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Third Watch: The Complete Second Season (DVD)
It's not your normal workday. From 3 p.m. into the late night, dedicated police, paramedics and firefighters battle crime and cheat death--if they're lucky. Risking their own lives to save others, the men and women of this strange breed prove they've got what it takes to make it through the night and return the next day to face their harsh reality.]gt;
Third Watch: The Complete Second Season continues the critically acclaimed television drama's unique approach to character-driven storylines within a fluid if somewhat familiar milieu. Almost anticipating the now-legendary heroism of New York City's police and rescue workers on September 11, 2001, these early episodes of Third Watch (the series began in 1999) concern the daily partnership and shared risks between New York cops, firefighters, and paramedics as they attempt to keep people alive in the midst of random chaos. While television shows about public servants are nothing new, what makes Third Watch both different and engrossing is the way creators John Wells (ER) and Edward Allen Bernero (Criminal Minds) hone in on one or two characters in each episode, relegating the rest of the cast to minor supporting roles. Thus, an individual who stands out in one episode for his or her efforts to do the job well--despite real-world pressures, lapses in judgment, and moral uncertainty--might appear only briefly, and perhaps less sympathetically, in another episode as seen from a different character's perspective.
That kind of revolving focus not only keeps Third Watch constantly fresh, it embraces master filmmaker Jean Renoir's famous observation (paraphrased here) that each of us has a reason for being who we are and doing what we do. Beyond its success at turning such an expansive spirit into appealing drama, Third Watch is also noteworthy for superb writing (much of it by Wells), harrowing set pieces, production values that stress an original, signature look, and a strong emphasis on relationships between on-the-job partners. The cast remains superb, particularly Jason Wiles as an immature, cynical, yet oddly effective young cop, Molly Price as his beleaguered but dedicated partner, and Skipp Sudduth as a veteran police officer whose leadership on the streets belies his rudderless off-duty existence. Among some truly memorable episodes in The Complete Second Season are "Four Days," in which one of the program's most stable characters, African-American paramedic "Doc" Parker (Michael Beach), slowly comes unglued by his growing perception of institutional racism, and season finale "…and Zeus Wept," a nightmarish thriller about a school shooting. --Tom Keogh