Case Number 17340

CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION: THE NINTH SEASON

Paramount // 2008 // 864 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // September 25th, 2009

The Charge

Sin never sleeps.

Opening Statement

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation may not be the most critically acclaimed crime drama on TV, but the show is smart and inventive enough to frequently attract a high caliber of actors, directors, and writers. For most of its run, it's cranked out some episodes that, while not earth-shattering, are still entertaining and even mildly informative. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and, while this season the show attempted to recover from some significant departures with new additions, it would probably have been better off if the series had simply called it quits.

Facts of the Case

Here are the 24 episodes collected on six discs:

Disc One
* "For Warrick"
As Warrick (Gary Dourdan, Alien: Resurrection) dies in Gil's (William Petersen, To Live and Die in L.A.) arms, Gil and his team attempt to find out who killed him.

* "The Happy Place"
A hypnotist (Glenne Headley, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) may have used her abilities to compel bank clerks to embezzle money.

* "Art Imitates Life"
New CSI Riley Adams (Lauren Lee Smith, The L Word) joins the team as they attempt to solve the mystery of a serial killer who turns his victims into statues.

* "Let It Bleed"
The daughter of a Colombian drug kingpin dies under mysterious circumstances near a nightclub.

Disc Two
* "Leave Out All the Rest"
Gil seeks out Lady Heather (Melinda Clarke, The O.C.) for help on a case, but discovers he has really hit a turning point in his life and career.

* "Say Uncles"
A couple is shot during a fair in Koreatown, and a young boy's life may be in danger.

* "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda"
An unsolved murder from the past involving a missing private detective comes back to haunt the team.

* "Young Man with a Horn"
A young contestant from a singing talent show is found dead near an abandoned casino that was the site of a legendary murder.

Disc Three
* "19 Down..."
After investigating a series of murders that closely resemble those of a serial killer that was convicted long ago, the team enlists the help of criminology professor Dr. Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne, Fled).

* "One to Go"
Gil decides that the time has come to leave the CSI lab for good, but convinces Ray to join the staff as a new entry-level CSI.

* "The Grave Shift"
Ray's first day on the job involves a simple burglary that somehow becomes a bombing and murder.

* "Disarmed and Dangerous"
When an FBI agent is found literally torn to pieces in a restroom, the team uncovers a case that is not quite what it seems.

Disc Four
* "Deep Fried and Minty Fresh"
A chicken restaurant is the scene of a mysterious death, while another case involves a woman who was apparently killed with an overdose of toothpaste.

* "Miscarriage of Justice"
A congressman is on trial for murder, but Ray's careful investigation may be undermined when the congressman's assistant confesses in a suicide note.

* "Kill Me If You Can"
A con man with multiple identities is murdered, but may have pulled one final identity switch.

* "Turn, Turn, Turn"
Nick (George Eads, Evel Knievel) discovers the murder of a teenage girl (Taylor Swift) who he has been running into repeatedly during the last year.

Disc Five
* "No Way Out"
Ray and Riley are taken hostage by a teenage gang member after a bloody shooting in a quiet suburb.

* "Mascara"
A serial killer involved with the world of Mexican wrestling develops a close personal connection with Ray.

* "The Descent of Man"
A parachutist falls without a working parachute, leading to a possible connection with some mysterious deaths nearby.

* "A Space Oddity"
Lab techs Hodges (Wallace Langham, The Larry Sanders Show and Wendy (Liz Vassey, All My Children) discover that they're both fans of a classic '60s sci-fi show at a convention, but also discover that another fan may have committed a murder.

Disc Six
* "If I Had a Hammer"
A man (Henry Thomas, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial) who was convicted of murder based on Catherine's (Marg Helgenberger, Species) work demands a retrial after he claims to uncover new evidence.

* "The Gone Dead Train"
A mysterious series of deaths sends the team looking for a possible infectious disease transmitted through body modification.

* "Hog Heaven"
A biker is stabbed to death during a bar fight, but the case takes a deadly turn when the team discovers that he was actually an undercover cop.

* "All In"
The relics from a long-demolished casino suddenly become hot commodities in the collectors' market, leading to a series of murders involving a famous antique dealer (Gerald McRaney, Simon and Simon).

The Evidence

When a series lasts as long as CSI does, it has one of two options: it can continue to coast on its fumes and recycle stories and situations, or it can reinvigorate itself with new characters and stories. CSI, peculiarly, has chosen both options. This season introduces two new characters, not entirely successfully, but it also highlights that the show's formula has grown increasingly stale. There are some good moments here, especially in the performances, and there are also some welcome experiments with storytelling techniques that are visually diverting. Nonetheless, it's hard not to shake the feeling that this show is sadly and painfully becoming a shadow of its former self.

Of course, this season meant the exit of two major characters who have been around since the first season: Warrick, murdered at the end of season eight, and Grissom, who retires ten episodes into this season. Their exits are handled reasonably well (although the whole Gil/Sara relationship arc long ago wore out its welcome for many fans), so it's hard to fault the show with these storylines. The changes also help inject some tension into a series that has started to grow rather formulaic.

It's the rest of the series that falters. The new characters are a hit and a miss. On the plus side, Laurence Fishburne makes an appealing replacement for Petersen. Fishburne has always specialized in characters who are inhumanly cool under pressure, but while there's some of that in Ray, Fishburne also catches the right notes of uncertainty in a man who's making an important career change so late in life. It's also great to see him making minor rookie mistakes and learning how to adapt to the current team's personalities. These help flesh out Ray so that his victories become more meaningful than they would if he just came in as a perfect CSI right off the bat. Riley, on the other hand, doesn't click at all. The combination of some one-dimensional writing and Smith's dull performance makes her one of the most forgettable characters this show has ever seen. She doesn't appear to have any personality or notable distinctions other than the ability to mouth off inappropriately, a trait that is neither clever nor endearing. It's no surprise, then, that Smith was released from her contract only a few weeks after the season ended.

It's also disconcerting to realize that many of the episodes this season are essentially rewrites of earlier ones. Even if you're just a casual viewer of CSI reruns on Spike, you'll quickly recognize many episodes here as being older ones with slightly new modifications. Do you miss the philosophical ramblings of the blue paint killer? You get the human statue killer and the one who kills couples. How about another episode where a convicted murderer demands a new trial after supposedly uncovering new evidence that clears him? Yep, there's one of those, too. Has it been too long since a CSI was testifying in a courtroom and was blindsided with new evidence? Fear not-that happens again here. The original cast members, always likable and talented, do what they can but you can see places where even they're bored with the endless repetition. The cast is frequently the only redeeming feature of too many episodes on this set, but for that, you'd probably be better advised to get the earlier, fresher seasons, even if you do miss out on Laurence Fishburne.

Paramount has done a mixed job presenting the series on DVD. The non-anamorphic 16:9 transfer looks vivid and sharp, but why is it non-anamorphic? It makes no sense to punish the show's fans, especially since a high-tech show like CSI is precisely the kind that would attract viewers with high-def TVs. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, on the other hand, is impressive. Not only is it loud and well-balanced, but the surround effects are so consistently used that viewers really will feel immersed in each episode.

There's also a healthy smattering of extras. Two episodes come with commentary tracks, "Turn, Turn, Turn" (with George Eads, Taylor Swift, and the show's writer) and "Space Oddity" (with some writers and the actors who play the lab techs, including Langham and Vassey). The first commentary is dry and no one really talks much, but the second is amusing and full of great stories and insights into the episode. There are also some deleted scenes for certain episodes, all of which are worth a look (the one for "The Happy Place," for instance, actually explains the episode's title). The best extras are the four featurettes, scattered throughout the set: "Crime Scene Initiation" (14:43), "Goodbye Grissom" (17:37), "Rats in Space" (27:18), and "From Zero to 200 in Nine Seasons" (18:54). "Crime Scene Initiation" discusses the new characters, "Goodbye Grissom" explains how Petersen and the show's producers came up with Grissom's exit, "Rats in Space" delves into the making of "Space Oddity," and "From Zero to 200 in Nine Seasons" chronicles the making of "Mascaras," the series' 200th episode that was directed by legendary director William Friedkin (The French Connection). All are more incisive than the usual EPK fluff, with plenty of cast and crew interviews. Finally, "The Grave Shift" comes with an option to view a text information track while watching the episode that gives various facts about real crime forensics.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

It would be unfair to say that the show doesn't take any artistic chances. "Space Oddity" is easily the season's best episode precisely because it strays from the formula the show has fallen into. By using hilarious fantasy sequences built around a cheesy but earnest '60s sci-fi show that bears a suspicious resemblance to Star Trek, the show actually does make some astute observations about sci-fi fandom, as well as the growing relationship between Hodges and Wendy. Also, some episodes, such as "Turn, Turn, Turn," "All In," and "Kill Me If You Can," use intricate jump-cuts and intertwining stories that are visually exciting, even if the actual mysteries are lukewarm rehashes of earlier ones. At least technically, CSI hasn't lost any of its effectiveness.

Closing Statement

The addition of Laurence Fishburne is welcome, but not enough to recommend this season. Even newcomers who are just becoming familiar with CSI because of Fishburne will find many of these episodes tame and repetitive. Maybe next season will bring some new inspiration, but if the departure of two crucial characters and the arrival of two new characters (even if one is already gone) wasn't enough to shake the show out of its rut, then the odds are not looking too good for CSI.

The Verdict

Guilty of slowly edging past its prime.

Review content copyright © 2009 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 80
Audio: 90
Extras: 85
Acting: 80
Story: 70
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English
* Spanish

Running Time: 864 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Episode Commentaries
* Trivia Track
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0247082/combined

* Official Site
http://www.cbs.com/primetime/csi/