November 14, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Perps, cops, cha-chungs! The first 22 episodes of Special Victims Unit, Law & Order’s creepy cousin, rivetingly chronicle a psyche-damaged department as it investigates sex crimes. Many stories (like the piano teacher-turned-molester in ”Nocturne”) remain timely, but the real twist — besides Richard Belzer’s sardonic conspiracy theorist, Detective Munch — comes from the personal lives of Detectives Benson (Hargitay), a child of rape, and Stabler (Meloni), a solid family man. By contrast, L&O’s sophisticated savant, Criminal Intent, which focuses on the criminal mind, waits until episode 13 to reveal anything substantial about its speechifying know-it-all, Detective Goren (D’Onofrio), and his mousy partner, Detective Eames (Erbe). Moody and urbane, CI loses some emotion on disc. EXTRAS Debriefings on both from producers and cast, and SVU gives a tour of its set, where desks are lined with photos of the actors’ real-life relatives — including Hargitay’s mom, Jayne Mansfield. SVU: B+ CI:

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