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'The Vice: The Complete First Season'
(Ken Stott, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / (1999) 2008 / MPI Home Video)

Overview: It's the crime within the crime we re interested in The seedy underbelly of cosmopolitan London is the backdrop of this award-winning police drama. Prostitution extortion pedophilia mutilation rape and murder are the chief concerns of the vice unit of London s Metropolitan Police who patrol a violent patch of turf where life is cheap and young flesh even cheaper.

DVD Verdict: 'The Vice' stars Ken Stott (a much slimmer version of his days to come in Rebus), David Harewood (Blood Diamond), Marc Warren (BBC’s Dracula) and Caroline Katz (The Bill) as the tight-knit undercover team, who put their personal lives on hold and lay their lives on the line in the war against corruption.

'The Vice' certainly isn't an uplifting show as it begins with the rape of a prostitute by her high-class pimp, but it caught my eye because it is a show that is very different from American television. This 3-disc set from MPI Home Video includes 6 episodes (3 two-parters) which make 3 stories in total.

I was initially surprised that the video on this was Full Frame (1.33:1), but I made the mistake of thinking this show was a lot newer than it is. It's premiered back in '99, a few years before British shows were shooting in widescreen. The show looks pretty good, though some scenes have a bit of visible grain. There's a chapter after the opening of the show, which is also tied into the "previously on" for the second part of each story. The discs lack a "play all" option, which is a shame since people will likely watch both episodes on a disc in one sitting.

I enjoyed the little prequel to MI-5 in "Sons," an episode that starred three actors that would go on to my favorite spy show ever, and I should note that Marc Warren (who was in the Kudos production, Hustle), is appearing with Rupert Penry-Jones (from MI-5, another Kudos production) in the mini-series Burn Up. Not that I'm trying to trace everything back to MI-5, but it's a fun game to connect actors from various productions to one another!

Anyway, I thought 'The Vice' started out a bit slow, but got much better by the third story. It's an engaging show about London's underbelly, with subject matter that can be pretty brutal. It's also a show that offers something different from the American cop shows (besides the nudity). The cops approach prostitution differently than they do here, choosing to target pimps and agencies that deviate from the "sex for money" businesses. I found the dynamics of their investigations as interesting as the stories themselves ... and so will you if you give it half a chance. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, but does not come with any Special Features.