10 big DVD boxed sets: ''Homicide: Life on the Street -- The Complete Series''
VITAL STATS 122 episodes; 7 seasons; 35 discs; $299.95; out now. CREATIVE ACHIEVEMENT Homicide redefined the crime genre with its smoke-infused dialogue, vérité camera work, and unflagging sense of place that made Baltimore the show's main character. All that and it boasted an impeccable pedigree (created by Paul Attanasio, executive-produced by Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana) and a cast that included Andre Braugher (pictured), Ned Beatty, Kyle Secor, Richard Belzer, and Melissa Leo. Although criminally underrepresented in awards seasons, Homicide was a critical darling throughout its 1993-99 run. EXTRAS Besides commentaries, three Law & Order crossovers, and the series-ending movie, the best thing about the set packaged in a for-serious-fans-only filing cabinet is that the episodes are in the order that producers intended, solving the frequent continuity problems caused by NBC's creative shuffling. THE BEST We'll say, with significant effort, season 6, which features Emmy-nominated turns by guests Alfre Woodard, Charles Durning, and Vincent D'Onofrio (in a memorable episode as a man trapped between a subway car and the platform) and a long-overdue Emmy win for Braugher. THE WORST What worst? VERDICT If Law & Order's too tame and The Wire too intense, commit (to) Homicide. Alynda Wheat
5 THINGSYOU DIDN'T KNOW...
1. The show is based on David (The Wire) Simon's 1991 book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.
2. Belzer is the only actor to have played the same character on count 'em seven prime-time shows. His Det. John Munch popped up on the original Law & Order, L&O: SVU, L&O: Trial by Jury, The X-Files,
Arrested Development, and The Beat, in addition to Homicide. 3. At one point, there was a Homicide convention in the series' hometown, Baltimore.
4. A 13-year-old Jake Gyllenhaal guests as the son of a murdered tourist in season 2's ''Bop Gun.'' (The ep was directed by dad Stephen Gyllenhaal.)
5. The dialogue in the opening scene of the pilot is the same as the closing scene of the series finale.
5 More... Television Crime Capers
1. L&O: Criminal Intent: Season 2 (2002-03) Sleuth Vincent D'Onofrio hams it up. (Dec. 12)
2. Police Squad: The Complete Series (1982) The Dragnet parody pre-Naked Gun. (Out now)
3. CSI: Season 6 (2005-06) Among the cases: death by hot dog eating. (Out now)
4. Columbo: Seasons 6 & 7 (1976-78) The rumpled detective's final episodes. (Out now)
5. Criminal Minds: Season 1 (2005-06) Mandy Patinkin & Co. track serial killers. (Nov. 28)