SRP $69.95 1.33:1 DOLBY SURROUND A&E

While there are many slick, hi-tech crime dramas seeming to debut each month, none of them have equaled the consistent level of quality achieved by the series “HOMICIDE.”  Film director Barry Levinson, and writers Tom Fontana and Paul Attanasio created a series in which the main characters are all unique, flawed and believable.

The series, based in Baltimore Maryland, had the benefit of Barry Levinson so involved with it. Levinson has as always demonstrated a unique ability in creating a nostalgic sense of the city, in spite of anything uncomfortable taking place there.

The series also benefited from a terrific cast, possibly the best ensemble cast of any continuous series.  While it was Yaphet Koto, as Lieutenant Girardello, who held the glue together, the men and women playing detectives around him gave it their finest in every frame of every episode.  Ned Beatty, so wonderful in “DELIVERANCE,” makes one believe he was destined to play this part above all others.  And, for those so willing to criticize the Baldwin family, Daniel Baldwin, probably the least known of the clan, is sensational here.  But, in fact, everyone in this show is sensational. It’s just that “good!”

Andre Braugher, as Frank Pembleton, continually gives performances that should have demanded Emmy awards, and Richard Belzer has never been better at utilizing his unusual looks and annoying demeanor than he does here.

When viewers watch television shows such as “C.S.I.,” they undoubtedly feel as if they’re learning something about forensic science.  When viewers watch “HOMICIDE,” they feel, from watching Bembleton master the “interrogation box” that they can tell when someone’s lying!

Not every show has a neat, satisfying conclusion, but each episode is powerful, and well worth watching.

As mentioned, “HOMICIDE” features some of the best television writing ever, before or since, and there’s little wonder as to why such actors as Robin Williams, amongst others, were only too willing to be featured in various episodes.

A&E has preserved the show’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Although there is an abundance of grain, this appears to have been intentional, as the show’s creators strive for a gritty atmosphere.  Colors are fine, but subdued. Contrast is fine, although definition could be sharper in some of the darker scenes. Fleshtones appear natural throughout.

A&E has provided a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix. The mix isn’t extremely aggressive, but the show’s powerful music, as well as some separation effects, make it entertaining, in spite of its restrictions.

A&E has included a running commentary with Levinson and Tom Fontana for the episode, “GONE FOR GOODE.” While we’d have preferred their insight on some other, more effective episodes, it’s still thoroughly entertaining.

Richard Belzer narrates “HOMICIDE: LIFE AT THE STREET,” a brief documentary, with Levinson and Fontana on board, as well.

The best supplement, “TO CATCH A KILLER,” is an episode from the A&E series, “AMERICAN JUSTICE,” wherein Bill Kurtis hosts an exploration of real homicide detectives as they solve a case.

The show also stood out in the way it selected music to enhance various scenes.  A list of songs from the first two seasons has been included.