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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
he Shield” is probably the only show right now that is better than Fox’s hit drama, “24,” demonstrating to TV critics that basic cable does deserve a little respect, especially after Michael Chiklis took home the Emmy for Best Actor in the show’s first season. A gritty cop drama that at first glance seems to be no different than any other cop show on television, the first episode of “The Shield” establishes that Vic Mackey (Chiklis) is a different kind of cop.
Mackey is the show’s protagonist, a soft and cuddly yet crooked Commish who juggles his disparate roles of family man and righteous cop while still finding plenty of rules to break and money to make along the way. His actions are under the intense scrutiny of the new police station’s captain, David Aceveda (Benito Martinez), who believes justice can be delivered just as efficiently when done legally. His view of justice is also shared by partnering detectives Claudette Wyms and Dutch Wagenbach (CCH Pounder and Jay Karnes, respectively).
Unlike Aceveda’s pure ideal of justice, the members of Mackey's Strike Force live by his shady rules of engagement: Vic’s old partner Shane Vandrell (Walton Goggins) is the loudmouth idiot of the group (but also the show’s best accessory) and Lem (Kenneth Johnson) is the muscle. Mackey’s relationship with his wife seems strong throughout the first season, yet his heinous methods eventually lead to acts of infidelity, namely with fellow police officer Danny Sofer (Catherine Dent), who currently is training a black, closeted rookie named Julien (Michael Jace).
Because the show spins off into so many different directions, “The Shield” never loses steam, always creating some controversy and shocking the viewer whenever Mackey and his team break the rules. The show’s first season only runs 13 episodes, which is a bit disappointing considering how attached you’ll become after Episode One, an otherwise average hour of television that doesn’t truly begin to take form until the final minutes. The rest of the season plays off that episode’s conclusion as Mackey dodges Aceveda’s attempts to take him down, all while helping solve kiddy porn cases, track down serial killers and avoid public assault.
The DVD collection is also quite remarkable for a newcomer show produced by the not-so-successful FX Network. The four-disc box set splits the series up into four episodes per disc with Disc Four containing Episode 13 and the special features. The video and audio for the show aren’t especially noteworthy, but they get the job done. The show is transferred in its aired 4:3 presentation, although it was shot for compatibility with widescreen formats. The audio presented is a Dolby 2.0 surround soundtrack that doesn’t add anything extra to the viewing experience, but it sounds just fine for a show shot mostly on location and with handycams on the go.
The special features for this release were far greater than I could have hoped for. The extras begin with 13 audio commentaries (one per episode) that can be accessed when surfing through the menu choices on each disc. These audio commentaries are not only the best I’ve heard on any TV-to-DVD release yet, but the fact that they are available for every episode demonstrates the dedication the actors and producers put into this DVD set. Practically everyone who works on the show can be heard at least once throughout the commentary tracks, including every lead actor, producers, writers, directors and crewmen with about three guests on each track, all moderated by series creator Shawn Ryan, a spitting image of Chiklis.
The remaining special features all appear on the fourth disc. “The Making of The Shield” is a 21-minute feature that uses cast interviews to recount the origin of the show, its specific look and a rundown of each character. Less important is the two-minute FX featurette that serves only as a commercial for the show, splicing the earlier interviews with clips from the show. Other extras includ e the show’s pilot script and eight casting auditions for the show’s lead characters. The script is unbearable to read since the font size is so small, but the audition tapes are always a pleasure to see. Although it would be really cool to see the footage of other actors who auditioned for the roles, the feature still made for great entertainment.
Finally, the next-best extra alongside the set’s 13 audio commentaries are the 17 deleted scenes individually introduced by Shawn Ryan with the reason behind their removal. Contrary to past reviewed deleted scenes, almost every one featured on this set deserves to have been included in its respective episode. Most of the scenes are either flat-out hilarious or help in further developing subplots, and it would have been nice to see them with the show as they were originally intended.
Too racy for some viewers, “The Shield” has proven to be an acquired taste for only those interested in the material. Once you watch one episode, though, you’ll surely be drawn into the stark reality of the show’s characters and storylines. Given the ability to do so with the fantastic release of the four-disc DVD set, if you haven’t yet experienced "The Shield" or are planning to do so again, set aside a good 10 hours to spend in front of your TV, because once you finish the first episode you’ll want to see more. This isn’t a good show or a bad show; it’s a different kind of show.