The Shield: Season 2--

When the hardboiled FX cop drama

The Shield

debuted in 2002, it proved to be one of the best television series to come along in the past 10 years. And as its second season--now available on DVD--has proven, the first season was no fluke. Set in the gritty, crime-ridden (and fictional) Farmington district of Los Angeles,

The Shield

revolves around the seemingly morally bankrupt detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), who heads up the elite--and equally corrupt--Strike Team. As the second season kicks off, Mackey and the rest of the Strike Team are forced to contend with a sadistic, psychopathic drug dealer who has moved in on their business. Meanwhile, Mackey's boss, Capt. David Aceveda (Benito Martinez), continues to advance his political career, while continuing to compromise his integrity by covering for Mackey. To make matters worse, another detective, Claudette Whyms (the sublime CCH Pounder), is bound and determined to bring Mackey to justice. Amid all this drama, Mackey must deal with the fact that his wife has taken the kids and left him, and as his personal life crumbles around him, he begins to develop a conscience.

Filled with excellent writing, stylish, breakneck direction, and phenomenal performances by a stellar ensemble cast, The Shield remains proof that television can at times be better than film. In fact, each episode of creator Shawn Ryan's drama is like a movie, with the 13 episodes of the second season making up an epic film better than nearly everything released in theaters last year.

Super Fly--For numerous reasons, director Gordon Parks Jr.'s 1972 urban crime drama is seldom regarded as part of the classic pantheon of 1970s American cinema. But the truth of the matter is that Super Fly is, was and always will be one of the best films of the decade. Ron O'Neal stars as Priest, a midlevel cocaine dealer who decides to reach for the brass ring with one final score and then retire from the business once and for all. But nothing is that simple: Everyone from Priest's right-hand man Eddie (Carl Lee) to the corrupt cops wants him to keep on with business as usual. Only Georgia (Sheila Frazier), Priest's loving woman, supports the dope dealer in his decision to go straight.

Driven by Curtis Mayfield's Greek-chorus-like soundtrack, which provides the perfect marriage of music to film, Super Fly remains a classic gangster film, cut from the same cloth as 1931's Public Enemy. Often referred to as the blaxploitation version of Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets (which itself was supposed to be a blaxploitation film), Super Fly actually came out one year earlier. But for whatever reason, O'Neal and Lee--both giving Oscar-worthy performances--never achieved the success of Mean Streets' Harvey Keitel and Robert DeNiro.