Case Number 16363


Paramount // 2000 // 1026 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // May 13th, 2009

The Charge

People lie, but the evidence never does.

Opening Statement

It's hard to believe it's been almost a decade since CBS premiered its top-shelf forensic drama. Although a few changes have been wrought in the intervening seasons (especially eight and nine), CSI has always been about big, sweeping Sin City stories told through interesting cases and clever bits of CGI. Now that Blu-ray has won enough hearts and minds, CBS (through Paramount) is releasing the first season of this hit show in hi-def. Old school fans and people new to the show are going to find something to love in this set, from the vastly superior audio/visual presentation to the new set of extras.

Facts of the Case

To avoid spoilers and belaboring the obvious, CSI is the story of the Las Vegas Police Department forensics team who work the graveyard shift. Because evidence doesn't include human emotions and foibles, it doesn't lie, leading the team to cracking otherwise difficult cases.

This set includes all 23 episodes of the show's First Season, as well as a director's cut of the pilot:

Disc One
* "Pilot"
* "Cool Change"
* "Crate and Burial"
* "Pledging Mr. Johnson"

Disc Two
* "Friends and Lovers"
* "Who Are You?"
* "Blood Drops"
* "Anonymous"
* "Unfriendly Skies

Disc Three
* "Sex, Lies and Larvae"
* "I-15 Murders"
* "Fahrenheit 932"
* "Boom"
* "To Halve And To Hold"

Disc Four
* "Table Stakes"
* "To Tough to Die"
* "Face Lift"
* "$35K OBO"
* "Gentle, Gentle"

Disc Five
* "Sounds of Silence"
* "Justice is Served"
* "Evaluation Day"
* "Strip Strangler"

The Evidence

Because I've seen every episode of this season at least two or three times, my plan was to watch a couple to get a feel for the audio/visual presentation and then make my way to the new extras. Ha! I put the pilot on and was immediately sucked back into the early world of Gil Grissom and Co. I knew that by the end of the episode Grissom would be running the lab and Holly Gribbs would be in serious trouble. Despite my knowledge of the show (and its recent failure to live up to its potential) these early stories are compelling enough that they kept me watching long after I had intended to turn off the player.

A large part of the reason I kept watching (besides the compelling storylines and characters) was the audio/visual presentation on this set. When the pilot episode's first shot of the city came up, my mouth literally fell open. I was used to broadcast CSI, and DVD CSI, not 1080i widescreen CSI. Details of the cityscape I couldn't see before were suddenly right there, colors "popped" in interesting ways, and despite 35mm origins, grain was never a problem. Although there was some occasional noise in darker scenes, it never became distracting. The audio is equally impressive, with nice clarity and separation as well as an impressive low end. I especially enjoyed The Who blasting during the show's credits.

Extras are also significantly upgraded this time out. There's the featurette from the DVD release, "People Lie...But the Evidence Never Does," as well as a new HD featurette called "CSI Season One: Rediscovering the Evidence." The pilot episode gets a commentary, and there are deleted scenes, outtakes, and a gag reel to enjoy. Finally, for completists, this set includes the original promos for the show's premiere season, so viewers can follow the hype for each episode.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Although I certainly enjoyed this First Season of CSI, it's far from my favorite. The series didn't hit its stride until the Second Season. That's most evident in these episodes formation of characters. It seems like the writers have the younger cast members nailed down: Warrick, Nick, and Sara arrive pretty much fully formed, with their tics and foibles built in. The older generation are not quite as solid. Grissom is just a little too mystical in his mentoring of the younger CSIs, while Brass is a little too antagonistic towards forensics, and Catherine is a bit too shrill. The writing team had obviously not worked out the details with the lab rats yet either, and the denizens of the lab come off a little faceless this season (surprisingly even someone like Bobby, their munitions expert, who appears throughout the series). There's also a slight tendency to focus on the nifty gadgets and effects the show can muster to the detriment of the characters. It's a definite plus the show has such a big budget and looks so cinematic, but its real strength is the characters and that doesn't shine through as brightly here.

Closing Statement

I'll freely admit that Blu-ray reissues haven't shown me much thus far. Often we get carbon copies of earlier release, day-and-date releases with DVD special editions, or the dreaded bare bones disc. Thankfully, Paramount has bypassed all these options to give fans of CSI a truly beautiful hi-def experience with improved audio, video, and extras. For longtime fans who already own this season on DVD, it's time to double dip. This is not something I generally recommend, but this show looks so good I can't even imagine watching these episodes in standard def again. Paramount has set the bar high for future TV releases on the format. For those who've yet to enter the world of CSI, expect strong characters, high production values, and clever mysteries. This BD release is the best way to get your feet wet with the CSIs.

The Verdict

All the evidence is in, and CSI: The First Season on Blu-ray is not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2009 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 97
Audio: 97
Extras: 80
Acting: 95
Story: 92
Judgment: 94

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)

* English (SDH)
* Spanish

Running Time: 1026 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Deleted Scences
* Featurettes
* Outtakes
* Gag Reel
* Promos

* IMDb