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Season 7 of Homicide: Life on the Street was the one I had been
building up to in a way, because in the UK, Channel 4 had bailed out
one year before NBC did and decided that the ratings for season 6 were
not strong enough to justify buying it again. OK, so this may have been
to do with their terrible treatment of season 6 (random late
night/early morning slots on random days) but the end result was that I
never got to "conclude" the series like other fans had done although
I did get to see the final conclusion by watching the film. I did have
in my mind the general accepted wisdom that season 7 was one season too
many and also the fact that it was only done because other high-profile
shows on NBC finished their run and they needed product to fill the gap
in the following year. With this I did have a slightly negative mindset
but otherwise did try to approach it with as clear eyes as possible.
Part of the reason it is viewed as the least of the series is evident from the very start; not by something it does but rather by the massive gap left by the absence of everyone's favourite character Pembleton. This gap looms large over the majority of the season and it is never really filled. Many comments here and on other fan sites say things like season 7 was "one season too many" as if somehow something had specifically happened (other than Pembleton's exit) that suddenly and dramatically changed the show. This is not the case though and, if you look at the development of the show down the various seasons, #7 is simply the next step in a progression that had seen the show gradually move away from the first seasons that were very much David Simon's book, towards a product that had more in common with your standard TV cop shows of L&O, NYPD Blue etc. Season 7 is pretty much the conclusion of that journey and the loss of Pembleton as a heart of the show just makes it clearer.
The individual episodes are fine and work at a level of a cop show. Sure some of the episodes are weak but most of them are engaging and interesting not brilliant but the cases at least are solid and occasionally realise the grit and unpleasant realities of the job. We get the gimmick as well (and sadly the internet episodes feel really dated now). The L&O cross over is good and, finally, the DVD gives us a text summary of the first half and a "previously" which it never did before. Compared to how other seasons started, 7 starts quite well by not explaining every character change or lingering over things awkwardly; OK it is a bit cold in some regards but it means it hits the ground running plus it meant new viewers would not be alienated by what lay behind.
While the gritty edge still remains in some way, it is the fact that the writers haven't managed to integrate it into the characters and the overall flow of events like it once did. Bayliss is moved to the middle of the show and at times does manage to give us development of character. The downside of this is that at times his threads don't work very well, leaving the show quite empty. Sheppard is given too much of the time as well. I could have seen her as a way for the narrative to be refreshed by the "rookie in squad" device but it doesn't do this very well and the way it uses her is not that good. I have nothing against Michele's performance or her character but I don't think she should have been front and centre as much as she was. Secor perhaps deserved his place and it is a shame that he couldn't make more of it with the material. The addition of Espoito offered potential as he is a good actor, but the family connection is too convenient and yet also never really works as a thing. Belzer feels like he is hanging in there and, while never more than a cynical presence, he doesn't do much and the plots he is handed are pretty average. The rest of the cast are as solid as ever and if anything it is a shame that some of them are not given more. Kotto, and Johnson are both good as ever while it was a shame that Lewis was neglected. Thorne and Gerety work well together but the cast are hurt by some less impressive turns. Diamond has a small showing which fits his character and his ability. Too much is put on Seda though, his performance is too one-note and his stories are quite dull he is never able to lead the show no matter how much the material forces him into that sort of position (doesn't help that he walks like he is carrying a telly under each arm all the time either).
Season 7 of H:LOTS is not this awful thing that stands out from the other 6 seasons as some have suggested. For what it is it is pretty enjoyable a straightforward cop show. The final scene of the series may remember the roots of the show but otherwise it has more or less become more like the Law & Order that it so often connected with. This didn't suddenly happen and it had been going this way for a few seasons, but a dip in the overall quality of writing combines with some less interesting threads and characters mean that season 7 is probably the least of the series. Still worth watching as a cop show but it is far from the first couple of seasons that I loved for their faithfulness to Simon's book.
The summary line comes from a line spoken in this episode. I was going
to say where or when it's spoken,but that'd probably be considered a
spoiler,so I'll refrain from it. If you've already seen this
episode,you'll know EXACTLY what I'm referencing and meaning.
The last show of the reasonably successful,brilliant and (dare I say)innovative NBC crime drama series wraps innocuously enough as pretty close to business as usual: Shepherd and Bayliss(particularly Bayliss)are flummoxed by the technicality release of Luke Ryland,a.k.a. the Internet killer from about ten episodes previous;Munch is finally ready to tie the knot with Billie Lou;Lewis is still having difficulties forgiving Shepherd for the "beat-down" incident that put his life in danger and put her in the hospital;and Gee is finally promoted to Captain. But as the show plays out,you the viewer,particularly anyone already familiar with these characters and story lines,will sense that this show is wrapping up.
The following Winter NBC would release "Homicide:the Movie",which was to sew up any loose ends left over. I've only seen about a third of it,but what I know about the story lines and their treatment had me displeased(OK,someone accidentally gave away the ending)and wishing that producers Levinson,Attanasio,Finnerty and Fontana had either re-worked the movie or not made it at all. As arguably weak as the last season of the series was(and even as such,it STILL wasn't a total wash),it still didn't merit having an extra "coda" that the movie was implemented to do. It could be argued that this ep could've sufficed.
Back to this ep,it was arguably the best way to conclude this series,staying completely "in character" and knowing how to use its writing to finish a brilliant accomplishment.
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