Law & Order: The Tenth Year (Universal), the 1999-2000 season of the TV’s definitive crime procedural war horse, opens with Jesse L. Martin joining the series as Det. Ed Green, the new partner of Det. Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and something of a wild card; he arrives with two complaints for excessive force and a gambling problem, both of which are evident in the very first episode.
It’s also the final full season with Steven Hill as D.A. Adam Schiff, the only original member of the first season cast left (Dianne Wiest took over as the D.A. in the eleventh season). The regular cast is filled out by Sam Waterston as A.D.A. Jack McCoy, Angie Harmon as A.D.A. Abbie Carmichael, and S. Epatha Merkerson as Lt. Anita Van Buren.
Carey Lowell returns for a guest shot as former ADA Jamie Ross in the episode “Justice,” where she’s now a lawyer with an ethical dilemma that puts her in court up against McCoy, her former boss, and other guest stars this season include Lindsay Crouse, John Heard, and Guillermo Diaz. What it’s missing is the first half of the “Law & Order: SVU” crossover episode “Entitled,” which means the viewer is dropped in the middle of an ongoing story here. Otherwise, it’s fun to see the casts swap partners, sending Briscoe out with Richard Belzer’s John Munch and Green tag-teaming with Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson. 24 episodes on five discs, DVD only.
The most savage legal series on TV, Damages launched on FX in 2007 with Glenn Close running the show as Patty Hewes, the alpha wolf of New York’s high-priced attorneys. Hewes walked away from that very eventful season with a huge win in her class action lawsuit against arrogant millionaire CEO Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson) and a failed murder attempt against her newest hire, Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), and Close walked away with an Emmy for Best Actress (one of the show’s three awards). Damages: The Complete Second Season (Sony) picks up in the wake of those events, with Ellen now working as an informant for the FBI’s efforts to put Patty away and Patty looking for the right case to follow up the win that made her the superstar of New York litigators. This season features what is arguably the most impressive cast on television, including William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Timothy Olyphant, Ted Danson, Mario Van Peebles, Darryl Hammond, and Clarke Peters and John Doman of The Wire. Hurt is old friend and professional colleague Daniel Purcell, who comes to Patty with hints of a corporate conspiracy and then becomes a client when he’s the prime suspect in the murder of his wife, Gay Harden is the corporate litigator who takes on Patty and Olyphant is a member of Ellen’s support group with his own secrets.
Close plays Patty with a cold cunning and unapologetic ego—she plays to win and she doesn’t seem to care who gets chewed up in the process—while Hurt keeps us guessing at Purcell’s motives and allegiances when he double-crosses Patty on the stand at a time he’s supposed to be a friendly witness against the corporation that seems to have corrupted him as well. Everyone is playing an angle here and you can’t trust anyone, not even the FBI or the EPA, which keeps the audience off balance through the thirteen-episode story. And as in the first season, they almost never step into a courtroom. Forget courtroom theatrics and dramatic summation speeches to the jury, this all about behind the scenes machinations and hardball tactics of legal gamesmanship.