The CSI phenomenon has been going strong for 8 years now, and CBS has ridden that wave to become the top network these past couple of years. It all started with the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigator. This Las Vegas show became an instant hit, and three years later we found ourselves in Miami for a spin-off. Two years after basking in the Florida sunshine, Jerry Bruckheimer caught lightning a third time; this time out New York would serve as the setting. While there are ties that bind the three shows to the CSI franchise, each show has a unique style. The cases also serve to distinguish the shows from one another. The leads for the three shows likely give the most character to the series. Gary Sinise as Detective Mac Taylor brings a strength that establishes this show’s credibility from episode one. Taylor is ex-military who lost his wife in the 9/11 attacks. He’s incredibly driven and passionate about bringing down the bad guys, but won’t allow his integrity or that of his lab to be compromised. Also the New York show differs from the original in that the CSI personnel are full fledged cops and not just lab rats working for them. I find I like this version far better than the Miami setting, even though I can relate more to the Florida locations essentially in my own back yard.
The show does share some of the qualities that have become traditional essentials for the CSI franchise. Each opens with a song from The Who. I was bummed to hear that the original selection for New York was Behind Blue Eyes, one of my favorite Townsend compositions. It would have been a far better selection. New York has the same narrative style, which usually allows for an “A” crime and a “B” crime. The mandatory lab montages are intact, as are the CGI recreations of some of the internal body demonstrations. The show, like the others, focuses on the CSI team. Beyond Mac Taylor the team includes Detective Stella Bonasara (Kanakaredes) who has a dynamic symbiotic relationship with Taylor. They are usually teamed together, and there is great chemistry there without it needing to involve romantic attraction. Detective Danny Messer (Giovinazzo) is all New York from the accent to his habits. He’s the kind of tough no nonsense New Yorker from an ethnic Italian hood who, you get a sense, could have just as easily gone the other way in the world of real-life cops and robbers. Dr. Hawkes (Harper) started the series as the medical examiner but now works as a CSI detective. Detective Monroe (Belknap), often called Montana, is a country girl adjusting to the big city. Messer often looks after her like a sister, and these two have developed another of the show’s good character chemistries together.
The cases are uniquely New York. The city’s plethora of eclectic cultures provide a wealth of material for the writers to mine. The characters are usually based on real people like the unlikely Suicide Girls found here in the third year. From grocery store cart races to the world of fine art, the city and its people play a huge part in each episode. There have been many shows based in New York over the years. NYPD Blue and the Law and Order franchise have been the most successful, but they never seem to make the city as much a part of the stories as CSI has done here. These elements taken together have allowed for a series that has the best of the CSI franchise, but enough independent identity to remain fresh. This is a solid show with a solid cast and crew.
Each episode of CSI New York is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is awesome. The picture is always razor sharp, and color often leaps directly from the screen. The makeup f/x for victims, as always, been a mainstay for the franchise, and the detail is not wasted in this presentation. With this HD mastering you can see even the most subtle of each and every wound or gash. Contrast is excellent, as are black levels. This non-HD DVD set comes pretty close to the HD broadcasts currently airing. With this level of detail, I’d love to see an HD release of this show just to see if it can be improved at all.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track works fine, but this show doesn’t often lend itself to the full surround effect. There’s a ton of dialog, which comes across clean and properly placed. The music drives a little too hard at times, but it’s obviously the intended. The occasional ambient sound catches your attention in the rears, but not often enough to give me that extra WOW feeling.
The episodes are spread out over a collection of 6 single-sided discs. The extras are also a little scattered, but I’ll tell you exactly where to find what.
Disc One has Breaking The Killer Code: The Hung Out To Dry episode deals with a serial killer and a T-shirt design that cleverly hides clues about the murders and the victims. It turns out the T-shirts are real. A company that produces these things was the episode’s inspiration, and the designer helped out with the shirts in the show.
Disc Two contains The Suicide Girls Rock CSI: New York: There is a parental advisory at this feature’s opening, and it’s a pretty good one to heed. Also the actual title of the feature is The Suicide Girls Do CSI: New York, but the tamer title is what appears on the set box art. From the Oedipus Hex episode we get to meet the real-life Suicide Girls. The piece is a romp of half nude goth chicks writhing in buckets of blood. We get to meet the real girls and get to know them better, at least their bodies.
Disc Three is where you will find The Making Of Silent Night: Anthony Zuiker, one of the show’s creators, has a bit of a crush on Olympic skater Sasha Cohen, so he admits this episode was made to give them a reason to bring her on for a guest shot and so that they could film her doing a skating routine. This feature deals with the episode which also stars Marlee Matlin and deals with the deaf community.
Disc Six gives us the rather disturbing Hill Harper Explores The Body Farm: Another parental advisory to start isn’t about sex this time, but real decaying human bodies. The piece looks like a documentary you might see on The Discovery Channel and follows CSI: New Yorker Harper as he visits a body farm. Here in 1.6 acres there are at least 172 bodies left in on the ground to study various modes of human decay. Again the name differs from the box art, but I’m not sure why in this case. CSI: New York: The Body Farm is how the piece is titled. Perhaps Harper wanted a little credit for his visit.
Commentary Tracks: There are a few commentary tracks throughout the set. Most are your typical love fests, but there is some insight to be gained.
I guess I still prefer the original CSI, but I find the New York installment to be entertaining enough to watch on a semi-regular basis. I’m a fan of Gary Sinise, so that likely helped me settle into the show better than Caruso did for Miami. The f/x continue to be ground breaking, and as procedural dramas go this one is better than most. Unfortunately there are just so many of them out there. Heck, there’s already over 15 seasons of CSI alone, so it makes it rather expensive to collect them all. This show and set are worth adding if you want to have a CSI library but wish to be a little selective. I’d place this in the get-it box. Of course, if money’s no object, why not go for “the whole stash”?