“Everything old is new again.”
If the CSI franchise were a sports team, we would say that season 12 was a rebuilding year. It’s the most radical change since the show began. Certainly loosing Grissom was a big change, but he was just one guy. In the 12th season we say goodbye to two of our characters and welcome in three. It’s going to take some getting used to, to be sure. Overall, it’s actually a good thing for the series and the franchise. I don’t think it’s been this good for a number of years. It’s a family again. That’s no dig on anyone who has left. It’s just that the series has seemed in turmoil since the departure of Grissom. The show has lacked direction, and no one appeared to have the confidence that seems to have returned to the series in its 12th year. For the first time I’m not looking for this “tired” show to finally run its course. It has new legs, and I think we just might be in it for the long haul.
For the two or three people on the planet that don’t know, the idea is actually quite a simple one. The CSI 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 wife, still on the team, is feisty Sarah Sidle (Fox). 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 Hodges (Langham), who looked up to Grissom and has had to step up his game in the lab since his mentor left. He’s the guy that takes some getting used to and not the most respected in the lab. The team often works with Lt. Brass (Guilfoyle) and medical examiner Robbins (Hall). Together they follow the evidence wherever it might take them.
The first loss is noticeable immediately. After just a short run Laurence Fishburne has left the show. While I love the actor, I don’t think his character ever really settled in the way he or anyone else were hoping or expecting. His replacement is Ted Danson’s DB Russell. This is the best new character to enter the franchise in a very long time. Unlike previous CSI folks, he has a wife and kids. We see him interact with a family. He’s a bit of an odd ball, much as Grissom was. Instead of bugs, he grows mushrooms in his office. He gets down and dirty, often lying with a victim to get their perspective. He’s a new kind of investigator, and he rubs Brass the wrong way for a while. He has an almost counter-culture mellow feel that is a blast of fresh air for the show.
The second loss happens after a very dramatic three-part story where a killer has targeted Catherine. She’s been running on fumes for a couple of years now. It’s been no secret that actress Marg Helgenberger has wanted to leave the show for nearly three years. She’s been phoning it in while waiting for her end to come. It finally does, as Catherine displays the same burnout as the actress. She leaves the team to go work for the FBI. It’s good riddance. What was once a very dynamic character has been a drain on the show’s energy for two years.
There are two other new characters. Morgan (Harnois) was introduced last season as Ecklie’s estranged daughter. She’s followed in Dad’s footsteps and comes looking for a job with the team. She ends up falling for Hodges, whose own mother has fallen for Ecklie. How’s that for a double date? Jaclyn Smith stars as Hodge’s mom. Now we know why a grown man still lives with his mother. The next new character has history with Russell. He fired her at his last job in Seattle. She can be a pain in the behind and is a female Quincy-type character. Elisabeth Shue joins the cast as Julie Finlay. She’s Catherine’s replacement.
It’s a new day on the set of CSI, and season 12 is a welcome turning point.
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.
Deleted Scenes and Commentaries
Death, Trucks and Rock N’ Roll: (8:34) One of the episodes deals with the desert off-road truck races that have become a kind of subculture in Vegas. This piece gives us a look behind the scenes of these screamin’ machines.
A Crime A Dozen – Season 12 On CSI: (23:29) This is the season summary.
Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas: (12:51) This is an introduction to the new actors/characters of the season.
A Farewell To Marg: (9:33) A goodbye to the actor/character.
Putting On A Freak Show: (8:47) An episode takes us to the creepy world of the carnival sideshow freaks. This piece takes us into the world of making that episode.
A Family Affair: (6:54) Another episode goes into the private life of Robbins. His wife finds a dead guy in her bed, and Robbins has to deal with the implications. The piece looks at the real-life disability of the actor and character. It’s a touching piece.
It’s a new day for the CSI franchise. The weakest link has been jettisoned (Miami), and the flagship has undergone some much-needed refits. You could almost start with this set. If there was ever a time to get into the CSI world, this collection affords your best opportunity in years. It means a brand new and fresh start. I can’t wait. “On your mark. Get set. Go!”