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'Homicide' Ends on DVD

22 Jun, 2005 By: Brendan Howard

The NBC crime drama “Homicide: Life on the Street” will wrap up on DVD June 28 with the seventh-season set (six DVDs at $99.95) from A&E Home Video. Writer-producer Tom Fontana feels DVD makes the show a special accomplishment.

“It's so wonderful to have the DVD out,” Fontana said. “It makes you feel like you've written a book or something.”

If the 1993-1999 series “Homicide” were a book, it'd be only one of a collection of TV crime shows on Fontana's writer-creator bookshelf, along with “Homicide,” the gritty prison drama “Oz,” the beat-cop-focused “The Beat” and the jury room drama “The Jury.” Fontana doesn't see them as retreads though; his thinking's changed on the subject since he got his break on “St. Elsewhere.”

“After ‘St. Elsewhere' went off the air, they said, ‘Do a medical show, do a medical show.' I said, ‘No, no, I've done a medical show,’ he said. “With ‘Homicide,' there were other parts to this story. We're only doing the investigation to the murder, but what happens to these guys after they go away? Who are these beat cops? What happens in the jury room? [The shows] are all crime-related, but I don't feel like we've repeated ourselves.”

One thing that unfortunately set “Homicide” apart from the other shows was the fact that Fontana had to write the seventh season finale without knowing if the show was coming back.

“When we got to the final episode of ‘St. Elsewhere,' we knew the end was there,” Fontana said. “I decided to end ‘Oz.' I was able to end the show — finish the novel if you will. With ‘Homicide,' I had to write both the end of the series and the end of a season. It was very, very tough to do. If it's the end of a season, you want the audience to go, ‘Oooh, oooh, what's going to happen?' With the end of a series, you want to lay things to rest.”

An NBC executive agreed with him later, however, that he'd been “screwed” and let him produce a TV movie to wrap up the stories of the show's characters.

A particular DVD treat for fans — in addition to season finale commentary, an hour-long writer and producer panel discussion, and an acceptance speech from co-producer Barry Levinson — is the fact that the episodes appear in the order they were intended.

“NBC would look at episodes and say, ‘Oh my God, we can't show that during sweeps week! Instead of showing episode seven, we'll show nine and 10,’ he said. Fontana would argue for the show's plot continuity, but NBC executives said “the audience doesn't care about stuff like that.”

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