If CSI goes on long enough, Judge Gordon Sullivan expects to be leading the team.
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 Ninth Season (published September 25th, 2009), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Ninth Season (Blu-ray) (published September 21st, 2009), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Seventh Season (published December 19th, 2007), and CSI: Grave Danger (Blu-ray) (published February 7th, 2012) are also available.
First on the Scene
As a TV viewer, I guess I've been lucky. Sure, many of my favorite shows (especially those by Joss Whedon) were cancelled before the time. I'll always have to wonder what became of those Breakout Kings after Season Two. Even a show like House, M.D., which switched up its formula midway through its run, almost always injected new blood rather than trying a switch-a-roo. CSI, though, is in a slightly different boat. Though the core cast stayed pretty consistent for seven or so seasons, after that characters started dropping like flies (the kind that date a corpse, I'm sure). More significantly, the show's creators felt the need to plug those holes with new people. When those shoes are worn by William Petersen, they're mighty hard to fill. Laurence Fishburne was a good choice. He can be fatherly like Petersen, and it was interesting to see him tackle a more studious role than Morpheus. As even the most cursory glance at the cover art will tell you, Fishburne is out, and Ted Danson is in. I'll let that sink in. While the show is still good on a case-by-case basis in CSI: The Twelfth Season, with so many characters getting the axe so frequently, it's hard to get invested in CSI's long-term health.
Facts of the Case
Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne, Apocalypse Now) had his last hurrah at the end of Season 11, and now the CSI team needs a new leader. Enter D.B. Russell (Ted Danson, Cheers), a guy who is totally different from any of the other team members. Also joining the nightshift is Morgan Brody (Elisabeth Harnois, Mars Needs Moms), Ecklie's daughter. Through these twenty-two episodes, the team tackles the usual run of crazy murders and forensics puzzles.
Pound for pound, the stories in CSI: The Twelfth Season are as good as any in the show's run. We get all the usual kinds of episodes we've come to expect from a season of CSI. There's an episode where they have to enter a bizarre subculture (in this case, a freak show). There's an episode involving cold case files (in this case, they're cold enough to kill over). There's also the requisite "let's put one of the main characters in jeopardy" episode (in this case, it's Catherine). These episodes continue to be well-written, and they continue to be shot and edited with the acumen that we've come to expect from a flagship show, even if it's a flagship show well past its prime (both creatively and in the world of ratings).
Enjoyment of the rest of the season will likely turn on how accepting individual viewers are of the new characters (and the new plot threads they initialize). Obviously there's D.B. Russell and Morgan Brody, but as another cursory glance at this set's cover will show, Elisabeth Shue (Adventures in Babysitting) also joins the cast. I don't want to give too many spoilers, but Catherine Willows as a character was getting increasingly frustrated with her role on the team. It's no surprise that she goes away this season. Although I won't say how, she's replaced by Shue as Julie Finlay.
All of this shakeup on the show proper hasn't diminished CBS' commitment (through Paramount) to giving the show polish on home video. Each of the twenty-two episodes included here gets a solid 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. Detail is generally strong, colors are bright (and in Vegas, sometimes garishly so), and black levels are consistent and deep. No serious compression artifacts or other authoring problems crop up either. The Dolby 5.1 surround tracks do a great job giving listeners clear dialogue that's well-balanced with the show's always excellent use of music.
Extras are similar to other releases. We get six featurettes that look at everything from the show's dozen years on the air to the departure of Marg Helgenberger. There are also some deleted scenes, and two episodes get audio commentary. Unsurprisingly, it's the last two episodes to feature Catherine Willows. Altogether, they give a pretty interesting view of where the show is at in its twelfth year.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I must say that around the time of William Petersen's departure, CSI stopped being an essential show for me. For about five years (from when I discovered the show between seasons three and four until around Petersen's departure), I would watch each season on DVD faithfully in a single weekend marathon. I would look forward to this event every year. That spark is gone. Although I still catch up with CSI now and again, it's just not essential viewing. What really made those five or so years great wasn't the mysteries; I can get decent forensic mysteries seven nights a week and have been able to for years. No, it was the team. Every single character was interesting in his or her own right, but together as a team, they were much more than the sum of their parts. I could take it when Sara left, but once Grissom was gone it just got harder and harder to find a weekend to marathon new seasons.
Part of the problem is that now that the cart is upset, there's no way to put the apples back in. Every new shift supervisor is going to be fighting an uphill battle, and the intimacy and camaraderie that made the show a hit is simply gone. It's also not helped by what is increasingly feeling like stunt casting. I mean Ted Danson is a fine actor and all, but he's a very, very different direction from either William Petersen or Laurence Fishburne. The same is true of Elisabeth Shue. I love her as an actress, but it feels like she's being cast for her name rather than to fill the role.
If you're looking for more decent forensic mysteries from the people who arguably birthed the genre, CSI: The Twelfth Season will fit the bill. With some new additions and some departures, it's a rocky season for the cast, but that doesn't diminish the "wow" factor the show still has when it's working on all cylinders. As usual, the show gets a solid DVD release that fans will be happy to have on their shelf.
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