Originally known as The Barn, The Shield is a gritty police drama which premiered to high ratings for the cable channel F/X. While the show has been compared to NYPD Blue and other police shows, this is a very unique series. Created by Shawn Ryan (Nash Bridges, Angel), this is a story about cops that cross the line to get the job done. Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis - The Commish) is the head of an elite Strike Team unit, a close-knit group of cops that make headlines with their busts, often by bending the rules. Well, maybe I should say he was the head of the Strike Team unit. The team split up after Lemonhead got rid of the Armenian money in season 3. Vic and Ronnie are partners, Shane is off on his own, and Lemonhead is working with problem children. The Barn gets a new CO as well; Monica Rawling (Glenn Close)
Hmm...the addition of Oscar-nominated Close to the cast created a lot of buzz for the show, but you have to wonder how someone that once hunted puppies in a Disney movie will look playing a strong, female, Captain. I was intrigued by the possibilities when the announcement was made, and I couldn't wait to see her in action.
Fox has kept the same packaging design as the third season; sturdy slim packs inside a nice cardboard slip. The 13 episodes are on 4 DVDs.
Disc 1 (3:07:10)
The Cure (49:42)
Disc 3 (3:20:43)
String Theory (45:31)
Back in the Hole (1:05:26)
A Thousand Deaths (44:57)
Judas Priest (44:49)
Disc 4 (46:21)
Ain't That a Shame (46:21)
The show is filled with noise, some of which is acceptable, but mostly it's too much. Much of this has to do with being shot on 16mm (think Buffy and Sex and The City). While indoor and daytime shots have a little noise, it's most apparent during night shots. It appears that the film was too dark so it had to be pushed during the processing in order to lighten the image. Lightening the image causes noise to be present, which makes the image look poor. While this makes for a poor image, it's not the fault of the DVD transfer, although the DVD format may make it more pronounced. There's a chapter placed after the opening of the show, and the recaps appear before each episode (they aren't optional like on season 3).
One episode, "Back in the Hole," is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) on the DVD. This the only episode that is in widescreen, though it was full frame when it first aired. It's also longer than the other episodes; it aired this way on TV.
Fox gives us a Dolby Digital Surround track for this release. It's nothing exciting, but is adequate for this release. The center channel is used for dialog and many sound effects while the left and right speakers are occasionally used for sound effects. The rears are usually used for music, but I was hoping for some front/rear panning effects. The dialog is clear, and easy to understand and the amazing mix of music is appropriate. Each episode is subtitles in English and Spanish as well as being closed captioned.
Deleted Scenes (30:40)
You can watch the deleted scenes on their own, or with commentary from creator Shawn Ryan (on most scenes) explaining why the scene was cut.
The Cure (4): 0:32, 0:29, 0:31, 0:21
Grave (7): 0:44, 1:20, 0:31, 0:49, 0:48, 0:26, 0:25
Bang (1): 0:51
Doghouse (3): 0:54, 0:18, 0:50
Tar Baby (1): 0:45
Hurt (8): 0:45, 0:27, 0:48, 0:20, 0:19, 0:27, 0:27, 0:40
Cut Throat (5): 1:54, 0:43, 0:35, 0:46, 0:27
String Theory (1): 0:49
A Thousand Deaths (3): 2:44, 0:44, 1:08
Judas Priest (3): 0:24, 0:11, 0:48
Ain't That a Shame (6): 0:47, 0:19, 0:56, 0:36, 0:47, 1:15
Almost as good as the episodes themselves, there are commentary tracks on 8 of the 13 episodes.
The Cure - Benito Martinez, Glen Mazzara, CCH Pounder and Shawn Ryan
Grave - Kenneth Johnson, Benito Martinez, Katey Sagal, David Rees Snell and Kurt Sutter
Bang - Catherine Dent, Guy Ferland, Michael Jace and Scott Rosenbaum
Tar Baby - Anthony Anderson, Michael Chiklis, Jay Karnes and Michael Pena
Cut Throat - Randy Huggins, Kenneth Johnson, Jennifer R. Richmond, Cathy Cahlin Ryan and Dean White
Back in the Hole - Michael Chiklis, Glenn Close, Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain
A Thousand Deaths - Adam E. Fierro, Jay Karnes, David Marciano, Cathy Cahlin Ryan and David Rees Snell
Ain't That a Shame - Glenn Close, Catherine Dent, Stephen Kay, CCH Pounder and Shawn Ryan
Under the Skin: Documentary (1:00:48)
An awesome look at the show, featuring interviews with cast and crew. I love these long documentaries on TV-DVD sets. Marc Ostrick (you should know his name by now - 24: Season 2, The Shield: Season 3) shot a lot of this material, but he left Sparkhill before it was complete. Marc's work on the show will be sadly missed.
Glenn Close was great on The Shield! I talked about this a little bit in my review of the third season, but I was at the offices of the show just a few days after it was announced that she would join the cast. I sat in the writer’s room with Shawn Ryan and some of the writers and producers, and he asked me what I thought of the announcement as a fan. I remember saying, "Oh, Cruella de Vil as the new captain?" He had a look of terror on his face, until I reminded him that he took the happy-go-luck guy from The Commish and turned him into the baddest cop on TV. She was a great addition to the cast of the fourth season. Another amazing addition was Anthony Anderson. You may remember him as one of Jim Carey's sons in Me, Myself & Irene, but this man can act! He's great as "Antwon Mitchell," a former hood turned community leader.
Remember when I talked about Randy Huggins, the writer's assistant, in my season 3 review? Well, Randy got a story credit for "Cut Throat," along with Glen Mazzara. Randy has since left The Shield to work with Shawn Ryan on The Unit, but it was nice that he got to leave a mark before moving on. Speaking of Glen Mazzara, I had him on my panel at the TV-DVD conference in November. Glen has written a number of episodes of the show, and now he's an executive producer. He's a great guy, and he knows a lot about the show (plus he invited me back to the set this year, but that's a story for another review). Glen was great on my panel; I wish you all could have been there.
This show continues to be one of my favorites on TV. I love the characters, I love the stories, and I love the way it all comes together. I constantly recommend it to people I talk to, it's that good. The highlights of these sets, at least for me, are the commentary tracks. They do such an awesome job of including producers, writers and talent in the tracks, and with so many different combinations.
If you think that this season was awesome (and it was), just wait until you see Forest Whitaker in season 5. Wow, wow, wow, I can't wait until January 10th; the season premiere.