It has not taken long for Without a Trace
to emerge from the shadows of CSI
and become a ratings force in its own right. Jerry Bruckheimer produced both series, and both feature the-face-is-familiar character actors with extensive and diverse resumes who have been catapulted to primetime stardom. Jack Malone, head of a crack FBI missing persons unit, is the Australian-born Anthony LaPaglia's breakout role after years of portraying enough Italian mobsters and criminals to populate a season of The Sopranos
. LaPaglia was a surprise Golden Globe Award-winner for this inaugural season. Without a Trace
is instantly arresting. "The clock is ticking" in each episode, as Malone and company race against time to find a missing person. "After 48 hours," Malone explains to the rookie member of the team in the series pilot, "they're gone." To solve each baffling case, Malone and fellow agents Samantha Spade (Poppy Montgomery), Vivian Johnson (Marianne Jean-Baptiste of Secrets and Lies
), Danny Taylor (Enrique Murciano), and new guy Martin Fitzgerald (Eric Close), must work from the inside out. "Once we find out who she is," Malone says of one victim, "odds are we'll find out where she is."
Among the inaugural season's most wrenching episodes are "Between the Cracks" and "Hang On to Me," both featuring Charles Dutton in his Emmy Award-winning performance as a father whose son has been missing for five years. The powerful season finale, "Fallout," presented in this four-disc set in a "creator's cut," concerns a man who lost his wife in the 9/11 attacks. The riveting episodes mostly stand alone, but some cases do return to haunt Malone, as witness "In Extremis," a case that ends tragically and leads to an internal investigation that threatens to subvert the close-knit unit in the episode. "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?" Sharp writing, authentic procedurals, taut direction, and effective use of music make Without a Tracea series worth finding on DVD. --Donald Liebenson
All 23 episodes from the first season of the drama series about the FBI's Missing Persons Bureau. In the pilot episode, Jack (Anthony LaPaglia) and his team investigate the case of a lonely 28-year-old marketing executive who has seemingly walked out of her life leaving everything behind. In 'Birthday Boy', the team search for an 11-year-old boy who disappears from a subway station on his way to the Yankee Stadium for his birthday celebration. In 'Midnight Sun', a father and daughter go missing during their usual morning routine. 'He Saw, She Saw' finds a woman driving away from her husband after a shopping trip - but was she kidnapped? In 'Between the Cracks', the agents try to track down a missing woman who changes her appearance according to whatever acting and modelling jobs she is currently doing. In 'Silent Partner', a New York businessman turns out to be leading a double life. 'Snatch Back' sees Jack and the squad searching for a toddler who has been snatched from a playground while playing with another child. In 'Suspect', the headmaster of a private boarding school comes under suspicion when one of his pupils goes missing. In 'Little Big Man', a teenager goes missing in a rough neighbourhood after a showdown with a local bully. 'In Extremis' sees the team investigating the disappearance of a Saudi medic who may have links to terrorist organisations. In 'Maple Street', two teenage girls disappear on Long Island - but can the team find them while they are still alive? In 'Hang On To Me', Jack is feeling the pressure when his failure to find a man's son leads to the man mounting a search of his own. In 'Underground Railroad', Jack and the team search for a pregnant woman who disappeared from a hospital before being told that she has serious complications. In 'The Friendly Skies', an airline stewardess appears to be the latest in a string of victims of a serial killer who she met on the Internet. 'Claire De Lune' sees a teenage girl disappearing from a mental hospital after suffering extreme psychosis. In 'There Goes the Bride', the investigators uncover a blackmail plot after a bride goes missing from her wedding. In 'Kam Li', Jack and his team search for a Vietnam veteran who goes missing after a reunion dinner for his former platoon. 'The Source' finds the team on the case of a young investigative journalist who has gone missing while working on a dangerous, high-profile story. In 'Victory for Humanity', a dedicated young school teacher goes missing after teaching a night class in the Bronx. In 'No Mas', a boxer is found murdered after vanishing just before a much-hyped fight in Madison Square Garden. In the two-parter 'Fallout', a small-time kidnapping incident escalates into a volatile hostage crisis. Finally, in 'Are You Now or have You Ever Been...?', Jack finds himself at the centre of an investigation into the handling of missing persons - and the professional future of the entire team hangs in the balance.