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Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Premiere Episode (1999) – DVD Review

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit: The Premiere Episode DVD cover art


Created & Written by Dick Wolf
Directed by Jean DeSegonzac
Starring Chris Meloni, Mariska Hargitay, Dann Florek, Richard Belzer, Dean Winters


  • Pilot episode for the original Law and Order series
  • Law and Order making of featurette
  • SVU: The Beginning featurette
  • Set walkthrough with actor Florek

Released by Universal
Rating: NR, although bear in mind it’s an intense show: I wouldn’t show it to an 8-year-old for example
Region: 1
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format

My Advice: Wait for the boxed set. Or turn on the TV.

If you are truly the scum of the earth, i.e. you sexually or physically abuse kids or rape women, then your crime will more than likely fall into the hands of the Special Victims Unit, known internally as the “Sex Crimes” squad. Hopefully they will barbeque your ass, but that’s another issue entirely. This is a volunteer unit, and the people involved have to deal with some extremely heinous shit day in and day out. Take, for example, a cab driver whose cab has apparently plowed into a pole. He’s found with thirty-some-odd stab wounds in his body–and he happens to be missing his member, if you get my drift. When the investigation begins, Detectives Stabler and Benson (Meloni & Harigtay) quickly realize there’s a helluva lot more going on than meets the eye.

[ad#longpost]Like I’ve said previously, Law and Order is simply a television juggernaut. The formula works very well: characters with limited bits of backstory; beginning, middle and end of a case all in one episode; compelling writing. You can sit down and watch one episode or ten–it doesn’t matter. They’re all fairly self contained. I can’t remember one where I sat down and got lost in some detail–anything you’re missing gets fed to you so you’re not totally behind the curve.

So it’s the same with SVU, although you’re dealing with even higher emotions and more trauma due to the nature of the cases. This leads to some very obvious character questions that can be very satisfying to both writing staff and audience: the biggest one in my mind being why does somebody actually volunteer for such a squad of policemen? Also, what kind of gallows humor does it take to get through the day? Some of these answers are hinted at, but that’s the beauty of L&O–pick up on it, or don’t. No matter.

The initial cast of this show is small, with three detectives and the captain. The captain is Dann Florek, whose Donald Cragen is a return from the original series. The third detective is John Munch, a character who has “retired” from Baltimore and the series Homicide which was based there. Belzer, incidentally, holds the record for playing the same character on the largest number of television shows, having been Munch on Homicide, Law and Order, SVU, X-Files and The Beat. So you have two instantly known characters with their own baggage, plus Meloni and Harigtay working strong right out of the gate. Harigtay is playing lead, though, strictly due to her own baggage and what that does to her on this particular pilot episode’s case–but she plays it well.

Florek, Hargitay, Meloni and Belzer from Law and Order: SVU

This disc comes with the pilot episode from the original series as well as a featurette regarding the original series. You also get a featurette regarding the origins of SVU, which is fairly interesting both from the standpoint of how the series got its start (being the first L&O spinoff) and also what toll the subject matter takes on the cast. Very interesting stuff. You also get a very amusing walkthrough of the set with Florek, who must be one helluva card in real life. He takes you through the details of the set you might not know about, like how the lady who gives them their paychecks every Thursday is up on the board in a “Wanted” poster.

Despite these nifty features, I can’t rightly tell you to go out and buy this–because I’m almost positive all the content will be on the SVU boxed set when it finally materializes. Still, if you’re an L&O fiend and can’t wait, the features alone would make this worth your while. Everyone else should just rent to partake.

Dann Florek set tour from Law and Order: SVU: Premiere Episode

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