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Case Number 04606

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Profiler: Season Three

A&E // 1998 // 1034 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Erick Harper (Retired) // June 14th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Erick Harper's keen intuition leads him to recommend this crime drama.

The Charge

You really know your freaks. I mean, that explains your fan mail.

Opening Statement

Profiler ran from 1996-2000 as part of NBC's Saturday night "Thrillogy." The network never expected great things of the show due to its less than desirable timeslot, but Profiler soon carved out a respectable, predominantly female audience, becoming the highest-rated show of the "Thrillogy" block.

Although it is barely remembered now, the current deluge of crime shows owes a lot to ground that was originally broken by Profiler. The emphasis on forensics, psychology, and reconstructing crimes that was a hallmark of Profiler has clearly had an impact on numerous recent shows, notably the CSI franchise, which has also adopted some of the stylistic and filmmaking devices that Profiler pioneered.

Facts of the Case

Season 3 picks up where Season 2's cliffhanger ending left off. The snare tightens around the brilliant, warped serial killer known as Jack of All Trades, leading to his capture. He turns out to be someone that profiler Samantha Waters (Ally Walker, While You Were Sleeping) knew in Sunday School as a child…or does he? As the Violent Crimes Task Force continues fighting the weekly onslaught of serial killers with ever-stranger MOs, the preparations for "Jack's" trial loom over Sam.

The Evidence

Season 3 of Profiler was the last to star Ally Walker as Samantha Waters. Waters has said elsewhere (specifically, the commentary tracks on the Season 1 set) that she grew tired of the darkness and menace of the storylines, with each week's episode trying to outdo the last in terms of serial killer brutality and creativity. For someone with Walker's apparently sunny disposition, it is easy to understand how dealing with this much murder and mayhem on a weekly basis could be a bit of a drain, even in a fictional context such as this.

Another comment that Walker made on the Season 1 DVDs was to emphasize that Samantha is not psychic; she merely has a keen intellect and intuition, and is able to put together pieces of evidence and connect the dots in ways that most of the people around her cannot. It became standard on the show to depict her bursts of intuition in black and white flashbacks, with images of what may have happened exploding into her mind. This device seems to be used much more frequently in the third season, and Sam's flashes of inspiration have ceased to be mere brilliant observations. She now gets "sensations" or "feelings" when she is at a crime scene examining evidence. Whether or not the people in charge of the show want to admit it, Sam has crossed over into sixth sense territory. This serves to undermine whatever remaining tenuous connection the show may have had to real-life investigations and profiling in the first place; frankly, it wouldn't be much of a leap at this point for her to start talking about feeling strange disturbances in the Force.

On the other hand, Season 3 also contains some of the best episodes out of the whole series, and allows VCTF member the opportunity to use some real crimefighting skills. The episode "Three Carat Crisis" makes probably the best use of Sam's psychological abilities, as she and her boss Bailey Malone (Robert Davi, Licence to Kill) are trapped in a jewelry store when a band of three young would-be robbers take it over. In some of the best writing of the series, Sam uses her sharp perception of human behavior to pick out the weaknesses in the gang, and to sense out the fault lines that will eventually make them turn on each other. Ally Walker also gives one of her better performances here, as she subtly negotiates with each of the robbers, trying to avoid a tragic end to the situation. The season-ending double episode "Las Brisas" is quite good too, with a storyline that has the VCTF working both sides of the Texas/Mexico border in an attempt to ferret out local corruption and get to the bottom of a string of murders of young women employed in a US-owned factory on the Mexican side.

Sharp-eyed readers will note that I've mostly focused on Walker's character up to this point, with little time for Davi or any of the other cast members. They all do a fine job, as always. Davi in particular brings a quality that seems like a throwback to the hard-boiled film noir detectives of the 1940s. However, here in the third season, Profiler is clearly Ally Walker's show to an even greater extent than in previous seasons. There are occasional respites, such as the episode "Perfect Helen," which takes place in Agent George Fraley's (Peter Frechette, Grease 2, Two in the Morning) home town, or "Heads, You Lose," which allows us to see the Cuban-American roots of forensic pathologist Grace Alvarez (Roma Maffia, Holes, Nip/Tuck). Even with those occasional looks at the rest of the team, however, this is still very much a show about Samantha Waters.

The Profiler Season 3 box set from A&E features all 21 episodes, including the season-ending double episode, "Las Brisas." Video quality is basically identical to the Season 2 release. It is about what you would expect from an A&E box set: substantially better than broadcast quality, but not spectacular. There is a nasty crawl around sharp edges some of the time, as well as the occasional bit of shimmer/moiré in shiny objects or fine textures like hair. Any edges that are not strictly vertical or horizontal show a lot of aliasing or "jaggies." Edge enhancement varies, and might not be terribly noticeable given the dark palette of the episodes, but it is definitely present. Shadowed areas do not seem to be as good in Season 3 as they were in Season 2, often taking on an oily or overly dark look. Colors look to be mostly right on the money, although they are somewhat subdued at times due to the overall dark look of the show. Flesh tones are warm and lifelike, although maybe just a shade too reddish a lot of the time. Audio is adequate to the task. This is a Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix that brings dialogue and sound effects through with acceptable clarity.

The only noteworthy special feature in this set is a commentary track for Episode 13, "Heads, You Lose." Roma Maffia, who plays Dr. Grace Alvarez, shares her thoughts on this Miami-based episode. A portion of the episode allows the character to visit her mother's cigar factory in Little Havana, and allows Grace to work through some long-standing family conflicts. Maffia shares her thoughts on the episode, the show in general, her experiences, and what she learned during her stint on Profiler. There is some of the usual effusive praise for everyone and everything involved with the show that one usually finds in commentary tracks of this nature, but for the most part she keeps her comments relevant and relates a few good insider glimpses of what it was like to make a show like Profiler.

The only other special feature is a collection of cast bios that seem directly lifted from the Season 1 and Season 2 releases.

Closing Statement

As I've said before, Profiler is probably best taken on its own terms, as juicy, lurid Saturday night entertainment. The stories are engaging if a bit outlandish, and the cast give generally solid performances. For those used to the current crop of crime shows, Profiler will come across as weak on science and long on intuition and melodrama. Whether or not that's a good thing is up to you.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

We stand adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 82
Audio: 80
Extras: 67
Acting: 81
Story: 72
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile

Studio: A&E
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 1034 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Crime
• Drama
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary by Roma Maffia for Episode "Heads, You Lose"
• Cast Biographies


• IMDb
• Series Info from TV Tome

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