Featurette - Law & Order Special Victims Unit: The Beginning
Interviews - Dann Florek Squad Room Walk through
Law & Order - SVU - Season 1
R4 . COLOR . 918 mins .
MA15+ . PAL
The obligatory team walking shot
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is the first spin-off from the dependable Law & Order series. While it maintains the basic formula of the original series by representing both sides of law enforcement, the focus usually centres on the detectives. Law & Order: SVU was originally conceived as a stand alone drama entitled Sex Crimes. However, the adding of the Law & Order tag makes for an inbuilt audience of fans and also a greater chance of ratings success.
Law & Order: SVU upholds the quality standard set by its predecessor, but unlike the original series, the success of the spin-off is mainly due to the strong and compelling characters. While Law & Order always offers interesting characters, very little time is spent on their lives outside their work. SVU differs from this formula by exploring the private lives of its two main characters, detectives Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni). In this first season, Elliot’s family life and Olivia’s troubled existence play large roles in some episodes, allowing the audience to form attachments to these lead characters. This makes the series extremely powerful, particularly since the show deals with such disturbing and dark subject matter.
The Special Victims Unit (SVU) deals with sexually based crimes, which "are considered especially heinous". Because such crimes as sexual assault, paedophilia and rape are the basis of this series, it has a much darker tone than the original series and the cases take an especially brutal toll on the ‘special victims’ detectives. While Elliot and Olivia are the central detectives, they are well supported by Richard Belzer reprising his Homicide: Life on the Street role of Detective John Munch and Dann Florek who reprises his Law & Order character, Captain Donald Cragen. Two other detectives round out the group in this first season, Detective Monique Jefferies (Michelle Hurd) and Detective Brian Cassidy (Dean Winters).
It's very difficult to highlight stand out episodes in this first season. There are certainly some memorable episodes, but all 22 episodes make for excellent dramatic television.
A Single Life
Or Just Look Like One
Benson & Stabler
Stocks & Bondage
Russian Love Poem
The Third Guy
Law & Order: SVU is presented in its original tele-visual aspect ratio of 1.33:1 Fullscreen. This is fine transfer with only a few minor issues. Colours are slightly washed out and grain is evident in most episodes. Blacks and shadow details are respectable and there are no film artefacts or evidence of aliasing visible. This is by no means a reference transfer of a television show, but the show does look better than when it originally aired and offers solid visuals for the series.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo adequately provides what is required for this series – clear and audible dialogue. A dynamic soundtrack would be wasted on this series because it is all about what is said, so all the audio is required to offer is a strong centre channel package, which it does admirably without any sync issues.
The first season release of Law & Order: SVU only contains two extras.
First up is Law & Order Special Victims Unit: The Beginning, a 25 minute featurette that explores the origins and creation of the show. Interviews with creator Dick Wolf and stars Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay provide plenty of information about the show and how difficult the first season was to produce.
Dann Florek Squad Room Walk Through is the puzzling title given to the second extra. A five minute interview with actor Dann Florek about the development of his character and his views on various storylines.
In its debut season Law & Order: SVU certainly didn't hold back in addressing some very disturbing crimes. Some of the cases are quite unsettling and because there is only a small amount of attention given to the courtroom drama, there is plenty of time to spend on criminal characters and their actions, which can make some episodes difficult to watch. Personally, I prefer the other two shows in the franchise, Law & Order and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. But SVU certainly maintains the high quality crime drama that was established by the original series.