Judge Joel Pearce would like to see some punishment for the crime of this kind of release.
Four by-the-book favorites
For such a blatant money grab, TV Sets: Crime and Punishment is surprisingly effective. Not for the reason that Paramount wants, mind you, but that's the way of things.
This set contains the Pilots from four cop shows, ranging from 1968 to 2006.
• Hawaii Five-O: Full Fathom Five (1968)
• The Streets of San Francisco: The Thirty-Year Pin
• CSI:NY: Blink (2004)
• Dexter: Pilot (2006)
At first glance, TV Sets: Crime and Punishment is little more than a pathetic money grab on the part of Paramount. Real fans of the series contained on the disc are likely to own the season sets already, and there seems to be little more than genre to connect the four shows together. By including the pilots, Paramount hopes to draw new converts to the shows, selling the much more expensive box sets.
In the process, though, the studio has done something very interesting. With no explicit discussion, TV Sets: Crime and Punishment manages to be nothing less than an exploration of the development of the cop genre that spans nearly 50 years. Hawaii Five-O seems almost naïve by today's standards, showing the crime first. It also plays a bit like an advertisement for Hawaii, encouraging the kind of tourism on display in the show.
The Streets of San Francisco, aired only four years later, comes from a different world. Released in the same era as Dog Day Afternoon, it tries for the same type of cinematic realism, creating a gritty overall look and feel. It's cut faster, and starts to blur the lines between good and evil. In both of these older series, we can see the roots of the cop shows that grace the small screen now.
Unfortunately, the gap between The Streets of San Francisco and CSI: NY is enormous. By 2004, many of the current cliches had become securely cemented, as expected for a production helmed by Jerry Bruckheimer. Here, we don't see the murder at the beginning, as it's meant to be a surprise for us, too. It is vastly more cinematic, with the kind of large budget we've come to expect from network television. It is slick, easy, enjoyable entertainment. Here, the episodes are still largely self-contained, with only the characters connecting each episode.
Dexter, the final contribution to the collection, shows how much television has grown up in the past decade. In the wake of digestible entertainment like CSI and reality television, cable shows like Dexter have offered a much more impressive and challenging option, as well as much more graphic. Here, we find none of the simplicity of the older shows. In a lot of ways, each one of the shows is a reflection of the city it inhabits, which makes for a fascinating comparison.
The transfer of each show is exactly as expected. The older shows look and sound a bit dated, but represent a solid effort. Both CSI: NY and Dexter look and sound fantastic. As expected, there are no special features on the disc.
If you are interested in examining the development of the cop genre through television history, and you don't already own enough series to do that, I suppose TV Sets: Crime and Punishment is as good a way as any to leap into that project. For everyone else, it's just as easy to turn to reruns to look back at the beginning of these shows. No need to waste money on this silliness.
Guilty of stealing fans' money, TV Sets: Crime and Punishment is nonetheless an interesting historical view.
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