Run Time: 17 Hours 14 Minutes, with 22 episodes each approximately 47 minutes in length
During the initial airing of NYPD Blue and the third season of Law & Order, a third police drama was introduced, Homicide: Life on the Street. The series was based upon a novel written by David Simon, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. Barry Levinson with Tom Fontana, Henry Bromell, and Paul Attanasio adapted the novel for television. The series first aired in 1993, during which the anticipated popularity was not met to the network's expectations. Lacking the popularity of competing police dramas, Homicide did not look as if it would enter its second season. However, due to the praise of the NYPD Blue's initial season, NBC let Homicide enter a second season, in hope of riding off the success of NYPD Blue. With Homicide off to a shaky start, its first two seasons were relatively short, with nine and four episodes respectively. As anticipated, the popularity of the show began to pick up. Homicide never obtained the same popularity as Law & Order or NYPD Blue, but enough that a feature film was created from the television series.
Homicide takes a slightly different approach to police dramas than Law & Order and NYPD Blue. While Law & Order and NYPD Blue have a unique balance of criminal investigations and the legal proceedings that follow, Homicide focuses mainly upon the criminal investigations by taking a look into the lives of the Baltimore Police Department Homicide Division. Homicide does take into account the legal proceedings that are related to the criminal investigations, but rarely. In comparison to Law & Order and NYPD Blue, this focus is all most non-existent. Another difference of Homicide is the style in which the series is filmed. The series uses handheld cameras to give a documentary feel to the show, similar to awful reality shows like Cops. However, the show doesn't feel like a true documentary.
In season 4 of Homicide new cast members are introduced and some previous regulars are cut. Detectives Beau Felton (Daniel Baldwin) and Stan Bolander (Ned Beatty), who appeared in the first three seasons, were placed on suspension and never seemed to make it back on the show. In their stead, season 4 presents a new detective who is recruited from an arson unit, Det. Mike Kellerman (Reed Diamond). As well, other character shifts are made, which include a sergeant promotion for Kay Howards (Melissa Leo) and a demotion to detective for Megan Russert (Isabella Hofmann), making her a field duty regular of the show. The rest of the cast from season 3 remains the same, with the absolutely hilarious Det. John Munch (Richard Belzer), determined Det. Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor), award winning Det. Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher), overbearing Det. Meldrick Lewis (Clark Johnson), and of course their fearless leader Lt. Al Giardello (Yaphet Kotto). Along with the major cast of Homicide, Assistant State Attorney Ed Danvers (Zeljko Ivanek) makes recurring appearances as the ASA, when the show delves into the legal proceedings of a crime. As well, J.H. Brodie (Max Perlich), a camera man working his way through college, becomes a somewhat regular on the show, filming crime scenes. Some of the notable guest stars in this season include Bruce Campbell in "Justice", Chris Rock in "Requiem For Adena", and Jay Leno in "Sniper (Part 1)". The show also gets paid a visit by Law & Order regulars Jerry Orbach, Benjamin Bratt, and Jill Hennessy in "For God and Country".
Season 4 of Homicide is full of countless hours of entertainment that will keep you on the edge of your seat. In the two part episode "Fire", Mike Kellerman from the arson unit is introduced, as Kellerman must cooperatively work with detectives Pembleton and Bayliss to investigate the unnatural death of a teenage boy that is caused by an arson fire. In "Thrill of the Kill" Baltimore's homicide unit jointly works with the FBI in an effort to stop a killer working his way down the I-95 freeway. In another two part episode "Sniper", the homicide unit must find and stop a killer who randomly chooses his victims. Widespread panic covers the Baltimore area, as civilians fear they may be the next victim. In another great two part episode "Justice", Bruce Campbell guest stars as a detective in the counterfeiting unit. Campbell's father, a Baltimore Police veteran, has been murdered and it's up to Munch and Russert to investigate the ill timed death.
"For God and Country" features the conclusion of a joint two part episode with Law & Order. In "Charm City" (Law & Order Season 6), after a gas attack occurs in a New York subway station, Pembleton and Bayliss link the crime to one committed five years ago in Baltimore. Pembleton and Bayliss go to New York to help detectives Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and Rey Curtis (Benjamin Bratt) in apprehending the suspect. In "For God and Country", the suspect is brought to Baltimore to be tried for his crimes. Unfortunately, Briscoe, Curtis, and New York City Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid (Jill Hennessy) arrive to extradite the suspect to be tried in the New York system first. As well, Munch goes a little crazy when he finds out Briscoe has been intimate with his ex-wife. The conflict between Munch and Briscoe will have you rolling over laughing.
I'll admit I had never been a huge fan of Homicide. My preference has always been for Law & Order and NYPD Blue, but after sitting through the 4th season, I'm a huge fan. One of the advantages from Homicide is that since Law & Order and NYPD Blue spend a decent amount of the show focusing upon both the criminal investigations and the legal proceedings into a television hour time slot, it sometimes leaves the show feeling rushed. Here, on the other hand, Homicide doesn't have this feeling, since the entire hour is devoted to the criminal investigations. I personally feel that this aspect is one of the strong advantages of Homicide.
Since Homicide doesn't feel rushed, we are given an opportunity to enjoy very well developed plots. As well, Homicide's in-depth look into the lives of the Baltimore Police Department Homicide Division provides a great atmosphere for the show's characters grow and develop throughout the season. Homicide is without a doubt, a very good police drama.
Fire (Part 1)
Fire (Part 2)
A Doll's Eyes
Thrill of the Kill
Sniper (Part 1)
Sniper (Part 2)
For God and Country
I've Got a Secret
Justice (Part 1)
Justice (Part 2)
Map of the Heart
Requiem For Adena
The Damage Done
Scene of the Crime
This feature is presented in its original television aspect of 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. The entire series was filmed using 16mm handheld cameras to give a documentary facade. The picture suffers from a high amount of grain, which is somewhat expected for earlier television series. However, this look gives the show a rough feeling that truly captures the show's dramatic ambience. There are no subtitles presented with this feature, nor is it closed caption enabled.
The audio in this feature is presented with an English 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo surround. The dialogue is very crisp and clean with only a slightly noticeable hiss.
The extras included in this feature are fairly slim, but plentiful compared to some other television series releases. The first extra is an audio commentary with actor Clark Johnson and writer Anya Epstein for episode "The Hat". The second extra is a 17 minute featurette, "Homicide: Life in Season 4" that takes a look into the making of season 4 with Barry Levinson, Tom Fontana, Henry Bromell, David Simon, James Yoshimura, and narration by Isabella Hofmann. The final extra includes a song listing on each disc that contains information artist name and song title for each episodes' soundtrack.
While Homicide: Life on the Street has not had the same popularity as Law & Order or NYPD Blue, it is a wonderful and highly under praised show. Season 4 is packed with great episodes. Fans of the series will cringe with joy and for those of you who are new to Homicide, if you've enjoyed any of the Law & Order series, NYPD Blue, and the many others that can be categorized as police dramas, Homicide is a wonderful addition to your DVD library and will keep you entertained for hours on end.
Other related DVDTalk reviews
Homicide: Life on the Street Seasons 1 & 2
Law & Order - The First Year
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - The First Year
NYPD Blue Season 1
NYPD Blue Season 2