Law and Order - The Third Year
Universal // Unrated // $59.98 // May 24, 2005
Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted May 26, 2005
Highly Recommended
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The Third Season

Dick Wolf's Law & Order has been one of the most popular running television dramas. It is responsible for three spin-off series, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Law & Order: Trial By Jury. Pretty much, it is hard to turn on a TV and not hear something about the Law & Order universe. However if by chance you may not be familiar with this series (or any of its spin-off shows), read on. Otherwise skip ahead to the next paragraph. Law & Order is a crime drama that focuses on a unique balance of criminal investigations and the legal proceedings that follow. In twenty-two TV hour long episodes, we watch detectives apprehend suspects and the district attorney's office prosecute them. This standard theme takes on a few variations throughout the season, but on the whole, it stays pretty consistent. Despite the formulaic approach, there is enough difference in detail, in regards to the characters and events, to keep the stories exciting.

Law & Order's third season saw a major change for the Law & Order universe. This season is when the series picked up one of its most popular cast members, Jerry Orbach as Detective Lenny Briscoe. Orbach's first appearance in the series actually occurred in the second season, where he guest starred as a defense attorney. In this third season, he is a mid-season replacement for Phil Cerreta (Paul Sorvino). In the episode "Prince of Darkness", a bust goes awry and it leaves Cerreta in the hospital. Briscoe gets partnered with Mike Logan (Chris Noth) in the following episode "Point of View". At first the two do not seem to get along very well, but their relationship changes when Logan realizes the assignment isn't temporary. I have always felt Noth and Orbach together are make a great pair of detectives and almost immediately you can tell they flow really well together. Their two characters really make this third season strong. Of course, with the other great performances from the district attorney roles also heighten the drama during the legal aspect, but it isn't until season five when Sam Waterston joins the cast as Jack McCoy that it really gets good.

Besides the mid-season character change, there are some pretty exciting stories covered in this season. Probably my favorite episode comes towards the end of the season. The reason I like this episode is because the subject is of particular interest to me. The episode "Virus" relates to the legal aspect of computer crimes. In the episode, a local hacker group called Department of Doom gets put in the crosshairs of the DA's office for unleashing a computer virus into a health computer system. The resulting malfunction caused two deaths. I found this episode interesting because the case drudged through an issue that has yet to be fully defined, computer crimes. And specifically in the early 1990s, the issue was still pretty new. Of course, there was a lot more to the episode besides the computer crime aspect to make it entertaining.

Another really powerful episode, which also comes from the end of the season, is "Manhood". At first the episode looks like it is about catching a cop killer, but after a while the true motive is revealed. The twists and turns in this episode are what really make it exciting. The episode quickly becomes about homosexuals in law enforcement and addressing the issue as a society. This third season also includes some other pretty big stories. In "Night and Fog" an elderly man is a suspect in his wife's death, which at first was thought to be a suicide. But after some good old fashion detective work, Logan and Briscoe reveal a truth the elderly man does not want uncovered. "Consultation" is also a pretty big episode. In it, the cast suspect a Nigerian tribal chief of international drug smuggling. Unfortunately, he has diplomatic immunity. How they exactly deal with the situation from the legal side make this an interesting episode.

Before Briscoe took Cerreta's place, Cerreta and Logan had a couple of good episodes. The episode "The Corporate Veil" combines medical malpractice and greed. The two detectives must reveal the truth to why a young boy's pacemaker failed him well before it was expected to fail. Watching the pair connect the dots becomes most interesting. The episode "Self Defense" is another good story because it shows the internal conflict that can arise between partners. Logan and Cerreta have completely different viewpoints of the events of a crime. A man killed two drug dealers in self defense. Cerreta supports him, but Logan thinks there is something more to the case.

Overall, I thought the stories told in this season were good. The episodes had some entertaining content and the way the characters (both detectives and attorneys) carried cases made it dramatic and exciting. Although there were a couple episodes I felt were dry and progressed in a slow and generic manner. Still there were enough of the good episodes and the introduction of Orbach as an official cast member really made this a strong season. Fans of Law & Order should be sure to pick this season set up, because it has one of the series' best detective pairs.

Episode Guide
1. Skin Deep
2. Conspiracy
3. Forgivneness
4. The Corporate Veil
5. Wedded Bliss
6. Helpless
7. Self Defense
8. Price of Darkness
9. Point of View
10. Consultation
11. Extended Family
12. Right to Counsel
13. Night and Fog
14. Promises to Keep
15. Mother Love
16. Jurisdiction
17. Conduct Unbecoming
18. Animal Instinct
19. Virus
20. Securitate
21. Manhood
22. Benevolence

For those purists who want the original uncut episodes, you might be slightly disappointed. Next to the episode "Self Defense" on the DVD cover for disc 1, it says "Music may be replaced". I cannot confirm or deny the statement, because watching the episode, I could not tell if music had or had not been changed.

The video in this release is given in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame color. The picture quality looks good. As found with the first and second season releases, there is a slight roughness and grain in the picture.

The audio track given with Law & Order season release is English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound. The sound quality is good, the track is pretty clean and spoken dialogue is easily heard. Like most TV on DVD releases it is fairly flat and there is not much to it, but it fits the presentation well. This release also comes with subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.

Like previous Law & Order DVD releases, there are not many extras included. This season release has two featurettes and several deleted scenes. The first of the two featurettes is Jerry Orbach Tribute. It is almost six minutes of clips from the series, behind the scenes footage, and interviews from cast members he worked with. They include Chris Noth, Jesse L. Martin, S. Epatha Merkerson, Dann Florek, Fred Dalton Thompson, and Bebe Neuwirth. The next featurette Jerry Orbach Profile is a little over five minutes with Orbach talking about his character and the series. The last extras are Deleted Scenes. There are a total of eight scenes for episodes "Forgiveness" (2), "Helpless", "Promises to Keep", "Conduct Unbecoming", "Animal Instinct" (2), and "Manhood". Overall I thought the extras were entertaining, but nothing I would want to watch over and over again.

Final Thoughts:
For the original Law & Order series, I have reviewed the first and second seasons. Both of which I felt were strong seasons for the series, but the excitement and drama is nowhere the same as season three. Midway in this season, the series picks up one of the strongest characters to hit the Law & Order universe. Jerry Orbach's role as Lennie Briscoe is a big change of pace for the series. He adds quite a lot as a character to the series. Mix him with Chris Noth as Mike Logan (another very strong detective), and two well carried district attorneys, Benjamin Stone (Michael Moriarty) and Paul Robinette (Richard Brooks), and you have quite a cast. I felt the series really started to shine in the third season with the addition of Orbach and even before he replaced Sorvino, it was still a very strong series. There is more than enough to keep you on the edge of your seat.

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