I love CSI and have been an avid fan from day one. I think it brought a fresh look to the procedural crime dramas that have long ago become just a little stale and predictable. The problem is that the series has gone the Dick Wolf route of branching out so that the final product might be a little diluted. Unlike the Law & Order franchise, each version of CSI has attempted to take on a unique look and style to reflect the location without giving up those elements which are the tradition of the series. CSI: Miami is by far the inferior of these three shows. In trying to create a slick glitzy Miami feel, the show has gone the way of style over substance. While the oversaturated colors and bright locations might make for a more visually stunning series, it tends here to overshadow the meat and potatoes of CSI, the stories. I get the impression that the show wants badly to recreate the Miami Vice accomplishment of trend setting fashion and style. Those days are long gone, and CSI has an entirely contrary mission that is weakened weekly by this overboard attempt to look good. The show is also beginning to adopt the 24 style of multi frames for no other reason than they think it looks cool. The show doesn’t respect the audience enough to believe they will buy into the series without all of these high tech distractions. It’s a shame, really, because I had higher hopes for this version of CSI, as I happen to live in Florida. Unfortunately most of CSI: Miami is shot in L.A. with the exception of a few overused establishing shots. Let me tell you, L.A. doesn’t look anything like Miami. Perhaps the show should consider dropping all of the fake glitz and move to location where they can take advantage of the city in a far more realistic way.
CSI: Miami began its 5th year exactly where the 4th left off. Caine (Caruso) had married Delko’s sister and lost her to a brutal attack from an archnemesis. Delko (Rodriguez) and Caine go to Brazil to track down the killer, giving us a rather nice adventure piece with a slightly more realistic look to it. Don’t worry, slick television fans, the show quickly returns to its faux Miami roots and the cases and stories continue along the same lines as before. This year it seems the CSIs can’t get out of their own way. Caine continues to battle vendettas, Wolfe (Togo) continues to be on the edge of getting canned, this time over gambling. Delko has to deal with the Rio ramifications and a lawsuit. The worst character on the show continues to annoy. Natalie Boa Vista (LaRue) is just a constant pain in the rear. She’s constantly in distress and often appears to make very bad choices that would cause any lab executive to have serious doubts about her ability to make good choices in her work. Her ex-husband is back as a crime scene cleanup tech and creates such a contrived B story that I just wish they’d all take a cruise with Tony on the Stugots. The best two members of the cast continue to be Calliegh (Procter) who adds some look of professionalism to the crew and medical examiner Alex (Alexander) who talks to her victims. David Caruso is by far the weakest of the leads in the three CSI shows. He’s essentially a one note actor who’s about as charismatic as a sloth. He has no emotion to his delivery, and he hasn’t grown since his days at NYPD Blue where he left after a year because he believed he was destined for bigger things.
There are some standout episodes in year five. The season opener Rio is, as I mentioned, the tie up to the explosive end to the previous year. The Rio locations are wonderful, and there’s a scene with Caine underneath the Christ statue that’s almost theatrical film in scope. Not since Dirty Harry’s last film have dead pools been the subject of good drama but in Death Pool 100 we learn that Wolfe’s been doing a little underground gambling himself. The episode turns into a race against time to find a kidnapped kid. Curse Of The Coffin was the year’s Halloween episode, and maybe the lab has been cursed. The season ends with another explosive cliffhanger as the team is on the trail of a serial killer who carves Y’s on his victims’ throats.
Each episode of CSI New York is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. There isn’t anything at all to complain about in the transfer. Colors are bright and vibrant, always jumping from the screen in wonderful detail. Sharpness is tight, perhaps too tight. The overall look leads to a bit too much of a sterile feel. Like the plethora of models that strut their stuff on the show this year, there isn’t a blemish to be found. Black levels are rock solid. Flesh tones are a bit too bright, but this is apparently an intended effect.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is as sharp as the picture. All of the dialog comes through just fine. The musical montage moments always sport a dynamic range of sound from lows to highs; there is excellent production value all the way around.
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.
Rio Grand: CSI Miami Goes To Rio: This is a CSI first and works well to shake up the ultra glitz that has come to dominate the series. I am a little confused here, however, about the crew. A few folks talk about how they kept the crew “within the family” while others talk about it being a Brazilian crew. Which was it?
If Looks Could Kill – Special f/x Make-Up: CSI has always been known for its killer make-up effects and detailed victims. Cheri Montesanto handles these duties for CSI: Miami and does a great job of it. She’ll guide you through her techniques while we get to see her in action for several of the season’s key f/x make-ups. Of course, we’ve had these features before on each of the other show’s DVD sets, but it’s worth the look here as well.
Turning Up The Heat – The Look of CSI: Miami: Of course for me this is where the show has gone incredibly wrong. You get to see some of the extreme color correction. The crew goes through a lot of trouble to look Miami without actually going to Miami. I’ve got an idea…
Dressing The Part: Andrea Federman is a costume designer on the show. Again we’re told how hard it is to look Miami from L.A. How about… Never mind. Did you know that each episode has a color coordination scheme for that episode? Spare me.
The Real MDPD with Jonathan Togo: Togo gets to hang out with various real life folks from the Miami-Dade Police Department. We get to see the labs and people who process evidence. I wonder if some observant lawyer has questioned the evidence integrity of stuff sitting there while Togo was there? Again, the people who bring us CSI Miami don’t trust us to remain interested. Instead they spoil a very nice feature with jarring music and insane graphic effects throughout. I felt sorry for the participants when they finally get to see their pieces. Cut it with the stylish crap, why don’t you? It turns out the show is a double edged sword for the force there. They see an increase in applicants but feel more pressure to solve cases in short times with futuristic expectations of the equipment they have and what they can actually do.
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.
There’s a lot to love about CSI. It’s obvious there are lessons to be learned and some good storytelling. There’s a bit less of it to love in Miami. Too much distraction takes away from what could and absolutely should be a great show. Unfortunately it’s only getting worse with each new year. I’ve been on the fence the last year or so if I’m going to keep watching this one or cut it out of my rotation. I hoped the DVD set would give me a better perspective, but it merely highlighted the problems more. If you couldn’t take the original because it was too cerebral and you need something flashing at you all the time to keep your attention, “well… you’re in luck”.