The Good

A very well done show that is simple, straight forward and never gets ahead of itself.

The Bad

While the amount of Deleted Scenes is impressive, it would have been nice to have seen a featurette inside the Writer’s Room.

Law & Order - The Fourth Year is one of those shows that is hard not to like. It moves well, it’s stories are interesting and it has some of the best writing I have ever seen in a dramatic TV show. This Fourth Year sucks you into with every episode. Whether they are investigating a murder on a talk show, or a 17 year old boy who may or may not have killed his father, or a hit and run in Harlem this show just seems to move. Best of all, it keeps a quick pace but not at the viewers expense. It tells stories and makes things very easy for people to follow, but at the same time it’s very deep and resonating. I never felt like I was watching a show that was creating moments for a commercial to entice viewers.

Watching Jerry Orbach at work here is really something special. Everyone in the cast (Chris Noth, Steven Hill, Michael Moriarty, Jill Hennessy, etc.) are very well cast, but there is something about Jerry Orbach running the show, walking the beat and putting together the evidence that is beyond authentic. I believe everything I am seeing on this show and I know full well that that is all that it is. A show. Yet, amidst all that, Law & Order - The Fourth Year elevates itself to something more.

Features

43 Deleted And Extended Scenes

The episodes that these scenes are for are “Discord,” “Black Tie,” “Pride and Joy,” “Apocrypha,” “The Pursuit of Happiness,” “Breeder,” “Big Bang,” “Wager,” “Sanctuary” and “Doubles.” While there are obviously too many scenes to go through individually, for the most part I don’t think that these scenes really added much to all these episodes that make up these discs. As I have mentioned in other reviews, TV is a tightly constructed medium. These extra scenes, while maybe taking the characters a step or two deeper, really don’t change up any of the episodes. I do have to give this set credit for making all of these scenes so easily accessible. I didn’t have a problem finding any of the scenes listed on the DVDs.

Video

Full Frame - 1.33:1. Simply lit but without all the shaky camera artifice that seems to pervade so many of today’s shows, Law & Order - The Fourth Year plays very much by the book. In fact, the overall look of this show seems to owe a debt of gratitude to the films of Sidney Lumet. The way he puts New York City across is in a very straight forward manner. Though he has nothing to do with this show, that style is very much on display here. Law & Order isn’t a big show, and it really isn’t flashy. It is a by the numbers account that lets the subject matter speak for itself.

Audio

English Dolby Digital 2.0. Subtitled in English and Spanish. The audio on this show was very good overall. There weren’t any drop outs, nor were there really any moments where I had a hard time hearing what the characters were saying. The look and style of this show seems to still be carried over by many of today’s shows. Thankfully, this show doesn’t have any of the acting or delivery where it sounds like the characters are whispering. Quite the contrary, the people on screen act and talk how we suspect they might. Sure things are cleaned up (this is acting) but thankfully the show’s creators haven’t made things too clean.

Package

Chris Noth, Jerry Orbach and the rest of the cast are featured on this cover. Below them are various scenes from the show (playing up the courtroom angle) and underneath that is a sepia toned shot of New York’s skyline. The back cover gives a general description of the show, a “Special Features” listing, a cast list and technical specs. The 3 discs that make up this set are each housed in their own slim, plastic case. The front cover of each case is identical to the vinyl cover that houses them. The back of each cover indexes out each episode as well as gives us a description of the episodes and deleted scenes on the discs. As I am a fan of the digipack design, this show and just about everything else, Law & Order - The Fourth Year fits very nicely into my collection.

Final Word

I really wish they would have taken us behind the scenes into the Writer’s Room of this show. To be able to come up with episode after episode of not only interesting stories, but interesting writing in general, is no small feat. Sure, I may have liked the scenes in the police chambers and on the street a bit better than the one’s in the courtroom, but that doesn’t mean that the courtroom scenes were bad. I just found that the moments of illumination were the most intriguing for me as a viewer. Also, the interactions between the actors on the police force were always entertaining. Yes, I know that a real precinct probably isn’t like this, but something tells me that the work is usually pretty interesting nonetheless.

Law & Order - The Fourth Year is also great because the creators just drop us into show after show, and let us figure things out for ourselves. It is this confusion that not only heightens the reality of the show, but heightens our viewing antennas, thus making us aware of everything that’s going on and deciphering for ourselves what is and isn’t important.

Law & Order was released .