FX's cross-border murder mystery The Bridge is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD through FOX's home video arm, FOX Home Entertainment. Another American adaptation of a European crime drama, the series stars Demian Bichir (Weeds) and Diane Kruger (The Host) as police officers from differing jurisdictions collaborating to catch a serial killer, and was developed by producers Meredith Stiehm and Elwood Reid (Cold Case). We recently had the opportunity to investigate the DVD edition of The Bridge, and here's what we uncovered.
Adaptations of foreign crime dramas seem to be the new trend in American TV (hey, FX's sister network FOX is about to remake the UK serial Broadchurch into Gracepoint with David Tennant essentially playing the same lead role), and so The Bridge is hardly reinventing the wheel. Still, credit must be given where it's due: the series does an excellent job of making this edition really evoke the atmosphere of Texas and Mexico - no surprise given that its two leading producers hail from a show that had to recreate different time periods every week. With the relationship between the United States and Mexico having been a hot-button issue for some time now, there's a certain timeliness to placing the series here and now as well (it's always nice to see a show that isn't in either Los Angeles or New York, anyway).
There's an eclectic mix here, too, of actors that are either relatively new to TV audiences and ones who've been around so long that they're instantly familiar, and everyone is giving it their best effort. In her first series regular role, Kruger is added to the ever-growing list of tough female cops on TV, playing El Paso detective Sonya Cross almost like a tougher Carrie Mathieson (which is sort of amusing since Stiehm was previously a writer on Homeland). Bichir is a little better known to TV fans because of his role as Esteban Reyes on Weeds, but that role is miles away from his work as Sonya's Mexican partner Marco Ruiz; by the end of the season, he'll completely captivate you. On the flip side, you'll find Ted Levine (Monk), Annabeth Gish (The X-Files), and Brian Van Holt (Cougar Town), just to name a few veterans who turn in performances sometimes totally different from what you've come to expect from them.
This show wants to be another gritty drama, and sometimes it legitimately is and sometimes it feels forced. There's the standard need to have sex mixed in amongst the death and violence, and the cliched accusations of an affair between the two partners (they're not having one, thankfully), plus on occasion you'll feel like you need a scorecard to keep up with who knows who and who did what to whom. The Bridge will not be everyone's cup of serial-drama tea, but it's got enough strong performances in it that it's one of those shows you have to at least try out.
The Bridge is a dark show, and so this is a fairly dark DVD presentation; there are going to be times when you can't make things out, and sometimes that'll be due to the series itself, other times not so much. It's nothing that really detracts from your watching of the episodes, though, and the sound is likewise solid. This would not be a presentation-level DVD, but you're not going to regret buying it.
Menus are simple to access and navigate, which is a big plus. There are no forced trailers on the special features disc, so you can get right to the extra content. The only downer here is the packaging, which is the standard plastic disc tray in the hard plastic case that can crack easily.
Fox also hasn't done fans any favors with the package design; there's no episode guide either printed inside or included separately, and they don't even see fit to mention who's participating on the commentary track. There's plenty of room to add a little extra information, especially since the font on the inside front cover is bigger than it needs to be, so it's disappointing that the studio wouldn't make the set a little more viewer-friendly, especially if they're trying to attract audiences who might have waited until now to start watching the series.
The Special Features
FOX Home Entertainment has never been known for loading their TV on DVD releases with a ton of special features, and this is no exception. The Bridge comes with a handful of bonuses, making it squarely average. "Building The Bridge" is the standard making-of featurette, just over 20 minutes long and including interviews with Kruger, Bichir, Matthew Lillard, and producers Reid and Stiehm, among others; it does contain spoilers so don't watch it until you've seen the entire season.
"Ciudad Juarez" has New York Times reporter Damian Cave doing what amounts to a mini-documentary about the real Juarez, which is a little dry but may interest those viewers who want to see how the fiction matches up to the reality. The deleted scenes are hit and miss, and there's an audio commentary on the pilot that isn't that memorable either. All in all, there's nothing that exciting here, but FHE provides the basics that should satiate fans for at least a one-time viewing.
The Bottom Line
The Bridge is not going to be everyone's idea of a great drama series; it's dark, figuratively and literally, it's messy, and it's trying just a little too hard to be edgy. Yet it also boasts some intriguing performances from a well put-together cast, enough that you've got to give it at least a chance. That's the same way we feel about the DVD set: it's not superb, and there's some room for improvement, but with its basic bonus features and solid presentation, it's a good starter kit for die-hard fans and folks curious about the show. Those who blind-buy might want to give this a rent first, but Bridge fans will be happy - if not excited - by this middle of the road release.