Cox: "Don't you even wonder why?"
Munch: "Why what?"
Cox: "Why he lied."
Munch: "I'm a homicide detective. The only time I wonder why is when they tell me the truth."

"Homicide: Life on the Street" was the best-written and best-acted drama on television. Set in Baltimore, the program focused on the Baltimore Police Department's Homicide Division. It included a bunch of great actors, like Andre Braugher, Yaphet Kotto, Ned Beatty, Richard Belzer, Kyle Secor, Clark Johnson, Daniel Baldwin, Reed Diamond, Giancarlo Esposito, Michelle Forbes, Peter Gerety, Isabella Hoffman, Melissa Leo, Toni Lewis, Michael Michele, Max Perlich, Jon Polito, Jon Seda, Callie Thorne, and many others.

Bayliss: "You never say please. You never say thank you."
Pembleton: "Please don't be an idiot. Thank you."

The show was produced and created by director Barry Levinson and based on David Simon's book "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets". The executive producers (and frequent scriptwriters) were Eric Overmeyer and Tom Fontana. The dialogue in the show crackled, sparked, and popped beautifully; the characterizations were thoroughly brilliant; the jittery, documentary-style camera work was fun to watch. Unfortunately, NBC cancelled the show a few years back, so if you want to see it, you'll need to look for the show on DVD or try to find a station that carries it in syndicated reruns.

Bayliss: "So does the violence make them stupid or does the stupidity lead to violence?"
Munch: "Well, that's chicken and egg semantics. The important point is that we win some cases because our brains are repositories for intelligence and their brains are day-old banana pudding."

Favorite tidbit of weirdness about the show: A real criminal, on the run from the real Baltimore PD, once ran into some of the "Homicide" cast and crew filming a scene. Thinking he'd been cornered by real cops, he surrendered immediately.

Lewis: "Baltimore, home of the misdemeanor homicide!"

Some research from the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com), but most of it from being a raging "Homicide" fanatic.
"Homicide" is by far and away the best TV cop show of recent times but for some reason it never really became popular here in the UK. It first aired in 1993 in the US and came to the UK in 1995.

One of the things that made the show stand out from its contemporary counterparts of the time was its location. The show was set in Baltimore, which to my mind doesn't feature regularly in prime-time TV shows, with the possible exception of The X-Files.

"Homicide" was very recognisable visually in the way it was directed. It borrowed a number of techniques from another popular show of the time, NYPD Blue, but "Homicide" made it a style that was very much its own. Its musical score also contributed highly to its original style.

"Homicide" could change style very easily and very competently on a weekly basis... it could change from being fairly irreverernt one week to highly emotional the next whilst maintaining ongoing plotlines such as the stroke suffered by Frank Pembleton.

There were 122 episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street produced before NBC cancelled the show. As far as I'm aware the final season was never shown on UK television - Channel 4 moved it from a late evening slot to something like 3am before it dropped the show.

Well I always said the toughest thing for the show is not to get stale and how to keep challenging ourselves. It was one of the big things that every year we kept saying "All right, what haven't we done? How can we approach something differently? What is the evolution of this and how do we continually challenge ourselves?" To see where else we can go, as opposed to just get comfortable and say "OK, this is it."

Of course that may be why we were last in our timeslot.

- Writer/Producer Tom Fontana

Homicide: Life on the Street is finally being released on DVD and I bought the first set of episodes on the day they came out. I never really understood the whole “own a TV series on DVDphenomenon, but that might have been because Homicide was probably the only show released on DVD that I cared enough about to actually shell out the money to get it. The only other shows even coming close to being good enough to buy are The Simpsons and Seinfeld, and they’ve been so heavily syndicated that I could watch three episodes of both every day. Reruns of Homicide, on the other hand, were banished to CourtTV and aired only late at night, before eventually being dropped altogether.

Seasons 1 and 2 – 4 discs

Seasons 1 and 2 were released together because they consisted of only 9 and 4 episodes respectively (all other Homicide seasons were 20-23 episodes). I didn’t start watching the show regularly until season 4, so this gave me the chance to see the show when it was in its most raw form in terms of production (as TAFKAH notes in his node above), and to finally see the beginning of the most important story arc of the entire show: the murder of Adena Watson.

It can be argued that Homicide is the story of Tim Bayliss, one of the detectives on the show, portrayed by Kyle Secor. The first episode of the show is Bayliss’ first day on the job and the last episode takes place when he finally quits the Homicide unit six years later. Many of his reactions to the cases he is assigned foreshadow the changes the character will undergo over the next six years, and none were more important than the rape and murder of 11 year-old Adena Watson. The Watson murder occurs at the very end of “Gone for Goode”, the first episode, and the ensuing investigation takes place over the next five episodes, eventually coming to a head in “Three Men and Adena” where Bayliss and his partner Frank Pembleton subject the main suspect in the murder to an intense 12-hour interrogation in a last-ditch attempt to get him to confess (writer Tom Fontana won an Emmy for this episode). The interrogation was a failure and the crime remained unsolved. Adena’s name stayed on the board under Bayliss’ name for the rest of the series, always written in red (the symbol of an open case), never to be turned to black (a case that had been solved).

His inability to close the Watson murder haunted Bayliss and forced him to question whether he was worthy to be a homicide detective (or “murder police” as the characters are apt to refer to themselves). Whenever he was assigned to the death of a child in the following years, he couldn’t help but think back on his failure in his first case. The questioning of his abilities that came from both himself and his fellow detectives could later be seen in how he tried to constantly prove his worthiness and how committed he was to justice, such as when he threw himself in front of a bullet to protect Pembleton or, in the series final episode, when he shot recently released serial killer Luke Ryland in order to prevent Ryland from killing again.

This is not to say that Bayliss is the only important character on the show, Homicide always had a large ensemble cast and this DVD set allows us to see several characters that would leave the show before the end of it’s run, such as the uncaring Beau Felton (William Baldwin), conspiracy-theorist Steve Crosetti (Coen Brothers regular Jon Polito) and the crotchety Stanley Bolander (played by Ned Beatty, who is simply amazing in the role and steals every scene he is in). Episode 10, “See No Evil” also features an excellent performance by the underutilized Melissa Leo playing Kay Howard, then the only female in the unit, on what it feels like to be in the man’s world that is murder.

Odd bit of trivia: Something I noticed was the occurance of musician names being dropped during the show. In one episode, the name of the killer turned out be Layne Staley (the late lead singer for Alice in Chains) and in another the name of a key witness was Krist Novoselic (the bass player for Nirvana). I wonder if this continued deeper into the series.

The only downsides to this set are the paucity of extras (a so-so commentary track on the first episode and a documentary on the making of the season 6 episode “The Subway” are the only add-ons) and a strange picture quality. Many times the backgrounds look strangely static, like the actors are working in front of a bad matte painting, and sometimes the characters don’t move right, with one half of the pixels in their face moving, then followed by the other half. This creates a subtle motion blur effect and whether it is due to the compression on the DVD or the film stock used for the show, I don’t know. There is also some noticeable jitteriness in certain scenes that look like a poor transfer was done to DVD.

QXZ sez: It seems to me to be a combination of shooting the show on 16mm, which is by nature a grainier stock than the 35mm used on most movies and filmed TV series with budgets, the fact that the 16mm was push processed to eke a few extra stops of exposure out of it for underlit scenes (and also to contribute to a gritty look), and the eventual MPEG2 compression for DVD release. Probably. Or maybe someone just did a really bad DVD transfer, but I think the former is more likely.

Despite these shortcomings, I wholeheartedly recommend this set to anyone who wants to see what quality television could be. Homicide was never given it’s due when it was on the air, this DVD gives people the chance to see it from the beginning.

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