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Without a Trace: The Complete First Season (2002) – DVD Review

Without a Trace: The Complete First Season DVD


Created by: Hank Steinberg
Starring: Anthony LaPaglia, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Poppy Montgomery, Enrique Murciano, Eric Close


  • All twenty-three first season episodes
  • Expanded version of season finale with unaired footage
  • Running audio commentary by creator Steinberg & executive producer Ed Redlich on the pilot episode
  • Running audio commentary by creator Steinberg on the season finale
  • Making-of featurette
  • Visual design featurette
  • Unaired footage from other episodes

Released by: Warner Brothers
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Rent it; fans should own.

[ad#longpost]Jack Malone (LaPaglia) heads up a team of FBI operatives in the Big Apple whose mission is simple: if someone gets lost, either by accident or by design, they do their best to find them before the clock runs out. And the clock is always ticking: as Malone makes it clear early on–once the trail’s been cold for forty-eight hours, the chances of finding somebody hover close to nil. On his team there’s the intelligent but tough Samantha Spade (Montgomery, and yes, I backed up the DVD when I heard her introduced to make sure somebody had indeed called a character that), the maternal sage Vivian Johnson (Needcoffee fave Jean-Baptiste), the alternately level and hot-headed Danny Taylor (Murciano) and the newbie Martin Fitzgerald (Close).

One of the best police procedural shows on television, it just happens to be the one that hasn’t spawned a franchise. While I’m a Law & Order man myself, if I had time to kill, I’d certainly make room for this on my dance card. While the pilot starts off with promise, the good news is that the show then delivers that promise, improving over the first few episodes while everybody figures out just what the hell is supposed to be going on. The spectral dissolves as you see the victims appearing in the mind’s eye of our heroes are a nice touch. So is the reminder of the time since the disappearance.

The cast works quite well together. LaPaglia’s quiet almost Jedi-like quality makes for an excellent team lead. He’s by far the standout, though it’s hard to not enjoy Murciano’s take on his character. Also the writers give points for doing some very subtle change-ups. For example, the newbie doesn’t get to prove himself out of the starting gates–in fact, he screws things up real good. Also, they give great material for some guest stars to come in and rock the house. Charles Dutton is the obvious example for his Emmy-winning two-episode turn, although Tom Irwin carried himself quite well in the finale two-parter.

Anthony LaPaglia in Without a Trace Season 1
Anthony LaPaglia realizes he used a permanent marker by mistake in Without a Trace

The boxed set comes with a fairly decent array of extras. First up, there are two commentary tracks for both the first and last episodes for the season. They’re solid, with both producer Ed Redlich and Steinberg talking about…well, exactly what you want to hear about: the casting process, the iterations the scripts went through, the challenges that they had, what worked and was kept and what was shelved, and so forth.

The expanded footage for both the season finale and other select episodes doesn’t really do much for me, but that’s the case with a lot of cutting room floor stuff. It was cut for a reason and in television that’s usually time and/or pacing. The featurettes are quite good, however. I appreciated the look at the team’s offices and the mindset that went into their design. Also nifty is how very quickly you can switch from shooting day scenes to night scenes. The casting process is another interesting bit, especially how Murciano tried out for a character in a way the creators hadn’t thought of, and also how he learned a valuable lesson about socks.

Without a Trace creator Hank Steinberg
Without a Trace creator Hank Steinberg

Fans of the show will want to own the set. Even though you can catch the repeats on TV, the bonus features are quality enough where the fans will be pleased and will give up the coin necessary. The rest of us should at least rent the thing, since quality television should always be enjoyed…since it’s rare.

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