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Of late, I’ve become addicted to the police procedurals that have become the mainstay of primetime broadcast television. Whether it is one of the multiple versions of CSI, NAVY: NCIS or the best of the bunch, WITHOUT A TRACE, I just can’t seem to get enough of this type of entertainment. WITHOUT A TRACE is a slick and quickly paced show from executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer pulls together a riveting story on a weekly basis. Also in the show’s favor is the fact that the show is very much character driven, with the personalities of the central characters helping to push the aspects of the stories from week to week.

The basic premise of the show follows a New York based FBI investigative unit that specializes on finding missing persons. The fine cast of WITHOUT A TRACE Anthony LaPaglia, Poppy Montgomery, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Enrique Murciano and Eric Close. WITHOUT A TRACE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON ($60) comes to DVD in a four-disc set that features the following twenty-two episodes that were aired in the show’s freshman year: Pilot, Birthday Boy, He Saw, She Saw, Between The Cracks, Suspect, Silent Partner, Snatch Back, Little Big Man, In Extremis, Midnight Sun, Maple Street, Underground Railroad, Hang On To Me, The Friendly Skies, There Goes The Bride, Clare De Lune, Kam Li, The Source, Victory For Humanity, No Mas, Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been? and Fall Out (in an extended "Creator’s Cut" version of the two part show that includes previously unaired footage).

Warner Home Video has made all twenty-two episodes from WITHOUT A TRACE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. Picture quality is quite good for a television production, with everything appearing sharp and producing better than expected definition. Colors are generally rendered at a natural level of saturation, with flesh tones appearing likewise. All of the hues are rendered without noise or fuzziness. Blacks are accurate, as are the whites, while contrast has been mildly reduced to the necessities of television broadcast. All the episodes appear clean, without blemishes, although a mild graininess can add to the slightly gritty and stylized look of the show. Even with four episodes per side of a DVD, digital compression artifacts are never much of a concern.

All the episodes that comprise WITHOUT A TRACE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON are presented on DVD with Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtracks, all of which decode to standard surround. Not surprisingly, the tracks do favor the forward soundstage. However, even though WITHOUT A TRACE is a talky show, and not the optimum material for 5.1 encoding, I think this show could have benefited from the upgrade, as there is some nice interplay of sound effects and music that comes through in the existing surround tracks. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and always understandable, plus the musical content is rendered with good fidelity. No other language tracks are provided, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been included.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard episode/scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements that are included with the set. Two episodes feature audio commentaries: Pilot is with from creator/ executive producer Hank Steinberg plus executive producer Ed Redlich, while only Hank Steinberg appears on Fall Out. Ten of the episodes also feature deleted scenes, which are accessible from episode menu and can be viewed independently the shows from which they were cut. Disc four of the set contains the remainder of the supplemental programs. The Motive is a fifteen-minute program that looks at the influences for the show’s creation. Fingerprints provides a ten minute examination of the show’s overall look and production design.

WITHOUT A TRACE is television drama at its best- an engrossing police procedural with compelling characters that bring the viewers back time and again. Warner has done a fine job with the DVD set, offering solid presentations and some very nice extras. If you are a fan, WITHOUT A TRACE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON is a must have. If you have never seen the show- there is no better way to get your feet wet than by check out the DVD. Recommended.



Without a Trace: The Complete First Season (2002)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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