Judge Neal Masri liked the part in C.S.I.'s fifth-season finale when John Travolta accidentally shot that dude in the face, and then Samuel L. Jackson got all pissed off about being on brain detail.
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 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), 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.
"Beauty is truth, truth, beauty. That is all you know on earth and all you need to know—except cause of death."—Gil Grissom
C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation: The Complete Fifth Season brings us another season of this slick, sexy, and sometimes just plain icky show on DVD.
Facts of the Case
This set contains the entire fifth season of C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation. We have a total of 25 episodes and extras on seven discs. Show titles and original air dates are listed below.
• "Viva Las Vegas" (9/23/04)
Season five of C.S.I. got off to a rocky start with ugly contract disputes between the show's producers and actors George Eads and Jorja Fox. However, when the producers summarily fired the two actors who were holding out for more cash, they came back to the fold pretty quick. Apparently, production was delayed a bit while this ugliness was ironed out. The delay did not affect the quality of the show, though, considering the first episode "Viva Las Vegas" is a tremendous season kickoff. No less than five crimes are investigated in the season opener. It is quite a step up from the A story/B story formula we have come to expect.
During season five, Mia Dickerson (Aisha Tyler) becomes a regular DNA Analyst back at the lab as Greg Sanders (Eric Szmanda) expands his role and gets out into the field. Of note is the increasing introduction of new characters in the fifth season (a veiled message to the holdout actors regarding their expendability?).
Watching the episodes, you may notice right off the bat that there seems to be more focus on the personal lives of our main characters. C.S.I. (like that other venerable police procedural Law & Order) mainly consists of self-contained episodes with virtually no continuing storylines. These stand-alone episodes make shows like C.S.I. and L&O golden in syndication as you can program a five-year-old episode back to back with a new one and no one notices or cares.
It is obvious from the beginning that a decision was made to emphasize characterization a bit more in this season. Virtually the only character story lines I recall from earlier seasons are Grissom's (William L. Peterson) hearing loss and Sara's (Jorja Fox) alcoholism. The first quarter of season five pretty much follows formula before a big change is dropped on our familiar team in episode 508, "Mea Culpa." I leave it to the real C.S.I. aficionados to pass judgment on the success or failure of this new direction. Just know that while the change doesn't alter the show's fundamental recipe, it does shuffle character dynamics a bit.
Another milestone reached during season five was the hundredth episode, the aptly titled "Ch-Ch-Changes." In my opinion, C.S.I. is at its very best when exploring a marginalized subculture or fetish community. This hundredth episode takes us into the transgender community with one of the standout stories of the season. The show's writers continue to push the network television envelope. Speaking of pushing the envelope, for my money Episode 515, "King Baby," is one of the single most disconcerting episodes of C.S.I. that I have seen. It's not gorier or more graphic than storylines in the past, but it's truly creepy.
One episode that I felt went too far down the characterization road was Episode 522, "Weeping Willows," which prominently features Willows (Marg Helgenberger). Through an unusual set of circumstances, she becomes personally involved with a suspect. I found this a bit distracting. I must admit, however, that I fall into the less-is-more camp regarding character info on C.S.I.. I would prefer they just concentrate on the work and not worry about the personalities involved. Many fans would disagree with me though.
Finally, we have the season's big event—a two-part season finale helmed by a little known indy director named Quentin Tarantino. There are the trademark Tarantino touches like the pop culture references and crackerjack dialogue. This episode also takes the unusual step (again) of involving one of the characters directly in the crime being investigated. It's a solid finale, but Tarantino doesn't stray too far from the established formula. Also notable is the fact that the aforementioned story arc that altered many character relationships, is resolved in the end. Without giving too much away, it was nice to finally see Grissom stand up to his superiors.
The DVDs' image quality is outstanding for a TV show. If you're familiar with C.S.I., you know there is quite a stylized lighting scheme and much of the action happens in the dark. This is all handled very well, though some of the dark scenes could have been tweaked a bit to deliver deeper blacks. All in all, its is a fine transfer. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is also a notch above what I've come to expect from TV on DVD. While mainly front focused, there is a fair amount of atmospheric sound (especially in busy casino scenes). C.S.I. has more money to work with than most TV series, and on the technical front, it shows.
If you like commentaries, then you'll be in heaven with this set. A whopping nine episodes feature supplementary commentaries by various producers, writers, directors, and actors. However, you will be disappointed to hear that there is not a commentary on the Tarantino episodes. I guess Quentin wasn't available. The existing commentaries run the gamut from producers and writers talking about storylines and technical information, to actors discussing characters. Interestingly, mentions of "the delay" by producer Danny Cannon are the only cryptic references to the contract disputes. I guess it was water under the bridge by the time commentaries were recorded. If you're a fan of the show, you'll still find a lot of good information here.
Several featurettes are present including "C.S.I. Season 5: A Post-Mortem," which gives some interesting insight on the decisions made by the writers and producers during season five. They also discuss the dilemma of more versus less character information. It is an interesting look at how producers assembled the season. "C.S.I.: Tarantino Style" is essentially a mutual admiration session between Tarantino and the C.S.I. cast and crew. It's not very illuminating. Tarantino is his typical rapid-fire self and all involved seemed happy to work together. For the forensics and accuracy crowd there are two featurettes titled "The Research of C.S.I.: Maintaining the Accuracy" and "C.S.I.: Forensic Procedures On the Scene vs. On the Screen." These two featurettes illustrate how C.S.I. is based in reality and real forensic work.
All in all, we have a pretty well-stocked set here. It'll certainly keep any C.S.I. junkie busy for many hours.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Slavish loyalty to a formula makes for a formulaic show. I do think that's what many viewers expect from episodic series. That's what makes TV the entertainment version of comfort food. But can't C.S.I's producers come up with a few scene transitions other than those tired helicopter shots of the Las Vegas Strip?
The producers of C.S.I. admirably tried to stir things up a bit in the fifth season without interfering with what makes the show popular. They met with mixed success on the character front, but haven't yet run out of inventive ways to kill people. Top the season off with a Quentin Tarantino-directed finale and you've got a pretty satisfying collection of episodes.
I go where the evidence takes me. C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation: The Complete Fifth Season is acquitted based on my in-depth forensic analysis.
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