Homicide - Life on the Street
The Complete Third Series

Starring: Richard Belzer, Yaphet Kotto, Kyle Secor and Clark Johnson
Fremantle Home Entertainment
RRP: 39.99
Certificate: 15
Available 17 September 2007

One of the most critically acclaimed shows in TV history, Homicide: Life On The Street reinvigorated a tired genre by focusing on the gruelling work of solving murders instead of an endless succession of bloody crimes and car chases...

American cop shows have always been popular and none more so then Homicide: Life on the Street which ran for seven seasons, between 1993 and 1999, detailing the work of the Baltimore Police Department. What made it stand out from the crowd was its approach. It eschewed the more glamorous take on police work which was the raison d'être of many of its contemporaries to portray a fairly no nonsense look at what it meant to be a detective.

This impression was further enhanced with the use of actual Baltimore locations, flat lighting and handheld camera work to augment its cinéma vérité sensibility. Made by NBC, it was the creation of director Barry Levinson (Diner, Oz and The Perfect Storm amongst others) and screenwriter Paul Attanasio (Sphere, Donnie Brasco and House M.D.). This approach quickly gained it a loyal following as well as four Emmys, nineteen other awards and a staggering fifty nominations.

The latest box set covers all twenty-two episodes, of Season Three, spread over six DVDs. Now this may cause some fans confusion, as in America Season Two only had four episodes, so when it hit the UK seasons One and Two were combined, making this Season Three in the UK but Season Four in America. The season was originally transmitted during the autumn of 1995. At this point in the show's history the creative team had reached its stride, with thankfully few defections by any of the main cast, including Richard Belzer, Andre Braugher and Yaphet Kotto - though as time went on this would change as it does for any long running show. Seasons Three (Four in US) and Four (Five in the US - I think I'm getting a headache) were a transitional time for the show with the loss of Daniel Baldwin and Ned Beatty, the show filled the void with both new characters and new recurring guest characters.

A show like this can generally be judged by the quality of its writers, directors and guest stars and Season Three was particularly strong in this respect. Kathy Bates, better known as an actress, has also been secretly jobbing as a director - a job she does well in Scene of the Crime. For guests you can look out for Jay Leno in Sniper, Lily Tomlin in The Hat, Chris Rock in Requiem for Adena and the most excellent Bruce Campbell in Justice - Part Two. Of course there are more to spot, but then if I recounted them all this would be a list rather than a review.

It's fair to say that the show continues to hold up even today, the writing remains solid, the slightly gritty look perfectly compliments the show's subject matter and the cast all turn in solid and compelling performances. Of extras there are none, with only an option for subtitles. The show appears to have its original aspect ratio, a little annoying now that widescreen TV's are becoming the norm, and sound is a very clear two channel Dolby affair.

Many other dramas would run with the look and feel of the show, but few would do it as convincingly or as well as Homicide: Life on the Street.

Charles Packer

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