Plot: What’s it about?
After watching the first episode of “Without a Trace”, I noticed that the first name on the black screen was that of Jerry Bruckheimer. Yes, that guy! I have to give this guy credit; he’s an entrepreneur to nth degree. He’s tackled the silver screen for two decades with hits like “Top Gun”, “Armageddon” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” and now he’s also branched out to the small screen. Before he was the executive producer for “Without a Trace”, “Cold Case” and one of my favorite shows “The Amazing Race” he did a little show called “C.S.I.” a show that ranks in the top five every year and has now spawned two spin-offs (C.S.I.: Miami and C.S.I.: New York). He’s had his share of flops as well, remember “Skin”? Still, the man is a media mogul and it’s hard to argue with his success. And it’s not exactly easy to formulate a hit television show; I don’t care how rich you are. But after watching “Without a Trace”, I have to say that it’s a show I’ll probably watch on a regular basis now. It’s a well-written show with believable characters and an intriguing storyline.
“Without a Trace” showcases the talents of a team of FBI agents in New York City. Their job is to find anyone missing within the 72 hour window in which the missing person will most likely be alive. Sometimes the victim is kidnapped in broad daylight (as shown in “He Saw, She Saw”) and other times, its several hours before anyone realizes that the person is gone. The team is led by Jack Malone (Anthony LaPaglia), a tough but fair agent who seems to be in the perfect job. Together with his team, they do their best to find missing persons by interrogating friends, family and co-workers usually leaving everyone open as a suspect. One aspect I really like about the show is that the characters will offer their insights as to who they think did it. In this it misleads the viewer into thinking “Oh yeah…I never thought of that” instead of us having the problem solved fifteen minutes into the show (now where’s the fun in that)? The show is solid and has a good basis for plenty of future seasons (as evidenced by Law & Order and C.S.I.). Fans of the show will rejoice that “Without a Trace” is on DVD and it just gained another viewer in yours truly.
Video: How does it look?
“Without a Trace” looks absolutely splendid in a 1.78:1 anamophic transfer. The show, being aired on television, could have easily been “sliced and diced” for the DVD release, but thankfully the good folks at Warner have given each and every episode the widescreen treatment. The picture quality is stunning on most episodes and only falters a few times with some minimal grain in the darker scenes. Flesh tones are warm and natural in most scenes, with no hint of edge enhancement or artifacting. When it comes to “TV on DVD”, this is one of the best representations that I can think of.
Audio: How does it sound?
A Dolby Surround mix is standard with the first season. Though I’m sure they could have done a full-blown 5.1 mix, I don’t think it would have added too much to the show. The shows are broadcast in Dolby Digital 5.1 in my area (and in HD if you have that luxury…and I do), but the audio isn’t really that robust. This is re-created on DVD as well, but we have very clean dialogue and the occasional surround effect. Most of the action is limited to the front stage and I’m hard-pressed to find anything really wrong with the way this sounds.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Fans will rejoice at having the entire first season on DVD, but there’s a few supplements to boot. First up are a couple of audio commentaries by the series’ creator, Hank Steinberg on the pilot episode and the season finale. The tracks are fairly decent, very informative and tell a lot about the casting and premise of the show. Fans will be very happy with these commentary tracks. Two featurettes are also included: “The Motive” which focuses on the show’s creation and “Fingerprints” which looks at the show’s design. Each of these runs only a few minutes, but is worth a watch. Finally, there are some deleted scenes on certain episodes which can be accessed by clicking on the fingerprint next to the show’s title. All in all, this is a great show and one that looks and sounds excellent on DVD.