Created by Dick Wolf
Featuring Vincent D’Onofrio, Kathryn Erbe, Jamey Sheridan and Courtney B. Vance
In television box-set reviewing, the worst offenders are those who tack on nice extras to a mediocre release. These are their stories.
The good and bad thing about procedural shows is that not much tends to change from season to season. Occasionally there are actor changes, but for the most part, the same episodic structure with little overarching plot remains intact. This is great for random viewing as not even much character devotion is needed from the fans as the episode’s story is the key. It’s bad because if a few episodes can’t hook someone, then the entire show probably won’t stand a chance.
L&O: Criminal Intent maintains the same basic structure in its third season of Detective Goren and Eames (Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe respectively) solving the trickier homicides in New York City by examining the character and the motivations of the killers and the victims. Goren is still as eccentric as ever, poking and prodding at suspects until they break down, and Eames continues to serve as the grounded vantage for the audience to relate to. It’s a good formula that keeps working.
Unfortunately, Detective Eames takes a break for a few episodes, acting as a surrogate for her sister’s pregnancy (actress Kathryn Erbe was pregnant in real life), so Goren gets a temporary partner in Detective G. Lynn Bishop (Samantha Buck). Bishop is tacked on as a generic female detective, compared to Eames with her cop-through-and-through personality that nicely compliments Detective Goren’s eccentric methods. Still, they have their moments when the show plays off of the misconnect of working with someone new that doesn’t have that hive-mind thought developed by being partners for so long. Still, these episodes aren’t quite as strong as the rest and the viewer is typically left waiting for Eames to return a few episodes later.
This third season has a few neat guest stars from all sorts of different television eras, including Taxi’s Judd Hirsch, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Brent Spiner and Stephen Colbert pre-Colbert Report. These are decent performances, and Colbert has definitely garnered enough fans in recent years for them to want to check out his actual acting work (because The Colbert Report is 100% no-acting truthiness).
However, even with an episodic structure, a series still needs some plot or character development, and this third season falls somewhat short. The real life break of Erbe does give her character some forced development (although it doesn’t feel too forced and unbelievable, just random). Still, without internal struggles among the characters or a good criminal to push them (no appearances from Goren’s rival Nicole Wallace this season), it all seems more of the same. If you’re getting bogged down in the formulaic structure and the guest stars don’t do it for you, this season is possibly skippable.
This third season is in 1.33:1 full screen. I believe the show didn’t transition to widescreen until the following fourth season, so what you see is all there is. Still not too much to look at.
English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, but it’s not an audio-heavy series that would utilize 5.1 surround sound anyway, so no loss.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This three-disc set comes in a fold-out cardboard case inside a removable plastic cover. Personally, I prefer just opening a traditional plastic case with less unfolding. The discs themselves are two-sided, really equaling six discs total. While the supplemental book does halfway list the disc number (with some admittedly nice credits and statistical info), the only real way to know the disc number and side is to pop in a random disc and find the buried “Episode Index,” which typically leads to annoyingly having to change out or flipping discs.
The bonuses are listed on the back of the plastic jacket, and while they’re plainly stated to be on disc 3, side 2, every DVD teases them in the menu as non-selectable items. When you actually get to them though, they’re a decent selection of set tours and actor/character profiles. Not too much, but a vast improvement over the last L&O set I reviewed. If only the packaging and more so the disc layout were better implemented.
This season is not a high point of the show, nor is it a low point (depending on your opinion of the rotating cast structure of later seasons). It’s visually and audibly unimpressive. It’s got some neat extras, but the rest of the set would do better t match that quality (especially the actual packaging of the set).
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10
The Series 6/10
The Video 4/10
The Audio 4/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10