TV on DVD

[TV] The L Word: Season 1 (2004)

If I learned anything from watching a show like the L Word, it’s that yeah, it’s okay to be Takei, but it still isn’t fine to cheat on your significant other – regardless of sexual orientation, because people don’t like being cheated on; and the first season of the L Word has a lot o’ that happening.

(Photo: amazon)

I first watched the L Word long after the US version of Queer as Folk ended. It isn’t my usual fare, but I am interested in different perspectives and relationships. When I found the first season in mint condition for $9 at Value Village, I bought it – why not.

No bones about it, this show is hyper sexed, some nudity and other nether-region stuff “going down” (settle down, fellas – suggested and simulated – you don’t actually see anything), but there is also some relationship stuff that everyone goes through when building a life with someone else; the only difference is that it’s predominantly between women.

To start, we have the hub of the show – couple, Bette (Jennifer Beals) and Tina (Laurel Holloman) who have been together for seven years and are fixing to make a baby by artificial insemination. Bette is a high-powered art curator and Tina quit her job to become housewife to Bette. Other characters include closeted tennis pro, Dana (Erin Daniels), bisexual and quirky Alice (Leisha Hailey), damaged and distant Shane (Katherine Moennig) and Bette’s straight sister, Kit (Pam Grier). All are living in 2004 Los Angeles, where there was no gay marriage or rights for gay couples in the U.S. (my how things are changing!). The show doesn’t date itself (not yet anyway), so I had to remember that it was 2004 and Bette and Tina weren’t technically married and had little domestic rights between them if their relationship went south.

The main story arc of the first season of the L Word has to do with the “coming out” of budding writer, the precocious Jenny Schecter played by Mia Kerchner. Jenny moves to LA to be with her beau, Tim (Eric Mabius), who happens to live next door to Bette and Tina. Of course, the couple get invited to one of Bette and Tina’s soirees and Jenny gets lured by one of the guests, Marina. It’s not long before, by the sixth episode, Tim walks in on Jenny and Marina in a compromising position. Surprise, Tim! Jenny’s into the ladies… Among other cheats in this playground: Bette has a change of heart when she falls for Candace, a carpenter hired to do some work in her museum, and that jeopardizes her relationship with Tina, and Shane “the studdette” is bedding everyone without discretion, including Sheila (played by Rosanna Arquette) and getting into deep trouble for it.

What I have taken away from watching the complete first season of the L Word is that it’s basically “life… with lesbians.” Include some dick jokes, women in drag, “who’s sleeping with who?” and some female nudity thrown in and you have some idea of what to expect. The plot of the first season is very much like a soap, so count me in on that shallowness. I enjoyed the storylines so much, I am already on the third season (thanks to Netflix).

I know some might be uncomfortable with the subject matter of this show, so if that is you, the L Word is obviously not your kind of show.

L Word: Season 1
Showtime
2004

NYPD Blue’s Neglected Fanbase: Where is the Love?

When NYPD Blue premiered in 1993, TV audiences were introduced to a few new things, notably shaky camera angles and posterior nudity. I didn’t enjoy the show when I first watched it, but appreciated it a lot more when the hubs and I started binge watching them in 2003 (before binge-watching was an actual thing…). A friend lent us his copy of Season 1 NYPD Blue to try, and we were instantly hooked: interesting cases, salty language, the edgy lines of row-houses panning to the familiar outlines of the Twin Towers, the rough and sullen Andy Sipowicz played by actor Dennis Franz, and of course, David Caruso before he took off his glasses at every hook-line on CSI Miami (yaaaaaahhhh!). We were into NYPD Blue big time and couldn’t get enough! 

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We bought our own copy of Season 1 NYPD Blue, and we were happy to know Seasons 2 and 3 were also on the shelves. We made fast work of those too, and then waited with baited breath for Season 4 to be released. Then in 2006, we bought a copy of Season 4. Awesome! It gave us an excuse to watch Seasons 1-3 again!

After finishing up Season 4, we hoped Season 5 of NYPD Blue would come out. There was no news on the internet about release dates, but there certainly was a demand by fans of the show (I mean, there were at least TWO fans hoping…). Several years pass, and every once in a while I’d wonder whether the rest of the seasons would be released. My internet searches were coming up fruitless other than finding out that Fox had abandoned releasing any subsequent Seasons of NYPD Blue due to poor DVD sales. I couldn’t believe it! It couldn’t be true! But, the evidence was there…no new NYPD Blue sets anywhere!

Feeble attempts to garner anything NYPD Blue even led me to torrent sites, but there was nothing up. Nothing on Netflix. Nothing on HULU. No back catalogue on network websites. Man, it was sad.

A ray of hope shone brightly the day I was doing some online shopping on Amazon this past November and found a release date of February 2014 for Season 5 of NYPD Blue!! I couldn’t believe it! The series was in pre-order which I put money down for immediately.

February 10 was when NYPD Blue Season 5 would arrive in my mail box, and I was over the moon! At last!

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Season 1’s offerings

Before I go on about Season 5, let’s talk about the presentation of NYPD Blue Seasons 1 through 4. You could tell some serious care had been taken by Fox to release a decent box set for fans of the show. To start, Season 1 and 2 are in nice packaging with six DVDs. It’s obvious there was some thought put into the design, including having a sleeve with a fold-out DVD case. The extra features were impressive as well which included several featurettes, interviews and commentaries. Seasons 3 and 4’s packaging was a condensed version and not as elaborate in design giving us 4 DVDs instead of 6. With the reduction of DVDs, the quality of the shows suffered a bit. Mini DVD cases in a sleeve replaced the fold-out seen in previous seasons, but similarly, featurettes and commentaries are included in Seasons 3 and 4 of NYPD Blue.

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When I opened that shipping box from Amazon and pulled out the Season 5 set of NYPD Blue, I noticed immediately how the packaging is a far departure from the elaborately clean fold-out presentation of the first two seasons.  Season 5 has a clear plastic DVD case, six DVDs and no extra features. When playing the episodes back, I couldn’t help but notice the reduction of quality of sound and picture. The hubs, who is a TV guy, remarked the episodes weren’t cleaned up at all as the commercial cue dots were left on, which could very well indicate these DVDs were straight dubs from the original broadcast tape to DVD. One more notable thing: this was not a Fox release, but Shout! Factory, which I am not familiar with. Whether this release is a result of Shout! Factory expediting the release to get it out there as soon as possible, that they didn’t have the means or licensing to clean it up a bit… or perhaps fans shouldn’t expect any better (I mean, how dare we?). Really, it’s anyone’s guess. But this situation for me comes down to this:

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NYPD Blue fans are finding themselves in an Oliver Twist situation right now. We are willing to put up with a sub-par unpolished release…and still feel grateful to get another season of NYPD Blue on the shelves.

Now that Seasons 1-5 of NYPD Blue have been watched, it begs the question whether more seasons will ever be released in North America. A search online reveals some shocking information: all 12 Seasons of NYPD Blue are currently for sale on Amazon in the UK! I also learned there is no intended release date for their release this side of the pond. Why no NYPD Blue love? Perhaps the series is more popular in the UK than here? I can’t say, but I am very jealous. Until more seasons of NYPD Blue get released in North America, I guess I continue to hang out in the gruel queue asking for more…