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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Law & Order: Season 14
Law & Order: Season 14
Universal // Unrated // September 14, 2004
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Robert Spuhler | posted September 29, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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It's incredible to hear some still bemoan the relative lack of character development on Law and Order. Just because writers don't put long diatribes or monologues in a character's mouth doesn't mean those characters aren't three-dimensional.

The best example of this is Detective Lenny Brisco (Jerry Orbach), who left the show at the end of the 14th season. Does anyone not know about Lenny? Does anyone not know what he is like, what he does, how he'll react in a given situation? Law and Order: Season 14 is a great collection of Lenny's final season on the force (or, at least, Orbach's final season on the original show of the franchise; he's heading to the latest spin-off, Law and Order: Trial By Jury).

By now, everyone who watches television knows the story: Each episode of L&O shows a case from crime scene to conviction (or otherwise). Brisco and Ed Green (the underrated Jesse Martin) are the cops, Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) and Serena Southerlyn (Elizabeth Rohm) are the attorneys.

Standout episodes in season 14 include:

  • Embedded: A reporter who bears a striking resemblance to Geraldo Rivera is shot on the street after returning from a stint reporting in Iraq.

  • Bodies: A public defender refuses to give over information about "evidence" in a client's other crimes.

  • Everybody Loves Raimondo's: Two murders occur in an exclusive Italian restaurant that happens to be a mafia hangout. Also gets the title of "Worst Pun in an Episode Title" for the season.

  • C.O.D.: Two murders, two cheating spouses. But mostly notable as Brisco's swan song, and it is done in typical L&O understatement.

The most important improvement in the series comes in the "ripped from the headline" episodes. When NBC started doing commercials for them, the episodes were often flat, unimaginative recreations of current cases with the names changed. Now, the cases are a jumping off point for more interesting turns. "Gaijin," for instance, is an interesting mix of the German tourist murders in Florida of a while back and the Susan Smith "A black guy did it" defense. In some cases, L&O uses the fame of a current event as a red herring, such as when a man who interferes in his baseball team's playoff game is murdered.

There is, of course, one glaring weakness – Ms. Southerlyn. Unlike some fans, I can't blame Rohm for Serena. She's the first second-chair to come along that has no outstanding features. Paul Robinette was a champion of racial issues, Claire Kincaid was anti-death penalty, Jamie Ross was a strong proponent of children's rights and Abbie Carmichael was a rarity – a conservative in the district attorney's office. But Serena doesn't stand out on any issue, and she's been overshadowed by DA Arthur Branch (Fred Thompson).

The DVD

Video:

Law and Order: Season 14 is presented in full-frame video. The colors are sharp, but there is a problem with several of the episodes – a thin white line at the very bottom of the screen, almost like the frames are not completely lined up. It is not distracting, but noticeable.

Sound:

The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is clear and easy to understand, which is all that is necessary for television viewing.

Extras:

Unlike the first two seasons, Law and Order: Season 14 gives us a couple of extras. There are cast profiles with Thompson and Martin that are short, but interesting (Martin in particular comes off as funny and talented). Also included is a set tour with Orbach and an interview with forensic scientist Park Dietz.

Final Thoughts:

Yes, L&O reruns air nearly every night on TNT. Yes, there's a new season to watch. But Law and Order: Season 14 is still worth owning for the ease of having favorite episodes at your fingertips and for the little piece of history that was Orbach's departure.

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