In the criminal justice system, Judge Adam Arseneau is considered especially heinous. Or so the women tell him.
Our reviews of Law And Order: Special Victims Unit: The Fifth Year (published November 3rd, 2004), Law And Order: Special Victims Unit: The Eighth Year (published February 17th, 2009), Law And Order: Special Victims Unit: The Eleventh Year (published October 13th, 2010), Law And Order: Special Victims Unit: The Fourth Year (published January 28th, 2008), Law And Order: Special Victims Unit: The Seventh Year (published August 13th, 2008), and Law And Order: Special Victims Unit: The Third Year (published February 21st, 2007) are also available.
Watch in amazement as the most heavily rerun franchise in the entire world tries to woo buyers into purchasing DVD copies of episodes available on TV all the freaking time. C'mon, you know you want to. Don't make me "chung-chuuung" again.
Facts of the Case
New York City's Special Victims Unit (SVU) is tasked with investigating the
most heinous of sexually based criminals—pedophiles, rapists, molesters,
and worse. Detectives Stabler (Christopher Meloni, Oz) and Benson
(Mariska Hargitay, Lake Placid) pound the
streets, while Munch (Richard Belzer, Homicide: Life on the Street) and
Tutuola (Ice-T, New Jack City) back
them up. Captain Cragen (Dann Florek, Law & Order) works the office,
while ADA Novak (Diane Neal) prosecutes the heck out of the offenders.
Love it or hate it, SVU is the only Law & Order franchise that still makes any attempt to push its boundaries. The others seem merely content to plod along, regurgitating the same material again and again, but SVU takes an almost visceral glee in seeing exactly how troubling a subject matter can be depicted on network television. Each episode is wrought with unsettling subject matter—rape, torture, disfigurement, abuse, psychological trauma, dismemberment—you name it, they got it. Plus hookers. Oh, do they have hookers. Dead ones, usually.
As the most rock-solid of the spinoffs, SVU always delivers a good season, full of quality episodes and choice moments. Season Six is no exception, with standout episodes including the balls-to-the-walls "Scavenger," an episode straight out of Se7en; "Weak," an oddly unsettling tale of mental illness and rape (in which guest star Amanda Plummer won an Emmy); "Contagious," a worst-case scenario of wrongful accusations; "Game," a barely disguised stab at the controversial Grand Theft Auto videogame franchise; "Ghost," which brings back former ADA Alex Cabot to deal with her past; and "Intoxicated," a surprisingly complex investigation into the difficult job of defending a teenage client. As with past seasons, anyone who's anyone in NYC for a few days drops in to cameo, and guest stars appearing this season are plentiful. To name a few: Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), Lea Thompson (Caroline In The City), Ming-Na (ER), Lewis Black (The Daily Show With Jon Stewart), Maggie Grace (Lost), Kyle MacLachlan (Blue Velvet), Hayden Panettiere (Heroes), Martin Short (SCTV), Glenne Headly (Dick Tracy), and Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2) all log in for a solid day's work.
This is an especially rough season for Stabler, whose home life self-destructs and bleeds over into his job, making him even more a hotheaded jerk than normal. His marriage starts to go into the toilet, his teenage daughter is a jerk, and his normally cool demeanor (ha!) begins to crack. One area SVU seemed to struggle with earlier on was the back story with its characters—it had all these great ideas about episode content but little in the way to tie together a unified plot progression. However, by the sixth season, things are humming along quite nicely, and we can start to see the natural progression (or in Stabler's case, regression) of years of character development subtly worked in between the endless parade of dead hookers and rape victims. The downside, of course, to Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit: The Sixth Year is that characters other than Stabler pretty much take a back seat. Benson gets an occasional moment to sort out her own problems, Fin by my count gets one episode dealing with his estranged son, and Munch? Forget about it. He might as well not even show up for work.
Now that the show has made the full switch to HD, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The Sixth Year looks superb, doubly so on DVD. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is a noticeable improvement from previous grainy full-frame DVD releases, featuring fantastic contrast and color saturation. Black levels are deep and rich, and with nary a scratch or mark to be seen. These may be standard-definition DVD releases, but the increased fidelity of the source material makes all the difference. Likewise, the audio now comes in a full 5.1 presentation (over previous stereo) with deep bass, clear dialogue, and great environmental effects. The mix is still primarily center-balanced, but the rear channels spring up during noisy sequences, especially on the streets of NYC.
The only extra included on this disc is entirely superfluous, but one cannot deny the appeal: a Sesame Street parody of Law & Order: SVU. You heard that right. The letter "M" has gone missing, and it is up to the Special Letters Unit to recover it. It may be inappropriate to parody a sexual-based offense drama on a children's television show, but seeing lookalike PBS versions of our beloved detectives is a riot.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
As sweet as these DVDs may be, Law & Order episodes are mercilessly syndicated, making DVD purchases entirely unnecessary. Pick a random channel at a random time of day or night and you have a statistically strong chance of hitting a rerun. Do you really want to pay for these episodes when you can get them for free?
If you're already invested in five seasons worth of SVU on DVD, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The Sixth Year is probably already in your shopping cart. The spiffy anamorphic transfer and surround sound presentation should seal the deal for the undecided.
Not guilty, but most of us will be more than content just to catch the endless, endless, ever-endless reruns.
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Scales of Justice
• "Law & Order: Special Letters Unit"
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