Oz) Mariska Hargitay (Lake Placid, TV's ER), Dan Florek (Beautiful Joe, The Flintstones), Richard Belzer (Jump, TV's Homicide: Life on the Street), Dean Winters (TV's Oz) and Michelle Hurd (Random Hearts), and featuring such notable guest stars as Angie Harmon (TV's Law & Order), Jerry Orbach (TV's Law & Order), Andrew McCarthy (St. Elmo's Fire, Pretty in Pink), Bebe Neuwirth (TV's Frasier, Cheers) and Camryn Manheim (TV's The Practice), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - The First Year is a must-have DVD collection.

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Originally called Sex Crimes, executive producer Dick Wolf wisely opted for something less lurid when the second in the inexhaustible Law & Order franchise hit the air in 1999. Still, as the opening voiceover makes clear, the "sexually based offenses" investigated by New York's Special Victims Unit can be "especially heinous." This six-DVD boxed set includes all 22 episodes of the first compelling season.

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


Special Features

Disc 6 - Law & Order Special Victims Unit - The First Year:
  • Special Victim's Unit: The Beginning
  • Dann Florek Squad Room Walk-Through

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Mariska Hargitay
    • Format: Box set, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
    • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
    • Subtitles: Spanish, French
    • Dubbed: Spanish, English
    • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Number of discs: 6
    • Rated:
      NR
      Not Rated
    • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
    • DVD Release Date: October 21, 2003
    • Run Time: 959 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (235 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B0000AVHCA
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,142 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
    • Learn more about "Law & Order Special Victims Unit - The First Year" on IMDb

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    By Adam Dukovich on October 3, 2003
    Format: DVD
    The first Law and Order Spinoff series, Law and Order: SVU is an often stark and depressing look into the most destructive crimes being committed today. This series offers an uncompromising look into the minds of some truly disturbing sex offenders and reminds us about what happens every day that we'd rather just ignore. Occasionally lurid and often brilliant, this show combines Law and Order's entertaining, 'ripped-from-the-headlines' storytelling while reminding its audience about what is casually glossed over in the news every night.
    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.
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    Dick Wolf masterminded another great spin-off from the Law & Order franchise with Law & Order SVU (originally titled Sex Crimes)which consistently now ranks in the top 20 shows. This DVD set is an exciting way to capture the beginnings of the series and to see how much growth has occurred in the writing and character development. The series manages to tackle a number of gripping sexually based subjects without being exploitative. In fact, the writing on this series is top-notch and never seems to grow stale or contrived.
    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.
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    Chances are that if you're thinking about buying this set, you've seen the show enough to judge the quality. The writing is top-notch, the acting is great, and the cases tend to strike an emotional chord within us who want to see sex offenders brought to justice. I won't bore you with an episode-by-episode rundown. The show is set up differently from regular Law & Order in that you actually get to know the characters from their private lives and why they react to certain crimes and criminals the way they do.
    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.
    Comment 20 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    I started to watch this series on UK television this year. There was a huge advertising campaign and it worked on me - I sat down and watched the first episode.. and well I was hooked. I do not believe I have ever seen such a compelling series as this. As a Brit I am a huge fan of US drama series - I thought that ER would never be beaten for exhausting gritty realism - but I think I have found its equal. A bold and brave series it concentrates on the darker side of crime fighting - that of sex crimes. It required superior story lines and acting to get this series of the ground and running. Once again this debut series had both elements in abundance. The whole cast are excellent especially Hargitay and Meloni who bring a huge aray of emotions to the screen without excessive sentimentality. All the actors play vunerable characters - but their dedication and compassion to their work brings a sense of balance between the terrible crimes they investigate and the people they try to protect. Amazingly there is also a wonderful brand of humour which runs through the episodes which lightens the mood and adds further dimension to the characters and storylines. I am delighted that the first series has finally been brought out on DVD. It deserves to be seen, so do.
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