CSI: Season 12 (DVD)

Like most people, I have a few favorite shows that I have to catch every week. Unlike most people I have waaayyy too many of these favorite shows. So when I hear about a new show that I ‘just have to watch’, I’m generally very skeptical as I only have so many hours in the day to get in some quality viewing. For a long time I shied away from most ‘cop shows’, because the few I had tried to get into in the 90’s left me kind of cold. They were all the same, with semi-interesting characters, dull plots, car chases and shoot-outs.

I had the same reaction a about a dozen years ago when I had several friends tell me to watch “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” I was way too busy and just couldn’t find the time to give it a chance. Thanks to Paramount Home Entertainment, I’ve learned I really need to listen to my friends a little more often. A few short years ago, they released the entire 1st season on DVD which gave me the opportunity to sit down and ‘give her a spin.’

What I expected to be another run of the mill cop show, turned out to be one of the best and most original TV dramas I had seen in recent years.  There of course, have been many copycats since.

Originally I was going to just watch a few episodes and get a cross section idea of the scope of the show so I could get an overall opinion to share in my review. Instead, I was completely hooked and ended up watching all 23 over the course of a few days. Each time my wife and I finished an episode we looked over at one another and said… “One more?” Sleep and I had officially parted ways. Which is repeated every time a new season hits my doorstep.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” was and is s original in that it avoids nearly all the conventional action sequences that most police dramas need to survive. It’s a show that really makes you think, as each episode is a puzzle waiting to be solved. Some episodes have more than one plot, while others would pull all the members of the CSI team together to solve one big crime. The pieces of the puzzle are presented in flashback version of the crimes, based on suppositions or lies. But more interesting is the way the physical evidence is shown. Utilizing creative cinematography, the camera often zooms in close to give us, at times, a microscopic perspective of the smallest items; hairs, blood drops, etc… Other times we are given a ‘bullet’s eye’ view of the damage that can be done to the human body.

As a show simply cannot survive on cool cinematography alone, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” also consistently delivers stories that are really well-plotted. Each episode is intricately woven, and though it is fast paced it never seems rushed. The show’s writers are careful in making sure no fact of the case is missed in case you want to play detective right along with the CSI team. In the 1st season none of the stories seemed too far-fetched and were unfortunately all too realistic at times. I say unfortunately, because where some shows glorify the violence they present; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” offers an unflinching view of how horrible, sadistic and sickening acts of violence can be. And it also goes beyond the physicality of the acts to show the tragic effect it has on the victim’s family.

Furthering my take on the writing is the simple fact that the CSI team doesn’t always win; this in itself brings an even more realistic feeling to the show. When they win, it’s exhilarating; when they lose it can be devastating. We also have five main characters, and though one or two are the obvious leads, over the course of the series, and sometimes within a single episode, all of them have the opportunity to come to the forefront.

Speaking of the characters, the cast is by far what really makes the show tick. Originally heading them up was William Peterson as Gil Grissom, the leader of the Las Vegas CSI Unit. I first remember seeing Peterson in “To Live and Die in L.A.” and he had one of those commanding personalities that made you sit and watch. Over the years I’ve only seen him in a few other films, and for some reason as good an actor as I thought he was, he never seemed to cross over to ‘star’ status. This show finally put him on the map, and deservedly so. Grissom was easily one of the most likable characters on Network TV. His easy demeanor and quick wit allowed him to easily bridge the gaps between being a boss, father figure and friend, to the members of his team.

Marg Helgenberger has always been a welcome addition to the cast of any movie or show. As Catherine Williams, she is the maternal member of the team. On one side of the coin she is tough as nails when it comes to the criminals; on the other side she is empathetic to the victims. Gary Dourdan as Warrick Brown, is in constant competition with George Eads’ Nick Stokes, and the interplay between the two is priceless. Jorja Fox as Sara Sidle struggles daily with just how to deal with all the death, and will hopefully learn to move on. This has always been a group of highly watchable and believable actors and characters, each with their own flaws and inner demons. How they come together as a team, in and on the show make for an entertaining hour each and every time out of the gate.

Keep in mind this was how I felt after watching the first season. When the 2nd season showed up, I was curious to see if the series could keep up the momentum. I’m happy to say there was no disappointment, and my wife and I ended up with yet another marathon run to get through all the episodes. The same thing happened with the 3rd season release.

In the 3rd, 4th, and 5th seasons, the stories continued to get more outlandish, which might have caused some viewers to feel like they had to suspend their belief. However, as much as I keep an eye on the news and all the abominable things that people do to one another, all of those stories were well within the realm of possibility. If anything, it may only be a little hard to believe that they could all happen within the confines of Las Vegas.

Of course, this is why the popularity of the show caused the producers to create whole new teams to fight crime in the show’s sister series, “CSI: Miami” (which just finished its 10th and final season) and “CSI: New York.”  I was not a huge fan of “Miami”, but really enjoy “New York.”

In the meantime, no matter what happens, we always have the original to fall back on. And now that the 12th season is being released on DVD, my wife and I had to set time up for yet another marathon watch. I should mention that a lot of changes happened prior to this season, the death of Warrick and the fact that William Peterson was finally ready to step down as Grissom. In the 9th season, the series introduced a new character. Dr. Ray Langston played by the uber-talented Laurence Fishburne. When I first heard he was stepping in, I was concerned they would throw him in as the new leader of the team, but that wasn’t the case. The producers wisely set him up as a new member, while placing Catherine into the role of the team lead.

But it appears the changes are far from over. Season 12 brings the addition of Ted Danson as D.B. Russell.  And while I enjoyed Fishburne’s sometimes dour approach, replacing him with Danson has been like a breath of fresh air to a series that, while still good, was feeling a bit stale.  Danson brings a sense of fun to his role, very much the oddball but great to watch. This also turned out to be Helgenberger’s final season as well, as she was given a fitting send-off halfway thru the season. Replacing her is the eternally effervescent Elisabeth Shue as Julie Finlay. Shue is a welcome member to any project and I felt she fit in nicely. Additionally, Elisabeth Harnois joined the cast as Morgan Brody after having guest starred in season 11 as a CSI from Los Angeles.  All in all, this is a huge shake up for the show, and I believe if the characters continue to gel as they have so far, “CSI” may well last a few more seasons.

In Season 12, “CSI” seemed to take a step back from the season long arcs and instead focused more on ‘one offs’.  It is a pretty decent season, filled with all the usual ‘odd’ murders. Certainly it isn’t its strongest season, but I again consider the fact that we have so many fresh faces that it will take at least until the middle of next season to pull it together into a more cohesive unit.

This new DVD set includes a good number of special features, which is always the case for CSI sets.  There are two audio commentaries available (listed below), both on the episodes dealing with Helgenberger’s character leaving the series. They are pretty decent commentaries. Additionally there are the requisite deleted scenes and a god handful of special features.

“A Crime a Dozen” offers an overlook of season 12, while “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” offers some of the new cast an opportunity to talk about what it was like joining the series.  “A Farewell to Marg” is pretty obvious, “Putting on a Freak Show” looks at the episode “Freaks and Geeks”, “A Family Affair” focuses on a death that hits close to home for Dr. Al Robbins (Robert David Hall), and finally “Death Trucks and Rock N Roll” gives a bit of a look filming at an off road truck race.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” is still a great show. So far we have 12 seasons available for the DVD market, and each set is worth its weight in gold.

Episodes:

Seconds

Tell-Tale Hearts September

Bittersweet

Maid Man

CSI Down

Freaks & Geeks

Brain Doe

Crime After Crime

Zippered

Genetic Disorder

Ms. Willows Regrets  (commentary by Marg Helgenberger, Louis Milito, Christopher Barbour, Wallace Langham, Elizabeth Harnois, David Berman, and Jon Wellner)

Willows in the Wind (commentary by Marg Helgenberger, Alec Smight, Christopher Barbour, Wallace Langham and Elizabeth Harnois)

Tressed to Kill

Seeing Red

Stealing Home

CSI Unplugged

Trends with Benefits

Malice in Wonderland

Split Decisions

Altered Stakes

Dune and Gloom

Homecoming

 

Starring: Ted Danson, Marg Helgenberger, Elisabeth Shue, Elisabeth Harnois, George Eads, and Paul Guilfoyle

Extras: A Crime a Dozen; Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas; A Farewell to Marg; Putting on a Freak Show; A Family Affair; Death, Trucks and Rock N Roll; Deleted Scenes; Audio Commentaries

Specifications: Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound

Studio: Paramount

Release Date: 9/25/2012

MPAA Rating: NR

http://www.paramount.com/homeentertainment

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