You would think that after 8 years, CSI would begin to show a little wear and tear around the edges. When you factor in the dilution of the two other versions of the franchise with a combined 11 years of episodes, you end up with nearly 300 total episodes of CSI. Certainly even the best of shows with the most imaginative writers can’t stay fresh for that long. Still, somehow, the gang at CSI continues to crank out compelling drama, rarely repeating itself. Every year I go into a new season of CSI expecting to find it starting to show its age a bit, and every year I continue to be amazed. The fact is that season 7 just might be the best year of CSI to date. Each episode begins with The Who asking the question: Who are you? I have to say that after seven years the answer is, still a fan.
For the two or three people on the planet that don’t know, the idea is actually quite a simple one. Gil Grissom (Petersen) and his night shift crime scene investigators utilize all of the latest science to solve often brutal crimes. Instead of guns, these detectives come packing microscopes and test tubes. The most senior member of the team is former Vegas showgirl Catherine Willows (Helgenberger) who juggles her long hours with raising a daughter. She usually provides the more clear-headed perspective. Grissom’s mild love interest is feisty Sara Sidle (Fox). Warrick Brown (Dourdan) is a former gambling addict with tremendous drive and passion. He’s the most soft spoken of the group. Promoted from the DNA lab is Greg Sanders (Szmanda). Sanders is often the comic relief, and while a solid team member, often gets into a spot of trouble. He’s the fresh eyes on the team, likely to be most identified with by the audience. Nick Stokes (Eads) is the macho man in the group. The team often works with Lt. Brass (Guilfoyle) and medical examiner Robbins (Hall). Together they follow the evidence wherever it might take them.
If you’re a fan of the original idea, this is an important season set to own. It’s all going to change quite significantly after this one. William Petersen is leaving the series in the middle of year 9. Dourdan is also already gone. The actor found himself in a considerable legal jam and was forced from the show. His character gets killed off in the beginning of the 9th season. Finally Jorja Fox, who had been playing a several year game of I quit/no I don’t with the series, finally opts out as this 8th season finishes. You’re simply going to want this set as it will be considered a turning point for the show. I suspect that as years go by, this is the year that most fans will point to as when their CSI truly ended. Perhaps the show will continue just fine, but I suspect there will be damage. I’m aware that many shows, most notably Law & Order, often replace main cast members, but even that show has never attempted this huge of a change in just one season. Half of our ensemble cast from the beginning will be gone by mid-season in 2008.
Each episode of CSI 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. There isn’t a blemish to be found. Black levels are rock solid. Flesh tones are a bit too dark at times, 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 5 discs. Fortunately the old brittle plastic cases are finally gone, and the discs are kept in the slim cases.
There are audio commentaries on a couple episodes, both on disc 3, that provide nice insight from time to time without being too distracting.
Disc 3 contains the two audio commentaries and a feature on each of these two episodes.
While The Cast’s Away – The Rats Will Play: The previous year there was an episode that dealt almost exclusively with the supporting cast in the lab. It was a fun episode, and the response was pretty good. In this season there is another one of those. In this version Hodges develops a Clue-like board game that takes place in the lab. He ends up playing with his co-workers, and they act out some lab whodunits with themselves as the murder victims. This 14 minute piece offers a tongue in cheek look at the production of this different CSI episode. The lab actors talk about how much fun they had.
William Friedkin – A Different Take: The award winning feature actor is a good friend of Petersen, who invited him to direct an episode of CSI. This feature examines his foray into the CSI universe. There’s plenty of lighthearted moments between the two friends. There’s also, of course, the typical lovefest comments from the CSI cast and crew.
So Long, Sara Sidle: This 15 minute feature deals with the exit of Fox and the Sidle character. It’s surprisingly unemotional for these kinds of things, and I think you can catch the slight good riddance feelings of some of the cast and crew. Of course, it isn’t overt and no one will come out and say it, but I suspect her departure was not mourned as much as such events usually are. I’ll have to admit that she was my least favorite member of the team. I’m much more bummed about losing Warrick than Sara.
What Happened In Vegas: This is the typical season overview that these sets traditionally have. The cast and crew talk about the evolution of the show and offer their thoughts on the 8th season.
Shot In The Dark: No question one of the ways the original Vegas version of CSI is set apart from its East Coast sisters is its darker nature. This is the night shift, after all. This 9 minute feature examines that aspect of the show.
TOD – A Bug’s Life: Real life entomologist Dr. Lee Goth is the show’s insect consultant. He talks about the real life use of insects in criminal science. We have to wonder if they’ll be much more of that aspect when Gil leaves the show.
I guess I don’t handle change very well; at least that’s what people tell me. So, it’s not really surprising that I want to hang on to the CSI that this set represents a little harder than usual. Knowing I’ll likely be asked to review the discs again next year, I haven’t spent any time with the latest season of the show. Part of it is time. Part of it is anxiety over what the show will evolve into by the end of the season next May. The writer’s strike shortened the season by at least a handful of episodes. There were only 17. Except for Warrick there is always the possibility Sara or Gil will return; in fact she does return when Warrick is killed. That’s life in television. Characters are never necessarily gone forever. “Just like roaches. Just when you think they’re gone they pop back up again.”