Chiklis, as tough detective, faces Close, his tough boss on 'Shield'

Critics' Picks : New Dvds

Screen

December 25, 2005|By DAVID ZURAWIK

THE SHIELD: SEASON 4 / / Fox / / $59.98 /

The Shield is one of television's angriest and most violent dramas. But, like HBO's The Sopranos, it is also one of the medium's most inspired and daring crime series. After three seasons of riding the Emmy-Award-winning performance of Michael Chiklis as rogue detective Vic Mackey, the series added Tony and Emmy Award winner Glenn Close as Mackey's new boss in Season 4, which is being released Tuesday on DVD. It was just the kind of jolt the program needed.

The season opens with Mackey on the ropes. He and his strike force team have just lost all the money they stole from Armenian gangsters. Then, his elite unit is disbanded with Mackey getting busted back to grunt level detective duty. And now the master of precinct-house insubordination has a new boss, Capt. Monica Rawling (Close), who sits him down her first day on the job and says, "You've got one week to get your [expletive] together -- or things are going to get worse."

Mackey speaks directly to the audience's fear and anger about urban crime. As was the case with Detective Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) on the late ABC series NYPD Blue, that kind of sociologically charged character can generate intensely powerful drama. But it can also suggest easy answers about law and order and the use of excessive force.

While Capt. Rawling is just as tough as Mackey, the model of policing that she advocates is more even-tempered and enlightened on the matter of civil rights. Season 4 was the series' most uneven in terms of action-based storytelling, but overall, The Shield was greatly enriched by the clash between these two compelling characters.

l Special features: Eight of the season's 13 episodes feature commentaries from cast and crew -- that's a lot. Virtually all of the writers, producers and performers offer commentary, and they make up one of the smartest creative teams in the business. Forty deleted scenes are included, as well as an hourlong backstage feature on the making of Season 4.

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TRACEY TAKES ON ... SEASON ONE / / HBO / / $34.98 /

The large and eccentric talent of Tracey Ullman is richly displayed in this 10-episode DVD, out this Tuesday. The repertory of Ullman characters includes snooty magazine editor Jamie Pillsworth, Long Island resident Fern Rosenthal, Broadway star Linda Granger and pro golfer Midge Dexter. Each half-hour episode follows a single theme, such as romance, charity or family. In addition to Ullman, the writers include Jenji Kohan (Weeds) and Gail Parent (Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York). The director on five of the 10 episodes is Thomas Schlamme, who directed and co-produced The West Wing with creator Aaron Sorkin, back in the days when it was the best drama on television.

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[DAVID ZURAWIK]

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

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