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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Law & Order - The Second Year
Law & Order - The Second Year
Universal // Unrated // May 4, 2004
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted May 5, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

Run Time: 17 Hours 26 Minutes, with 22 episodes each approximately 47 minutes in length

The first season of Law & Order was originally released on DVD in October 2002. The second season release date was scheduled for the following spring. However, due to some "technical" difficulties, the release date was delayed until further notice. Well, after a lot of patience, fans of the Law & Order series finally get to bring home the second season. While only a year later than originally expected, fans should be quite pleased. However, don't get too excited. While a trivial matter, it still bugged the hell out of me. Universal decided to make a few changes in their DVD presentation of season two. With this latest release, Universal has switched from spanning 22 episodes over 6 DVD's to using 3 double-sided DVD's. This is a bit of disappointment for two reasons. First the box set size of season one and two are different. The season one box set is twice the size of season two. This looks a little awkward in your collection. Secondly, the double-sided DVD's are fairly annoying, simply because they are prone to procuring scratches and finger prints more easily than their single-sided brethren. Now let's put my complaints about the packaging aside, let's talk about Law & Order: The Second Year.

While most television series mature from season to season, Law & Order in its second season hardly seems any different than the first. Following the same venue as the first season, each episode in the second season of Law & Order continues to use the same unique balance of criminal investigations and the legal proceedings that follow to provide dramatic and thrilling episodes. In plain English, each episode seems to follow alone the same lines. The detectives apprehend a suspect and the assistant district attorneys prosecute them. This standard theme takes on a few variations throughout the season, but on the whole, it stays pretty consistent. This repetition in each episode is more or less due to the show's nature. Since it focuses upon the law, detectives conducting criminal investigations, and order, district attorneys who prosecute offenders, there just isn't a lot of room for variety.

While some of the stories in Law & Order may seems a bit repetitive, whether it's in comparison to another television series of the same genre or just a common theme, each episode does have a very unique feeling. It's the cast and their emotions and interactions that make Law & Order a highly dramatic and entertaining show. The original cast from the first season returns for another year, with one exception. Sgt. Max Greevey (George Dzundza) was given the boot. His character was an extremely emotional individual, who seemed to be just as mad at the world as the criminals he was chasing. In his stead, Det. Phil Cerreta (Paul Sorvino) joins Det. Mike Logan (Chris Noth) to conduct the criminal investigations for second season. Sorvino doesn't really bring a whole lot as a new character. He's much less graphic and loud than Dzundza. Regardless, the new character wasn't a big hit, as Jerry Orbach later replaced Sorvino midway into the third season. Noth had a slightly more laidback character in the first season, but he returns in the second season with a much more dominate role. Joining the two detectives are the Assistant District Attorneys Benjamin Stone (Michael Moriarty) and Paul Robinette (Richard Brooks). Similar to the first season, Moriarty continues to have a much stronger role in the show than Robinette.

Some very important aspects to the show's storyline and character development are the association with some of the difficult decisions that they must face in each episode. In "Misconception" a terrible crime is committed, when a young woman is beaten near the law firm she works at. While muggings in New York City aren't uncommon, in this case there turns out to be a few twists and turns and lead the detectives and the district attorneys in the wrong direction as they unravel a large mess of lies and deceit. This is a really great episode, because we are used to seeing the good guys always win. However, life doesn't work that way. Sometimes the good guys have to lose and this episode really depicts that even the best can be bested. Furthermore, episodes like this one really make you feel for the cast, both the good and bad guys. Their emotions and interpersonal conflictions really stand out as each individual is forced to deal with being at the short end of stick, lies and deceit.

Another very important part of each episode focuses upon the specific crimes committed and the relationship between the perpetuators and that crime. Some characters are sleazy and deceitful. Those characters you'll hate and hope that they get caught. In "Out of Control", a sophomore in college is raped, but she can't really remember if she was or wasn't. This episode does a wonderful portrayal of victims that are hard to like, as she quickly shown as a very distasteful person. On the other hand, the accused individuals of the crime aren't much better. A few of the other episodes take another angle, where some characters are portrayed as good guys. It leaves you thinking how could they be accused of that? Well, accusations and convictions are two different things. This gets portrayed well in the episode "Sisters of Mercy", when a Catholic nun is accused for molesting a teenager.

Besides having some entertaining stories and great character development, there are some episodes that are just good. The episode "The Wages of Love" gets an honorable mention, because Jerry Orbach makes his first appearance on the show. Be warned, it's a guest appearance and he's not starring as Det. Lennie Briscoe from the 2-7, but a sleazy defense attorney. Expect some witty banter and a chance to see him in a completely different perspective.

Overall, the second season of Law & Order is just as entertaining as the first. The cast works well together to provide interesting and unique perspectives to law and order. While the transition of the first to second season doesn't offer a great deal of improvement, the show didn't really need it. The first season was done very well and setup the show's future for years of success. In addition, giving the character Mike Logan a much more dominate role made this season much more enjoyable than the first. Quite honestly, I was sad to see him leave the show in the later seasons. In the end, if you enjoy Law & Order, the second year is more than enough to keep you hooked to your television set.

The DVD

Video:
The second season of Law & Order is presented in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame color. The picture quality for the most part is fairly good with some episodes not as good as the others. The picture quality is much better than what you would expect to see from broadcast or cable television. Overall, it's a definite improvement over Law & Order: The First Year.

Sound:
The audio that is presented with the second season of Law & Order is given in English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound. The audio track is pretty good, slightly better than the first season release, but not a huge improvement. Overall, the dialogue throughout the entire series is clear and understandable, but it seems slightly flat. There is a barely noticeable hiss in the audio track, which is only noticeable at very high volumes. The sound is complemented with subtitles in English, Spanish, and French languages. The words are in white and are easy to read and do not interfere with the show.

Extras:
The advertising for this box set makes it look like there are a lot of extras provided with the second season of Law & Order. However, there aren't a lot of extras. In fact, there's only one. The extra, Law & Order: The First Three Years, is a 30 minute featurette that stars George Dzundza, Chris Noth, Jerry Orbach, Dann Florek, Paul Sorvino, Michael Moriarty, and Richard Brooks. The topics up for debate include "Casting for the Pilot", "Researching the Roles", "Filming the Pilot Episode", "Season One", "Season Two", "Season Three", and "Closing Statements". Overall, this was a pretty decent extra, it's entertaining for fans of the series. However, I was really disappointed that this was the only extra included.

Final Thoughts:
Law & Order: The Second Year proved to be just as entertaining, if not more, as Law & Order: The First Year. Each episode does seem to be slightly repetitive, but the diverse perspective from the main and supporting casts provide each episode with a unique feeling. It's this feeling with some well written plots that make each episode entertaining on its own merit. Despite season two being very entertaining, it's still missing something. My favorite characters, Briscoe and McCoy! Fortunately, in the next season, Jerry Orbach joins the cast as Det. Lennie Briscoe. It's just too bad that we have to wait until season five for Sam Waterston join the cast as Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy. Despite this season lacking my two favorites, it's still a great season and we can only look forward to many more years of Law & Order.

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