"Because I said so."No, that's not a quote from Third Watch. It's my usual response when someone questions a (CDs/flick/insert your choice of medium here) that i've just recommended. I usually end up trying to explain why they should just take my word for it, but unfortunately, if I were to use that reason to quantify exactly why I consider Third Watch: the Complete First Season a highly recommended DVD, it would make for a very short and uninformative review.
Immediately coming off of his short-lived NBC series "Trinity", John Wells hooked up with Edward Allen Bernardo with the intention of focusing on some "blue class" working families. Instead of taking the easy way out and choosing to focus solely on law enforcement (which has been done thousands of times) or paramedics (which has been done hundreds of times) or on firefighters (which has been done...umm, a couple of times), they decided to combine the three, set it in New York City and...Voila!, a great show was born!
Third Watch follows the firefighters and paramedics of Station 55 and the police officers of the 55th Precinct - or "Camelot", as it's affectionately nicknamed due to it's location on the corner of King and Arthur. The show gets off to a running start (literally!) and we're quickly introduced to Maurice 'Bosco' Boscorelli (Jason Wiles), an adrenaline junkie with a "act now, think later" philosophy to the job that gets him in trouble more often than not. His partner, Faith Yokas (Molly Price), does her best to rein him in as she deals with an alcoholic husband and two kids at home. Along with Bosco and Yokas, we also meet John 'Sully' Sullivan (Skipp Sudduth), a veteran cop who views the job as "solving problems" rather than "enforcing the law". Sully's partnered with Tyrone Davis, Jr. (Coby Bell), a wide-eyed rookie with a moral compass that always points north who just happens to be the son of his previous partner who was murdered on the job.
Across the street at Station 55 there's Kim Zambrano (Kim Raver), a paramedic dealing with raising her child, while having to work alongside her deadbeat ex, Jimmy Doherty (Eddie Cibrian), a firefighter who would rather drop his paycheck on the Giants for the spread instead of paying Kim some much-needed child support. Kim's partner, Bobby Caffey (Bobby Cannavale), has an ex-con for a brother and a crush on Kim. Rounding out the "main" cast of characters is Monte Parker (Michael Beach), who goes by the nickname "Doc" and newbie Carlos Nieto (Anthony Ruivivar). Doc and Carlos are two sides of the same coin; while Doc goes the extra mile for patients and is mindful of his responsibility to the community, Carlos is self-centered, egotistical, blunt and doesn't really care about people.
Special Features: The first special feature, the Nights Of Camelot retrospective featurette, is 16 minutes of reminiscing and interviews with series creators John Wells and Edward Allen Bernardo, and cast members Skipp Sudduth, Anthony Ruivivar, Jason Wiles, Michael Beach, Coby Bell and Lisa Vidal. In addition to sharing their memories about working on the show, we also learn some interesting trivia such as the network hated Skip in the role of Sully (further proof that most network execs have no clue what they're doing) and that Bosco was written on the page as "6'4, 250 pounds of muscle, frustration and attitude". Honestly, the 16 minutes fly by with a quickness, and the way the featurette was put together, i'm hoping it's part of a longer documentary that Warner Brothers is spreading across the following five season sets. We're also given an 8 minute gag reel.
I'd also like to point out that almost all of the episodes begin with the "Previously On..." tag. Curiously, some episodes also contain a "Tonight On..." tag. Also, i'm not sure if it's a glitch with the review copy, but the episodes "Demolition Derby" and "Modern Designs From Better Living" have been authored out of order on disc three.
Packaging: The 22 episodes are spread across six single-sided, dual-layered DVDs and are packaged in a three double-disc thinpak cases which are housed in a cardboard slipcover.
Audio: The original Dolby Digital 2.0 track was adequate, though it would've been nice to have greater separation of the sound effect elements during the show's many action sequences. And though the show has been off the air for close to three years now, it's been on DVD in Japan and Australia for close two. There were many assumptions made as to what the delay was here in the US, and one of the most popular conclusions was the ever-popular "music rights" issues. Now, I don't know if those other region sets had some of the original music replaced, but i'm happy to report that the episodes contain every. single. song. as it was originally recorded, by the original artist that recorded it. Sorry, but the whole practice of replacing music in episodic television is a pet peeve of mine. I'm glad to see WB has done the right thing by the fans. There's also an option for English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Video: While the video wasn't as sharp as I would've liked it (i'm an HD whore so, ideally, 1080i would've been nice), the only problem I had with the full-frame, 1.33:1 transfer was the occasional "haloing" which was noticeable during the scenes taking place in burning buildings. However, I should point out that this was viewed using an Oppo up-converting player on a 58" Panasonic plasma, so make of that what you will.
Final Thoughts: Third Watch has one of the strongest debut seasons of any television show i've seen. There are tons of action sequences to get your adrenaline flowing, lots of comedy (usually involving Bosco) and some poignant moments, such as Doc dealing with his elderly father (Ossie Davis) who's tired of living or watching as Sully comes to the realization that life has passed him by and the job is the only thing he has. Trust me on this, Third Watch: the Complete First Season is a Highly Recommended set. Why's that, you ask? Because I said so.