Law and Order: The Second Year
Year: 1991 - 1992
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 17 Hours and 26 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Subtitles: French and Spanish
Audio: English - Dolby Digital Stereo; French - Monaural
May 4th, 2004
Ready for a bona-fide understatement? Law & Order, the brainchild of Dick Wolf, is a fantastic show! But since it has enjoyed an incredible run of fifteen years near the top of the Nielsen ratings, I probably did not need to tell you that did I? Oops, I almost forgot to mention that it has spawned two very successful spin-offs: Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law and Order: Criminal Intent! As if that is not enough, NBC is also planning a third (that’s right, a third) spin-off, entitled Law & Order: Trial By Jury, which is due to air within the nest year or so.
The bread-and-butter of this acclaimed series is its combination of hard-nosed police work with courtroom drama, which follows an investigation from the point an alleged criminal is apprehended right on through their trial. In the earlier years, series mainstay Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth) and his various partners (usually older), who work under Captain Cragen (Dann Florek), do the dirty investigate work, and try to bring down the suspects. In “the Second Year”, the illustrious title of older partner would apply to Detective Phil Cerreta (Paul Sorvino).
Subsequently, District Attorney Adam Schiff (Steven Hill) and his trusty Assistant District Attorneys Benjamin Stone (Michael Moriarity) and Paul Robinette (Richard Brooks) work the legal end of the case, to try and make the charges stick. It is also important to note that the powerful stories in each episode are usually culled from the headlines of the newspapers, and treat with whatever issues are hot at the time. As such, they have some basis in fact!
Through creative and effective writing, these two very different worlds (the police investigations/trials) are each given plenty of attention. Generally, the show’s tense and exciting first half deals with the detectives and their investigation, while the second half-hour usually provides both drama and closure, through the activities of the District Attorney's office. Obviously, such a shift in arenas could easily undermine the effectiveness of the show, but Law & Order somehow manages to keep the viewer engaged, and the storyline intact, despite the change in pace that occurs about halfway through each episode.
Speaking of episodes, here is the breakdown of those that are included in this “Second Year” of Law and Order:
--- “Confessions” – Air Date 9/17/1991
In “Confessions”, Logan (Chris Noth), who is struggling to accept Greevey’s death, searches for the killer, and tries to adjust to the ways of his new partner, Detective Phil Cerreta (Paul Sorvino).
--- “The Wages of Love” – Air Date 9/24/1991
This episode involves a brutal double homicide, which casts the shadow of suspicion on the ex-wife and former boyfriend of the couple that were murdered.
--- “Aria” – Air Date 10/01/1991
This episode involves the drug overdose of a young actress who was pressured into doing pornographic films.
--- “Asylum” – Air Date 10/08/1991
In “Asylum”, the detectives arrest a transient, who is later convicted of murder when a weapon used in a homicide is found in his Central Park “residence”. His conviction is in jeopardy however, when it is revealed that the detectives did not have a search warrant.
--- “God Blees the Child” – Air Date 10/22/1991
A couple is faced with criminal prosecution after denying medical treatment to their young daughter, which they believe is a violation of their religious beliefs.
--- “Misconception” – Air Date 10/29/1991
When a pregnant woman is assaulted, it leads to the investigation of her lover and her boss, and then a murder rap when the unborn child dies.
--- “In Memory Of” – Air Date 11/05/1991
The case of a missing child is reopened after 31 years, when the boy’s remains are discovered during a building remodel.
--- “Out of Control” – Air Date 11/12/1991
In “Out of Control”, the detectives investigate a college student’s claim that she was the victim of a gang rape committed by members of a fraternity.
--- “Renunciation” – Air Date 11/19/1991
This episode involves the hit-and-run death of a high school teacher’s husband. It seems that both the teacher and the student she was having an affair with claims the other was responsible for running the man down.
--- “Heaven” – Air Date 11/16/1991
When a fire at a social club kills 53 people, an investigation ensues. However, the investigation also turns up illegal immigrants and the sale of immigration paperwork.
--- “His Hour Upon the Stage” – Air Date 12/10/1991
When a previously corpse that had been frozen for five years is found thawing out in a trash receptacle, the detectives focus their investigation on two rival producers on Broadway.
--- “Star Struck” – Air Date 1/07/1992
When an obsessed fan is charged with the attempted murder of a soap opera star, the Law and Order team attempts to obtain a conviction in spite of his insanity plea.
--- “Severance” – Air Date 1/14/1992
In “Severance”, D.A. Stone (Michael Moriarty) tries to prove that the order for two murders and a kidnapping were issued from inside of a prison.
--- “Blood Is Thicker…” – Air Date 2/02/1992
In this episode, a high-society bride is found bludgeoned to death in what appears to be a robbery gone wrong, but as the case progresses, the detectives focus on a missing piece of jewelry in an attempt to uncover the truth.
--- “Trust” – Air Date 2/11/1992
District Attorney Stone tries desperately to put a teenage boy away, when the boy is charged with gunning down one of his friends.
--- “Vengeance” – Air Date 2/18/1992
The prosecution of a serial killer hits a roadblock, when the parents of a victim demand that the alleged killer be extradited to Connecticut, which still has the death penalty on the books
--- “Sisters of Mercy” – Air Date 3/03/1992
In this episode, the detectives look into the allegation that a nun who runs a rehabilitation center molested one of its attendees.
--- “Cradle to Grave” – Air Date 3/31/1992
The discovery of a dead baby looks to be bad news for a slumlord who refused to provide any heat to the tenants in her building.
--- “The Fertile Fields” – Air Date 4/7/1992
At first glance, the gruesome murder of a Jewish jeweler appears to be a hate crime, but when the detectives do a little digging, they suspect the answer may lie closer to home.
--- “Intolerance” – Air Date 4/14/1992
In “Intolerance”, a Chinese-American student is cut down in what appears to be a gang-related shooting, but further analysis suggests that the killer may have been motivated by a battle for a competitive scholarship.
--- “Silence” – Air Date 4/28/1992
A politician tries to stand in the way of the prosecution of his son’s killer, because he is concerned the investigation will reveal his son was a homosexual.
--- “The Working Stiff” – Air Date 5/12/1992
The murder of a Wall Street legend starts the detectives down a road leading to a union worker and a former governor, who is an old friend of D.A. Schiff (Steven Hill).
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Each of the episodes from Law and Order’s second year are presented by Universal in the full-frame (1.33:1) aspect ratio in which they were broadcast, and the results are generally impressive. In particular, colors appear nicely saturated in most scenes, although in really sparsely lit building interiors they can look a bit flat, and on rare occasions whites were a touch too bright. However, even the boldest and most vivid colors only exhibit a very slight amount of dot crawl. Blacks are also deep and well defined, so detail extends well into the shadows.
Further, overall image clarity and detail appear to be dramatically improved over the television broadcasts (reruns in my case), although the source material does exhibit its share of grain from the equipment and methodology used to record the show. Lastly, although a bit of edge enhancement is detectable at times, haloing against light-dark transitions really does not prove to be too much of a distraction.
On the whole, this is a solid effort!
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
I cannot tell you that the stereo Dolby Digital (2.0) mix provided for each Law and Order episode will give your speakers much of a workout, but the source material is reproduced in fine fashion. To be more specific, dialogue is reproduced in a clear and robust manner during each episode, with no sibilance, distortion, or hissing. Similarly, the extremely sparse score, and occasional sound effects, are recreated in a fairly realistic manner, even though the soundstage is not what I would call expansive. All things considered, I think the vast majority of this show’s fans will be more than satisfied with the presentation of the series’ audio.
NOTE: The bonus featurette is located on Disc Three.
Law and Order: The First Three Years:
This featurette takes viewers back to 1988, when Dick Wolf and company released their baby on the world, and then through the first three seasons it was on the air. Consisting largely of interviews with cast members George Ozundza, Chris Noth, Dann Florek, Paul Sorvino, Jerry Orbach, Michael Moriarty, and Richard Brooks, various topics are discussed, including the process of casting and filming the pilot episode, and the negative response of advertisers to the show’s edgy material during its first season.
The tense relationships between certain cast members are also discussed quite candidly, as are the departures of George Ozundza and Paul Sorvino. Finally, a few of the interviewees discuss how they prepared for their roles, the influence of New York City on the show, and the fact that several networks passed on the show. Boy, are they kicking themselves now!!! If you are a fan of the show, you should enjoy this inside look at the first three years of this long-running hit.
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
In my opinion, in terms of overall brilliance (writing, storytelling, acting, and structure) the only shows in this genre that have been able to give the Law & Order family of shows a run for its money are the CSI shows. Undeniably, although I favor Crime Scene Investigator, Dick Wolf's Law and Order franchise is quite deserving of both its success and its place in pop culture history. This is particularly true of the original series, which broke new ground in the area of gritty and realistic crime drama.
Indeed, late-night dramas like NYPD Blue and CSI owe more than a little of their success to the Law and Order series, which helped make edgy, grounded-in-reality detective shows fashionable. If you like this series, you will feel justified in picking it up, for even though it is light on extras, the A/V quality is quite good, and the ability to watch the episodes without the constant interruption of commercials should leave fans in heaven! Recommended!