Appellate Judge Kent Dixon once made a miniature dream house, but it was tragically crushed.
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: Grave Danger (Blu-ray) (published February 7th, 2012), and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Twelfth Season (published October 22nd, 2012) are also available.
"I've been a Crime Scene Investigator for 22 years, I've worked over 2,000 homicides, and you are by far the best I've ever seen."…Gil Grissom (William Petersen), addressing the Miniature Killer
"After six seasons, how do you bring the audience back to CSI and make it better than it was before?"…"Built To Kill" writer David Rambo.
Grissom and the Clark County Crew are back for a seventh season. What does the creative team behind CSI, one of the most popular TV shows of all time, do for a season premiere? Naturally, they paired it with Cirque du Soleil, one of the greatest live stage presentations of all time. Are there really more stories to be told, or are we facing a show in its final days? And can CSI retain the cutting-edge style and solid storytelling that has won it scores of award nominations and wins?
Facts of the Case
All 24 episodes of season seven are included in this release:
• Built To Kill, Part 1
When the show premiered in 2000, its slick Bruckheimer production style and dark plotlines caused some critics and members of the viewing public to doubt it would last long. But that quirky little show has grown into a television phenomenon with two strong spin-off series, scores of fans and many other programs working to duplicate that bankable style. Oh yeah, and did I mention the video games?
How many stories can there possibly be to tell in the city of Las Vegas? As one of the largest cities in the American west, Las Vegas has a rich and checkered past, dating back to its establishment as a railroad town in 1905 and its incorporation as a city in 1911. Loosely referred to as the "Entertainment Capital of the World" (along with New York, Hollywood, and Orlando), Vegas has also been known as "Sin City," "the City of Lights," and "Glitter Gulch," with the casino and hotel stretch of the city simply known as "The Strip." With gambling, prostitution, tons of cash, and other assorted elements to the city, there's little wonder that Vegas also developed an almost legendary association with organized crime. So with a decidedly seedy underbelly, Vegas really is the prime location for the often disturbing and always entertaining stories of CSI.
Unlike CSI: New York and CSI: Miami, whose plotlines and settings often deliver stunning daylight scenes and lighter story lines, CSI remains the dark progenitor of the entire franchise. There has been many times through the series so far that I have likened CSI to Se7en in its often disturbing plots and crime scenes. CSI: The Seventh Season is no exception, as some of the darker and more disturbing episodes of the series, most notably Grissom's hunt for the miniature killer.
Why does CSI continue to work after all this time, when there are so many other crime, forensic or legal drama shows on TV right now? There are many reasons, from the commitment and dedication of the show's entire creative and production team, to the consistent quality of the stories, to the slick and edgy visual style that still captures viewers' attention, CSI was first and still does it best. As much as I am a big fan of Bones, I'd also be the first to admit that there are occasionally embarrassingly similar approaches in the show that clearly owe a nod to CSI. The good news is that by watching the extra features on this set, you'll be comforted to know that the folks behind CSI know there are imitators out there and they are committed to staying one step ahead of the pack.
CSI: The Seventh Season included some of the series' most amazing stories so far, the first being a multi-story arc where Grissom and his team discover a bizarre serial killer who murders and creates intricate miniatures that depict each crime scene to the last detail. This brilliant story line carried through the episodes "Built To Kill, Part 1," "Post Mortem," "Loco Motives," "Monster in the Box," and "Living Doll." Another strong story line began with Grissom's temporary departure from the team to attend a conference (in reality, actor William Peterson took a brief hiatus for a stage role) and the arrival of Michael Keppler (Liev Schreiber) to assist the CSI team with their ongoing cases on the episodes "Law of Gravity," "Meet Market," "Redrum," and "Sweet Jane." A strong actor in his own right, Schreiber was an excellent, albeit temporary addition to the team who caused some new areas to be explored in the interrelationships of the existing characters. Season Seven also marked a closer examination of the relationship between Sara and Gil, which had previously been left pretty much to the audience's imagination. This new season showed a level of love and respect between the two characters that was both new and exciting, whether you're a fan of that relationship or not.
Speaking of visual style, CSI: The Seventh Season does an excellent job of reproducing the signature style of CSI, from the solid blacks of the shadows to the garish colors of The Strip. Don't expect to see a true-to-life presentation here, as CSI often uses filters and camera techniques that create a hyper-real feeling you won't find duplicated in your local police station or morgue. The audio presentation is appropriately atmospheric, with excellent use of the surround channels, pulling the viewer into the world of Sin City.
This set includes episode commentaries with a nicely varied blend of participants, from producers and directors to effects make-up artists on "Built To Kill, Part 1," "Fannysmackin'," "Living Legend," "Sweet Jane," "Law of Gravity," "Lab Rats," and "Living Doll." Inside "Built To Kill", takes a look behind the two-part episode that launched the season, with specific attention to the Cirque du Soleil show "Ka" that is featured in the plot of the season's premier episode. I still haven't had the opportunity to see a Cirque show in person, but after seeing this feature, I may make "Ka" the first one on my list. The bizarre and mysterious ongoing story that centered around a killer who made meticulous dioramas is the topic of the featurette Miniature Murders. It turns out this episode is based on the real-life story of a woman who created detailed crime scene miniatures in a desire to become a part of the Chicago police force; the miniatures are still used at Johns Hopkins University for training crime scene detectives. Who Are You? Inside "Living Legend" takes a look behind the scenes of the episode titled "Living Legend," focusing on the story, but also on the special guest appearance of The Who front man Roger Daltrey. Through the magic of amazing prosthetic make-up, the episode had Daltrey playing five characters! It's cool to hear Daltrey speak of how honored he felt to appear on the show, returning the favor of the loyalty all CSI incarnations have shown to The Who by using their music as opening themes.
Next, Las Vegas: The Real Crime Solvers joins actor Robert David Hall (Dr. Al Robbins) as he tours the facilities of the real Clark County Crime lab in Las Vegas. One of the most interesting moments comes when he speaks with the Clark County CSI team and discovers when they were first approached by CSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker, none of them felt the show would ever last. The Evolution of CSI Season 7 looks at not only where the show is today, but how its success so far has led to even more freedom and opportunities into the future. Now that fans have learned to understand and accept the science and forensic aspects of the show, the writers and producers have been freed to focus more on the storytelling and character development aspects of their process. Last but not least, Smoke and Mirrors: Directing Feature Television includes interviews with several of the show's directors as they talk about how they manage to deliver a TV show with feature-level production quality.
Similar to the recent release of CSI: New York: The Complete Third Season this set is also bundled with a playable demo version of the PC game "CSI: Hard Evidence," a fun little game from game developer Ubisoft, that includes voice performances from the original CSI actors and allows players to search for evidence in mock crime scenes.
CSI is still the granddaddy of forensic crime shows and it seems that even now, into its eighth season, the show continues to raise the bar for its genre and for TV as a whole. As with film audiences, TV viewers have become somewhat more discriminating and demanding, forcing production companies to continue to push the envelope. CSI: The Seventh Season includes some of the best stories, highest production value and most interesting supporting actors to appear in the series so far, and from what you'll hear from the show's directing and production staff, as well as the 10 or so episodes that have aired so far in season eight, CSI will be around for some time yet, continuing to lead the pack in TV crime drama that will help to keep you awake at night.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I have a confession to make. When actors George Eads (Nick Stokes) and Jorja Fox (Sara Sidle) were fired in 2004 for holding out for salary increases (ultimately returning, likely with the studio's message well-received), I was honestly hoping they would be written out of the show. No, I am not a regular actor on a mega-hit TV series, so perhaps I can't relate to their pain and angst at being paid less than an NHL hockey player, but I really wouldn't have missed them from the show.
On the extras side, I would have loved to see a blooper reel included with this release as its often the shows with darker and more serious subject matter that have the most funny flubs, likely allowing the actors to decompress.
CSI: The Seventh Season is a treat and I'd easily recommend it as one of the best seasons of the show to own on DVD. The stories are darkly brilliant, the visual style is still leading edge, and the cast still seems to be enjoying their work. Sure, boxed sets of complete TV seasons can be expensive, but this really is among the best of what's out there today.
Stay the course CSI…stay the course!
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Scales of Justice
• Commentaries on seven episodes
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