Judge Victor Valdivia regularly seals off his bedroom with yellow crime-scene tape. It's just better for everybody that way.
Our reviews of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Complete First Season (published May 12th, 2003), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Complete Third Season (published May 13th, 2004), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Complete Fourth Season (published January 19th, 2005), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Complete Fifth Season (published December 7th, 2005), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Eighth Season (published November 3rd, 2008), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Eleventh Season (published October 6th, 2011), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The First Season (Blu-ray) (published May 13th, 2009), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Fourteenth Season (published September 25th, 2014), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Ninth Season (Blu-ray) (published September 21st, 2009), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Seventh Season (published December 19th, 2007), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Thirteenth Season (published September 27th, 2013), CSI: Grave Danger (Blu-ray) (published February 7th, 2012), and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Twelfth Season (published October 22nd, 2012) are also available.
Sin never sleeps.
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:
• "The Happy Place"
• "Art Imitates Life"
• "Let It Bleed"
• "Say Uncles"
• "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda"
• "Young Man with a Horn"
• "One to Go"
• "The Grave Shift"
• "Disarmed and Dangerous"
• "Miscarriage of Justice"
• "Kill Me If You Can"
• "Turn, Turn, Turn"
• "The Descent of Man"
• "A Space Oddity"
• "The Gone Dead Train"
• "Hog Heaven"
• "All In"
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.
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.
Guilty of slowly edging past its prime.
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