Saturday, August 29, 2009
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - The Ninth Season (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Video, $98.18)
Follow the evidence... again and again. Television's number-one drama continues to deliver as LVPD's brilliant forensics team encounters their greatest challenges yet in the stunning ninth season of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Watch and learn as the team wrestles with death, destiny and inner demons. This must-own collection includes the historic departure of Gil Grissom (William Petersen) and the much-anticipated arrival of Dr. Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne).
This 6-disc set contains all 24 episodes from the ninth (2008-09) season of the long-running crime drama. The episodes are presented in Anamorphic Widescreen enchanced for 16:9 tvs with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio. It has a total running time of approximately 17 hours, 22 minutes. The attractive packaging has profile photos of Laurence Fishburne, Marg Helgenberger and William Petersen on the front cover with the Las Vegas skyline in the background. There is an embossed CSI: Crime Scene Investigation logo at the top of the box. Nine cast members are featured on the back of the box with the largest photos of William Petersen and Laurence Fishburne. A short synopsis of the set, a listing of the special features and the DVD specs are given. The inside case is in a book format that you can flip through to get to the discs. There is a montage of various photos of the cast on the front and back covers. A content locator lists the episodes by disc and the special features on the inside cover. Each disc lists the episodes and has the CSI logo and a green background. These sets have retained consistent packaging, while CSI: Miami and CSI: NY have switched to slimcases. They also still include the Crime Scene: Do Not Cross tape around the packaging. That is always a nice touch.
The menus on these sets have always been very slick looking and easy to navigate. There is a series of 5 minutes of previews for some other CBS DVD releases that you can play or skip at the beginning. The main menu opens with a view from a bus on the street. This leads to a montage of video clips that run a little over a minute with some of the wonderful instrumental music by composer John M. Keane in the background. Options are avaiable for Episode Selection, Set Up and the Special Features (on select discs). On the Set Up menu, you can choose either Dolby Digital 5.1 English Surround or Español. Closed captioning is available for all of the episodes but some of the special features may not be closed captioned. As you would expect from such a recent show, the video and audio quality is outstanding. The show looks stunning and even better on Blu-ray. They do a lot of nighttime shooting and make the show look dark and like a theatrical film. There is no disclaimer on the back of the box about any of the episodes possibly being edited. Episodes are presented in their original broadcast order and numbered by the production number, which was the same order for this season. Running times are between 42-44 minutes in length.
A decent number of special features are spread out over the 6 discs. Once again, there are only 2 audio commentaries on this set like last season. They have really cut back on the number of them from previous seasons for all of the CSI franchise shows. There are 4 features that total approximately 78 minutes. Deleted scenes are included for 6 episodes and run approximately 9 minutes. A pop-up style text information track is available on one episode. Here is the breakdown by disc:
Episode 902 "The Happy Place" - Deleted Scene (2:00) - A scene with Wendy Simms and Detective Williams questioning the pit boss, Randy Hopper.
Crime Scene Iniation (14:43) - This featurette includes interviews with William Petersen, Executive Producer Naren Shankar, Executive Producer Carol Mendelsohn, Eric Szmanda, Marg Helgenberger, Laurence Fishburne, George Eads, Robert David Hall, Wallace Langham, Lauren Lee Smith and Paul Guilfoyle. This details the two new cast members that were brought in for this season. They talk about how Laurence Fishburne was cast, about the character he was playing and how they wanted him to be different than Grissom. Then they talk about how Lauren Lee Smith was cast, her character and her relationships with the other characters.
Episode 909 "19 Down..." - Deleted Scenes (1:30) - 3 short scenes: 1) Greg and Conrad talk. 2) Hodges and Simms talk. 3) Greg and David Phillips examine the plastic bag contents with an x-ray machine.
Episode 911 "The Grave Shift" - View the episode in CSI Mode (Comprehensive Scientific Information Mode) - This has some pop-up style information boxes that give information on forensic science. It would be interesting to have these and general trivia tracks on more episodes.
Episode 914 "Miscarriage of Justice" - Deleted Scene (:42) - A scene with Catherine in the court room with the lawyers and judge.
Episode 916 - "Turn, Turn, Turn" - Audio Commentary by Actor George Eads, Actress Taylor Swift and Writer Tom Mularz - Taylor Swift makes her primetime television acting debut. Over 20.8 million viewers watched.
Episode 920 "A Space Oddity" - Deleted Scene (3:15) - Simms and Hodges talk at the convention and the murdered victim is discovered.
Episode 920 "A Space Oddity" - Audio Commentary by Executive Producer & Writer Naren Shankar, Actor Wally (Wallace) Langham, Actress Liz Vassey, Writer Bradley Thompson, Writer David Weddle, Actor John Wellner, Actor Archie Kao and Actress Sheeri Rappoport. The annual lab rats episode is always a fun time and the commentary is lively and entertaining.
Episode 920 "A Space Oddity" - Rats in Space (27:18) - This featurette incldues interviews with Naren Shankar, Jon Wellner, Walalce Langham, Sheeri Rappaport, Liz Vassey, Supervising Producers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle, Archie Kao, Director Michael Nankin, Set Decorator Erin Smith, Lead Buyer Adam Braid, Property Master Michael Lindsay, Special Effects Make-Up Matthew Mungle, Department Head Make-Up Melanie Levitt and Costume Designer Eileen Barker. This details the annual lab rats episode, which also has an audio commentary available. This episode dealt with a real murder at a science fiction convention. They talk about the challenge in writing the episode, how this was an ambitious and complicated episode with a lot of production value, the sci-fi convention set and other sets they created, the props, the alien heads and make-up and how they made costumes for 60 people.
From Zero to 200 in Nine Seasons (18:54) - This featurette includes interviews with Executive Producer Carol Mendelsohn, Executive Producer Naren Shankar, Director William Friedkin, Producer Dustin Abraham, Laurence Fishburne, George Eads and Robert David Hall. This extra celebrates and details the 200th episode "Mascara". It was directed by William Friedkin and dealt with the Lucha libre and Mexican wrestling. They talk about how they cast real wrestlers, the location shooting and sets and working with William Friedkin. There is also some footage shown from the 200th episode press/cast party where Carol Mendelsohn, Anthony E. Zuiker and Jerry Bruckheimer speak.
Episode 921 "If I Had A Hammer" - Deleted Scene (1:25) - A scene with Conrad and Catherine.
Episode 922 "The Gone Dead Train" - Deleted Scene (:47) - A scene with Ray and Nick.
Good-bye Grissom (17:37) - This featurette includes interviews with Executive Producer Carol Mendelsohn, Executive Producer Naran Shanka, William Petersen, Jorja Fox, George Eads, Marg Helgenberger, Paul Guilfoyle, Eric Szmanda, Wallace Langham and Robert David Hall. They talk about how it was set up that William Petersen was going to leave after 10 episodes and his reasons for wanting to do other things that weren't possible while doing a weekly series. They talk about Grissom's and Sarah's relationship and how the other characters as students no longer needed a teacher. Then they show how each character got to say goodbye to Grissom and some footage from Petersen's farewell parties are shown.
Final Comments: It was another sad and stunning season of CSI. William Petersen's Gil Grissom was always my favorite character, so seeing him leave the show was emotional. The show has lost 3 major cast members over the last few seasons. It has some lost a lot of the magic of the earlier seasons with so many likable characters departing. I think Laurence Fishburne is a great actor, but the character he was playing was just too inexperienced as a criminalist. I know they wanted him to be a completely different character than Grissom, but I think making him a complete rookie was a mistake. I'm sure many die-hard fans didn't want to see some of the same newbie forensic gathering techniques that they saw in the first season. Other cast members like Marg Helgenberger and George Eads seemed to have less to do than in earlier seasons. Lauren Lee Smith's Riley character brought some more youth and spunk to the show, but she was really never given much to do and won't be back for the tenth season. The show is still doing well in the ratings and has some good seasons left, but I hope they can go back to having it being more of an ensemble show with everybody as a true team and involved in each episode. I look forward to the tenth season premiere on September 24. Jorja Fox will be returning as Sara Sidle for 5 episodes.
-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller
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