PictureThe Ninth Season of CSI is only the second CSI release on Blu-ray, and the first one to sport a full HD 1080p video rendition. The presentation is in the series' original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it looks pretty special, particularly for a TV show. It's a recent production, and it undoubtedly has had a lot of money thrown at it, on a per episode basis, so it is only right that it should look fantastic. Detail is excellent, maintaining a high standard throughout, with no signs of softness and no noticeable digital defects or inherent edge enhancement. CSI has always been one of those glossy, over-stylised productions, with such a heavy visual polish that it really cannot fail to look good on High Definition. The colour scheme is so over-the-top, with the labs immersed in clinical blues, and the streets drenched in blazing sunshine during the day, and by the neon Las Vegas Strip lights at night. Las Vegas has probably never looked this good, and probably never will. Blacks suffer minorly from crush, because this is an excessively Tony Scott kind of presentation, but CSI fans have honestly never had it this good. This is certainly amidst the top 10 TV presentations that I have ever seen on any home format.
SoundCSI has always had quite a lot of in-your-face sound effects to carry you on your investigative journey, bullets punching through flesh, channelling through the body (all seen using the wonders of CG) and cracking bones as they voyage on their path of destruction. Every single minute aspect of this is observed acutely on the soundtrack, to give the stylish trademark CSI shots as much aural punch as they have visual panache. With a DTS-HD Master Audio accompaniment, things don't get much better than this when it comes to TV shows on Blu-ray. The track is fed all the right material, and presents the dialogue clearly, crisply and coherently across the fronts and centre channels. The effects are mostly of the 'zoom injury' variety as detailed above, but the natural ambient environmental noises are all observed well, creating a nice atmosphere for the series, whether shooting indoor or outdoor. The score is actually quite good, but the dark overtones that came into play during the latter half of the last season only permeate the first episode of this one, and soon things are back to normal. I'm sure that won't disppoint avid fans that much, however, and the score gets keen treatment across the surrounds. Overall this is a strong contender for the best audio presentation that I have ever come across for a TV show.
We get just two Audio Commentaries, and neither of them have particularly interesting commentators. Rather than have the big guns William Petersen or Lawrence Fishburne talk about their respective exit/entrance to the show, or even have their smaller counterparts Gary Dourden or Lauren Lee Smith pop up, instead we have none of the main cast regulars, and only a couple of supporting/guest stars contributing to the usual crew-biased offering.
Interactive Investigation Mode also only applies to just 2 episodes (over the first and fourth discs) whereupon you get to see Interviews with the Crew: Writers, Directors and so forth; Case files with text trivia facts about script etc. and even dip out into specific Featurettes on Effects and filming individual scenes. It's a nice offering, but you have to be constantly on-guard to press that button and activate the next extras feature option as it pops up.
The Crime Scene Initiation Featurette takes 15 minutes to look at the introduction of the two new cast members/characters. We get interviews with many of the crew and existing cast members, as well as the newbies. William Petersen talks about leaving and being pleased that Fishburne is replacing him, Fishburne talks about how he got involved in the series and the Producers and other long-running cast members talk about the old crew's dynamic, and how they did not want a new boss to come in and take over. They talk about their motivations in portraying Fishburne's character like this, about how he is a genius (although that just never comes across) and thankfully promise that he won't be portrayed as the new guy for much longer. We also get a bit from Lauren Lee Smith, the other newcomer, who talks about her role, although the discussions about her seem a little out of date, as she is no longer in the show (good decision, although I like the actress, just not in this role). Aside from having a few too many clips from the series itself this makes for a nice accompanying Featurette.
Rats in Space is a near-half hour look at this season's geek episode (like the Lone Gunmen episodes in X-Files), A Space Oddity, together with the other 'Lab Rats' episodes strewn across the series. Honestly, this was one of the more entertaining episodes in this particular season, but I think that's more a reflection on the lacklustre season. Personally, I find the 'Lab Rats' episodes particularly grating, but obviously they are like marmite - some love them, and some wonder why they exist. This extended, arguably overlong Featurette (considering the subject-matter) features contributions from all the lab geeks and behind the scenes crew members who were involved. (The corresponding episode, A Space Oddity, also has one of the aforementioned Commentaries)
From Zero to 200 in Nine Seconds takes 18 minutes to look at the 200th episode of CSI, directed by none other than William 'To Live and Die in LA' Friedkin himself. Friedkin has directed CSI episodes before (with William Petersen, who was also in To Live and Die in LA) and they were far superior, but this is just another average episode. Having a bunch of crew members pop up to talk about how amazing, wild, different and movie-like this insignificant episode is comes across as just being trite and self-gratifying. Oddly, hearing from Friedkin himself, and seeing him working him magic, you wonder whether or not he was directing another episode, because he clearly knows what he is doing.
Goodbye Grissom is an 18 minute farewell to CSI's most important character, that thankfully is based largely around Interview footage with the star William Petersen himself. Arguably the most important of extras for long-time CSI fans, there is plenty here of interest, and you can enjoy joining Petersen in reminiscing about his years on the show, his desires to return to the stage and the big party they threw to wish him farewell. Will he return? It does not seem likely, but he will most certainly be missed.
CSI Mode is available on only 1 episode, The Grave Shift, episode 11 on disc 3. It offers a comprehensive pop-up Trivia Track that runs almost the entire length of the episode, adding to the information that is being dispersed in the dialogue, explaining some of the CSI methodology and giving fans plenty of indispensible titbits. It is very good, even differentiating between the 'screen' CSIs and real ones, and you can see why it was only included on one episode - most of the information offered is fairly generic in the world of CSI, and would apply to most episodes.
Rather than be accessible in one segment, you have to trawl through each episode using the episode selection function to find the few, understandably excised scenes. They're not really worth the trouble though.
VerdictSeason 9 of CSI had so much potential to reinvent the long-running but nevertheless flagging procedural crime TV show, what with the shock departure of two of the most important characters (one of them being the excellent William Petersen as the lead Gil Grissom), and the introduction of big name actor Laurence Fishburne to step into his shoes. Unfortunately it was just not meant to be, and the season plays out as a series of depressing missed opportunities, with only a little hint of the original spark that made the show so great in the first place. Fishburne's character is possibly the biggest culprit, but the writing certainly leaves a lot to be desired, and I just wished that they would have made the most of the 'shift change' rather than squander the opportunity in favour of avoiding disruption to the formula. On Blu-ray the show has never looked better, the video and audio are amongst the best that I have ever seen or heard for a TV series released on a home format, and the nice selection of extras makes this a likely must-have purchase for fans. Those who are new to CSI, well I doubt you'll be coming this late into the game, but if you are, then you might want to consider going back to the start - and the heyday of CSI. After nine seasons, it is definitely on its last legs, and with Petersen gone, and Fishburne pretty lacklustre as a replacement, I'd prefer if somebody put it out of my misery. Goodbye Grissom, RIP CSI.
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