: : : Law & Order Special Victims Unit - The First Year

Story

Originally called Sex Crimes, executive producer Dick Wolf wisely opted for something less lurid when the second in the inexhaustible Law & Order franchise hit the air in 1999. Still, as the opening voiceover makes clear, the "sexually based offenses" investigated by New York's Special Victims Unit can be "especially heinous." This six-DVD boxed set includes all 22 episodes of the first compelling season.

Wolf penned series premier "Payback," which sets the scene, but not the tone. It's a lively, if uneasy mix between horror (rape) and comedy (risqué banter). As the show progressed, humor would be written out altogether (leaving Richard Belzer's Homicide-derived John Munch with increasingly less to do). Less emphasis would also be placed on the home lives of this "elite squad of dedicated detectives." Mostly, "Payback" introduces us to the unit, centering around partners Olivia Benton (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni). For two people with so little in common, they make a terrific team--arguably one of TV's best. Stabler is married with four children; Benton is single and her closest relationship is with her mother (Elizabeth Ashley). While Stabler can get a little rough with suspects, Benton tends to over-empathize with the victims. They report to the no-nonsense Captain Cragen (Law & Order vet Dann Florek). Like the parent program's Lenny Briscoe, he's a recovering alcoholic. Dean Winters and Michelle Hurd round out the rock-solid cast.

As it would continue to do in successive years, SVU's first season proved that network TV could explore sex crimes without being salacious or exploitative. "Uncivilized," for instance, concerns a child murder that is automatically pinned on a local sex offender, when the actual perpetrator isn't quite so obvious. "Disrobed," in which Brian Cassidy (Winters) leaves the department and Benson (with whom he had a brief affair) shoots a suspect is another standout in a strong year. SVU was followed by Criminal Intent in 2001 and features several guest appearances from Jerry Orbach (Briscoe) and Angie Harmon (Abbie Carmichael) from the original Law & Order. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

DVD Features

  • Available subtitles: Spanish, French
  • Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • All 22 episodes on six discs
  • "The Beginning" featurette
  • Dann Florek's squad room walkthrough
  • Number of discs: 6

Cast

Christopher MeloniDetective Elliot Stabler
Mariska HargitayDetective Olivia Benson
Richard BelzerDetective John Munch
Dann FlorekDann Florek
Dean WintersDetective Brian Cassidy
Michelle HurdDetective Monique Jefferies
Ned EisenbergJerry Kleinert
Angie HarmonA.D.A. Abbie Carmichael
Leslie HendrixDr. Elizabeth Rodgers
Michael GastonBuddy
Bebe NeuwirthNina Laszlo
Catherine DentDeborah Latrell
Todd StashwickRicky Blaine
Jerry OrbachDetective Lennie Briscoe
Lynn CollinsVirginia Hayes
Jessica HechtMiss Kreutzer
Amy RyanLorraine Hansen
Olek KrupaAlex Strizkopf
Isiah Whitlock Jr.Robbery Division Captain
Sam WaterstonJack McCoy
Rick GonzalezAlfonso
Lance ReddickDr. Taylor
J.K. SimmonsDr. Emil Skoda
Paz de la HuertaKaren Raye
Nicole SullivanJen Caulder
Sal ViscusoSal Avelino
Reiko AylesworthA.D.A. Erica Alden
Jennifer EspositoSara Logan
Andrew McCarthyRandolph Morrow

  • Genre: TV
  • Theme(s): Police/S.W.A.T.
  • Director: Guy Norman Bee
  • Producer: Universal
  • Length: 961 min
  • Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
  • Theatrical Release
    North AmericaSep 20, 1999
  • DVD Release
    North AmericaOct 21, 2003
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