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Raising the Bar - The Complete First Season (2008) Print E-mail
Monday, 08 June 2009
Image"Raising the Bar" is a powerful series that comes from the legendary creator, Steven Bochco.  Bochco has been around since the early 1970s and has written and created some of the most legendary shows on television.  Beginning with "Columbo" and moving into "Doogie Howser, M.D.," and then on to "NYPD Blue" and "Commander in Chief," Steven Bochco has kept audiences glued to the television set.

Now, I know what you are saying, "Do we really need another legal drama?"  The answer is absolutely if the name of the show is "Raising the Bar."  This show stands at the top when it comes to crime and legal dramas.  As far as I am concerned it crushes "Private Practice" and "Boston Legal."

The cast ensemble is terrific.  Mark-Paul Gosselaar returns to television after his stint on "NYPD Blue."  He stands among other terrific actors such as Jane Kaczmarek, Melissa Sagemiller, Gloria Reuben and Currie Graham.  Newcomer Natalia Cigliuti, graces the screen with her beauty and strong presence as the newest member of the public defense team.

"Raising the Bar" is about the public justice system and the need for fairness.  Gloria Reuben's Rosalind Whitman heads up the public defenders office.  She employs justice seeking individuals such as Jerry Kellerman (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), Roberta Gilardi (Natalia Cigliuti) and Richard Woolsley (Teddy Sears).

On the other side, Nico Balco (Currie Graham) heads up the state prosecutors office, employing individuals such as Michelle Earnhardt (Melissa Sagemiller) and Marcus McGrath (J. August Richards).

The lawyers for both the prosecutors office and public defenders office are great friends, having gone to law school together, as is implied.  The first season consists of 10 episodes and follows these lawyers as they battle the justice system.  In the courtroom these friends are at each other's throat, but after work they all come together at the local pub for drinks.

What would a legal drama be without romantic drama?  There is plenty of that in this show.  Members of opposite teams are romantically involved, while other members of the same team are crossing the borders of the professional relationships with romantic involvement.  I know all of us who have watched the show are just waiting to see what comes of the sexual tension between Kellerman and Gilardi.

"Raising the Bar" is everything you need all rolled into one series.  It has passion, law, drama, romance and treachery.  The first seasons is only 10 episodes in length, but I have been anxiously awaiting the second season.  Thankfully it has been given the green light and begins airing the new season tonight. The video was originally aired on TNT in high definition at 1080i.  So, I was a little disappointed when I learned that the show was only coming to DVD and not to the Blu-ray format.  Theoretically, the quality has dropped 225 percent from its original airing to its DVD presentation.  Visually, however, the show doesn't look like it has dropped that much in quality.  Nonetheless, it is still only a bit above average.  The black levels are weak, as is defined by the DVD format.  Still, colors are lush and vibrant, and fleshtones are fairly accurate.  There is no visible artifacting, which is always pleasing.  The DVD presentation lacks the details that I have grown accustomed to, but also lacks the details compared to other DVD presentations.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1.  I found that the surround channels were not as full as they were in the original aired presentation.  Occasionally the surround channels pick up and music fills them out along with some minor discreet effects.  The show is primarily dialogue driven.  The dialogue is anchored to the center channel and is always intelligible.  Everything else is also front heavy.  There is nothing wrong with the audio track other than the lack of the surround channels and a compressed dynamic range.  The LFE channel is virtually absent, but that is to be expected of a dramatic television series.

This DVD package comes with three DVD discs.  There are four episodes on each of the first two discs and two episodes and bonus materials on the third disc.  There are audio commentaries by the cast and crew on many of the show's episodes.  This is surprising for a cable television series.  The commentaries are well structured and provide excellent information on the production of the show.  "Sworn Testimony: True Stories of a Public Defender" contains information about how the show was developed, including interviews with the show's producer.  "Behind the Bar: An After Hours Roundtable with the Cast" is the best feature on the set.  It has the cast members talking about their workflow and what drew them to the show.  Lastly, the set is equipped with a two minute segment of bloopers, "Mistrials: Bloopers From Season One."

"Raising the Bar" is an excellent show that I just happened to come across last year.  I am truly looking forward to the start of the second season tonight.  This DVD package is an excellent recap of the show's first season, although I felt that a high-definition presentation would have been more beneficial.

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