Law and Order is my favorite TV series, and as far as I'm concerned, Lenny Briscoe is my favorite character. The third season marked Jerry Orbach's debut in the series, and he dominated it brilliantly for more than a decade. I enjoy virtually any episode of Law and Order, and these DVDS, with their bonus material, are great.
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Great season, transfer and extras still lacking
D. Parvin | Boston, MA USA | 05/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Law and Order's third season is the beginning of the golden years of the show, six or seven seasons in which this became one of the best crime shows ever. Part of it is the plots, but a larger part is the addition of Jerry Orbach to add both character and humor to a narrowly written role. The show itself is 5 stars, but I knock off a star for yet another season in which the transfers and extras leave something to be desired. Still, very much worth buying.
What makes this season golden? Nostalgia for the early 1990s helps, with big hair, Times Square full of strip clubs, crime labs using old IBM 386 computers, colored shirts and narrow ties, and a general feeling that a far more gritty New York made a better backdrop for a crime show than today's sanitized version.
Some of it is the writing and source material. Episodes include the standard ripped-from-the-headlines stories - Tailhook (Conduct Unbecoming), sweatshop workers (Wedded Bliss), doctors assaulting patients (Helpless, Promises to Keep), drug smuggling rings (Consultation), hackers (Virus) - but one reason the first few seasons are more robust is that they had just started to scratch the surface of historical crimes, like a restaging of the Malcolm X murder (Conspiracy) and a medical device company scandal (The Corporate Veil). This means that while the bang-bang plot advancement really comes into its own this season after a couple of years of slower episodes, the writers don't have to resort to cheap plot tricks to keep things interesting. Routine false leads and judges throwing out evidence every episode can wait for the formulaic later years. I also particularly like several of the non-Hollywood endings, like Prince of Darkness ("What happened to the little girl?" "She was picked up at school by her uncle." "She doesn't have an uncle.")
But a larger part is the acting. With the mid-season addition of Orbach - who plays first-year Briscoe a bit more troubled and edgy than in later years - the Law side of the series finally has two actors that don't think that playing an NYPD detective is beneath their talent. Briscoe's trademark wisecrack helps ("They brought the hookers in? I thought they were on the room service menu"), but there's a chemistry between Orbach and Noth that makes the makes plots come to life. In addition, several of the regular guest stars (Tovah Feldshuh and Lorraine Toussant as memorable defense attorneys, Leslie Hendrix's first appearances as the irascible medical examiner) add life to the show in their brief roles. Finally, one fun part of watching the early years are the stars who have gone on to bigger careers: Claire Danes, Edie Falco, Sam Rockwell, Gloria Foster (the oracle from the Matrix), Desperate Housewife Felicity Huffman, Alias' Ron Rifkin, ER's Paul McCrane and Julianna Margulies.
As I have for the first two season sets, I take a star off for transfers and extras that aren't up to the quality of the show. I have mixed opinions about cheaply producing double sided DVDs in three slim cases without any written material, but at least it takes less space on my shelf. Transfer quality is in fact better than the first two seasons, but it's clear remastering was cursory as there is still periodic flecking. After no extras in the first two seasons, at least this set includes some. However, they're still disappointing especially after the long delay in putting this out. The 8 deleted scenes don't add much, although we finally see one of Briscoe's brassy middle aged girlfriends (for the only time in the series!) A five minute interview with and six minute tribute to Orbach by fellow stars doesn't even include the master of ceremonies of his celebration, Sam Waterston; they would have been better served just putting a copy of that on the DVD instead of getting Trial By Jury actors on the profound effect his 4 episodes with them had on their careers. What the series really needs is interviews with writers and actors on the various episodes. At least they don't include an ad as they did in the first year.
However, this is very much worth picking up for Law and Order fans. I just wish if Universal is going to price something at a premium that viewers can watch for free on basic cable, they'd at least add premium content. Maybe next season."
The best season of Law & Order
N. Durham | Philadelphia, PA | 05/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The third season of Law & Order found Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth) assigned another new partner in the sardonic Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach), who would become the face of the series for eleven more seasons. The interplay between Briscoe and Logan is one of many highlights of the third season of Law & Order, as characters became more developed (such as Dann Florek's Captain Cragen) and the cases and investigations take twisting turns when the viewer least expects it; something that many cop/crime dramas have imitated throughout the years. However, this would be the last season for original cast members Florek and Richard Brooks, as the revolving cast door of Law & Order began to spin more than ever before. All in all, it's nice to finally have these episodes on DVD, and series afficiondos should consider this landmark season a must own."
Top notch season for "Law and Order"
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 06/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I felt that "Law and Order" truly hit its stride in the third season. When Jerry Orbach joined the cast he added sarcasm, wit and became the series' moral anchor. I really miss him as an actor and his presence will be missed on the TV screen as well where he provided a weekly dose of professionalism, talent and always injected an element of dark wit to the series. A number of great episodes feature during this season. "Prince of Darkness" "Manhood", "Benevolence" are among the stand outs particularly the first where Jerry Orbach first joined the cast. An outstanding episode (one my favorites I might add) about the murder of a police officer stranded without back up suddenly becomes an issue when it turns out its related to prejudice.
A vast improvement over previous sets, "Law and Order" looks very good here. There's still some dirt and debris but the colors are vivid and the strobing effect mentioned in some previous reviews isn't present that I can tell. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound mix is solid with nice clarity and separation.
We do get deleted scenes for a number of episodes (and we meet one of the "middle aged dames" that Brisco frequently hangs with in the deleted scene for "Manhood"). We get two featurettes both built around Jerry Orbach. The first "Jerry Orbach Profile" features a nice interview with Orbach with he discusses his feelings about the series. He points out that he believed the series' longevity is directly related to the show's revolving cast of characters and actors. Using this approach, the series has managed to remain fresh. The tribute features actors such as Chris Noth, Dan Florek and others discussing the impact that working with Orbach had on their career and their impressions of them as a person. A couple of them are quite honest about the conflicts that occurred on set when Michael Moriarty was a member of the team and how Orbach brought a level of calm to the set with his professional demeanor and sense of humor.
A great series that picked up steam and continued to get better and better, the third season found "Law & Order" in top form. With some additional cast changes (Sam Waterston and a few others), this series would be hitting on all cylinders. The two featurettes on Orbach are nicely done although I would have liked to see a career overview or biography that went more in depth into Orbach's background.
Quality packaging and transfer
James Bair | Bellingham, WA | 07/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The third year of Law & Order is justifiably considered one of the best, and this package does the outstanding cast and poignant, riveting plots justice. Viewers of other packages in the series will recognize the familiar menu and opening sequence--easy to use, intuitive and quick to respond to remote commands. Often graphics-heavy DVDs seem glacial, but this layout allows the viewer easy and quick access to our favorite episodes and scenes. The sound quality is particularly noteworthy, and the transfer is solid and reliable. We've spun these discs on our new state-of-the-art DVD player and on our older simple player, and in both cases the discs deliver admirable quality. For Law & Order fans, a satisfying addition to our libraries of reliable program; for neophytes, an excellent place to start."
Season 3: The L&O Legend Arrives
Ryan | 10/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Other reviewers are right on when they say that the arrival of Jerry Orbach as the sardonic Det. Lenny Briscoe is what cemented this already great show as a winner. But viewing later seasons of the show proves that Orbach was at his best when playing off of his then partner, Mike Logan (Chris Noth). The chemistry between Briscoe and Logan brought that much-needed glint of subtle characterization to a show largely haled for its plot-driven elements. Yet, the shows were never weighed down by personal baggage as was often the case in this era's contemporary cop show, NYPD Blue. Its also noteworthy that Michael Moriarty as the idealistic ADA, Ben Stone still fueled the legal side of this drama. This season would be the curtain call for Cpt. Don Cragen (Dan Florek), and ADA Paul Robinette (Richard Brooks), both of whom filled their roles well during the early run.
The real staple of this show, of course, is the storytelling, which still proves itself to be more powerful and effective than anything found on the current burned-out series. Episodes like "Manhood," "Mother Love," "Night and Fog," "Wedded Bliss," and "Promises to Keep," are particularly powerful. Some episodes don't always have happy or neat endings as demonstrated by the riveting, "Conspiracy," in which cops and prosecutors hunt for the person who assassinates a controversial African-American leader. Some episodes also have a personal touch for the characters, including "Helpless," in which police psychologist Elizabeth Olivet (Carolyn McCormick) is molested by a sadistic gynecologist. Also, "Prince of Darkness," in which Logan watches his partner Phil Cerreta (Paul Sorvino) badly wounded by a drugged-out gun dealer. This is one of the darkest episodes of the entire series and would serve as the transition for Briscoe's entrance.
Some criticize the extras in this box set. They are a bit meager, but Universal has never been particularly generous with extras, so I'll take anything I can get. The two short featurettes are particularly moving because of Jerry Orbach's recent passing. The deleted scenes are interesting for diehard fans, but its obvious why they were omitted from the final print. I also applaud Universal for including a "Play All" feature. I wish more TV series box sets would incorporate this function.
All and all, this season is well worth the purchase and belongs in any TV crime-lover's collection. "