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Law & Order Special Victims Unit - The First Year

Universal // Unrated // October 21, 2003
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted November 9, 2003 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:
In 1990 a television drama aired for the first time, Dick Wolf's Law & Order. Law & Order proved to be a hit series. Each episode of Law & Order focuses upon two different aspects in the legal/justice system, which are the criminal investigations and the legally proceedings. In 1999 Dick Wolf gave birth to another hit series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (or SVU for short.) SVU focuses on a special division of the New York Police Department, called the Special Victims Unit, otherwise known as the Sex Crimes divisions. As the latter name suggests, the police officers in this division focus on unraveling crimes of a sex related nature.

The overall mood of SVU can be described as dark and somber. This is due to the subject nature. Throughout the season we see various detectives solve cases dealing with rape, rape homicide, child abuse, prostitution, and so on. Some of these episodes can be pretty intense.

The cast consists of Dann Florek as Captain Donald Cragen, Christopher Meloni as Detective Elliot Stabler, Mariska Hargitay as Detective Olivia Benson, Richard Belzer as Detective John Munch, Dean Winters as Detective Brian Cassidy, and Michelle Hurd as Detective Monique Jefferies.

Capt. Cragen was a captain in the first three seasons of Law & Order. He returns to take charge of NYPD Special Victims Unit. Det. Stabler is a family man who is very protective of his children. Det. Benson was the product of rape. She was motivated by her mother's raping to join SVU. Det. Munch is a veteran officer who transferred into the NYC SVU from Baltimore. He provides dry witty humor in each episode. Det. Cassidy is a green detective just recently assigned to this unit, who transfers to Narcotics because he can't deal with the hardships of SVU. Det. Jefferies plays a minor role initially. After Cassidy leaves, she plays stronger role in the series as Munch's partner.

Each of the cast members provides a unique perspective of the criminal aspect of sexual related crimes. The support cast includes guest appearances from regulars of Law & Order, such as Jerry Orbach as Det. Lennie Briscoe.

Season One of SVU introduces twenty two unique episodes. Each episode mainly focuses upon the viewpoint of the criminal proceeding from the police detective's point of view. There is also a short segment of the legal portion, but most cases are either unsolved or settled out of court. Here's a break down of the episodes included.


1. Payback 7. Uncivilized 13. Disrobed 19. Contact
2. A Single Life 8. Stalked 14. Limitations 20. Remorse
3. Or Just Look Like One 9. Stocks & Bondage 15. Entitled Pt. 1 21. Nocturne
4. Hysteria 10. Closure 16. The Third Guy 22. Slaves
5. Wanderlust 11. Bad Blood 17. Misleader
6. Sophomore Jinx 12. Russian Love Poem 18. Chat Room


This picture was presented in 1.33:1 ratio Full Frame. The video transfer is fairly decent. It is a little grainy, but not so bad that it interferes with viewing of the feature. The picture was fairly dark during a number of the scenes. However, it is intended to be dark. It assists with a mood found at various crime scenes. I did not notice a layer change throughout the episodes. I am assuming that the layer change was between the second and third episodes of each disc.

The audio presented in this feature included English Dolby Surround Sound, Spanish 2.0 Stereo Surround, and French. The sound quality was very good. I noticed no issues with the sound quality. The sound level was very stable throughout each episode. I did not have to adjust the volume on the television.

I was a little disappointed with the menu system. Each disc contains four episodes, except the last which contains two. Within the menu system is there is no navigation by chapter listing, even though each episode is divided into chapters.

This feature also had caption subtitles in English, Spanish, and French languages. The English subtitles presented in this feature were pretty much exact to the spoken dialogue. The subtitles and dialogue were presented in sync. I noticed no spelling errors or big discrepancies between the subtitles and dialogue. However, I can't speak for the Spanish or French subtitles, as I don't speak or read either language.

The bonus features are found on the sixth disc of the box set. The bonus features include two featurettes.

The first featurette is Law & Order: the Beginning, which is approximately 24 Minutes long. This featurette responds to the development of the series. We find out that this series was originally intended to be a completely new series, called Sex Crimes, but NBC felt the title was too much of a deterrence to the common viewer. Thus because of Dick Wolf's association with Law & Order, the series was dubbed Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. This featurette also touches upon the casting for the roles for the main cast. We learn a little about each of the cast members and their opinions and views of the series. We also hear from Dick Wolf and co-producer Ted Kotcheff. Viewing the featurette was pretty interesting after completing the first season. I liked learning the opinions of the actors and of course getting to hear a little more or of Richard Belzer's humor.

The second and last featurette is the Dann Florek Squad Room Walk-Through, which is approximately 5 minutes long. In this short presentation we get a tour of the set of SVU. This was really entertaining. I thought it was cool to get to see the set of SVU. Plus Dann Florek added a touch of poor humor, which made it even more enjoyable.

Overall I was a bit disappointed with the bonus features. There just seemed to be too little to complement all the content of 22 episodes of this season. Even a cast biography would have made it that much better. I just felt this area was lacking in content.

Final Thoughts:
I'm a big fan of Law & Order and I was really excited to review Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 1. While I've seen a fair number of episodes from this series, I had never sat through an entire season. I can say I was thoroughly disturbed of watching 16+ hours of sex crimes. I suggest you DO NOT watch the entire season straight. However, I also have the same ending opinion after sitting through an entire season of the X-Files. My ending feeling has nothing to do with the quality; it's just due to the content.

With that said, I can say that on an episode by episode basis I was thoroughly entertained by each episode. However, in comparison to the original Law & Order series I felt it was lacking. As stated earlier in the review there was a much stronger emphasis on the criminal proceedings from the detective's perspective versus the legal proceeding. I personally enjoy the legal aspect from the standpoint of the district attorneys. Law is extremely complex and exciting. It was also very nice (and familiar) that cast members from Law & Order participate in SVU.

I've taken a few elective courses in college related to law and law enforcement, specifically Forensic Science and Intro. to Criminal Law. So I've learned a few things regarding the subjects of law enforcement. In this drama and others like it there are several flaws or misinterpretations of legal proceedings. I won't go into specifics, because there's a chance I'm just remembering information incorrectly.

In conclusion if you have a light stomach, I wouldn't suggest this you purchase, rent, or view this feature. However, if you enjoy law related television dramas (NYPD Blue, CSI, Law & Order, etc.) you'll enjoy this. Even if you like John Grisham books, you'll enjoy this. Also at a price of $59.98 for 22 episodes of over 16 hours of viewing pleasure, how could you go wrong? I am Recommending this title.

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