Set includes 'The Subway' episode, which won an Emmy and Peabody award
By JOE HOLLEMAN
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
If you're a fan, you're a huge fan.
"Homicide: Life on the Street" simply has a way of doing that to people.
The sixth season of the critically acclaimed series -- and, for my money, the best television drama ever -- is now available on DVD.
Tom Fontana, who was recruited by movie director Barry Levinson ("Diner," "Rain Man") to get the series off the ground, said he still believes "Homicide" is one of the most original to ever air on network television because it was not a procedural type of police show.
"We were never about the procedure, we were always about the humanity," said Fontana, who was the show's executive producer, and a frequent writer, for its duration.
"Barry said he wanted to do a police show that had no gun battles and no car chases. Because that was too crazy of an idea to work, I just had to be a part of it, part of something that original."
While the show broke new ground in television technique -- jump cuts, hand-held cameras, shooting from unusual angles -- the show never was a ratings hit. Fontana said there was a silver lining to that fact.
Not afraid to fail
"Because we were never a hit show, we were never afraid to fail," Fontana said with a laugh. "We were just kind of slipping along under the radar, and the network (NBC) never really expected anything from us. That meant we could basically try anything we wanted."
A good example of that experimentation is contained in this new package: an episode titled "The Subway."
The episode features Vincent D'Onofrio as a man who is pushed in a subway station and becomes trapped between a subway car and the platform. The fatal complication is that the only thing holding his vital organs in place is the train, meaning that his rescue will cause his death. During the ordeal, he develops a relationship with detective Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher).
The episode won both an Emmy and a Peabody award for broadcasting excellence.
"That idea came from Yosh," said Fontana, referring to James Yoshimura, a regular writer-producer for the series. "Yosh thought it would be interesting to have Frank interview a murder victim before he died. We never tried that, so we said, 'What the hell, let's do it."'
An excellent bonus feature of the package is a running commentary about the episode from Yoshimura and director Gary Fleder.
Also featured in the sixth season are James Earl Jones, in a three-part season opener, Peter Gallagher and Steve Buscemi.