The second Audio Commentary is on the annoying episode, Lab Rats, with contributions from Director Brad Tanenbaum, Writer Sarah Goldfinger and supporting Actors Wallace Langham, Jon Wellner, Liz Vassey, Sherri Rappaport and Archie Kao. This is, of course, the filler episode where all of the main characters disappear on cases and the lab staff stay behind to look into the Miniature Killer's exploits. It's like those episodes of X-Files where those annoying three conspiracy mooks steal the limelight and Mulder and Scully are nowhere to be seen. If it weren't for the importance of the ongoing Miniature Killer storyline, this would have been an utterly wasted episode so I was not sure what the purpose of a Commentary was. Thankfully, it is quite a jovial, light-hearted and humbled (self-depreciating) offering, with the cast really taking over and talking about this unusual sit-com-style episode in an engaging way. There's just enough humour, script nods, improvisations and technical stuff to keep everybody reasonably satisfied and it' a far more interesting effort than the other Commentary.
The third and final Commentary comes on the shocking season finale, Living Doll, and is provided by Ken Fink and Naren Shankar. This is slightly more in-depth (from a character and story perspective) than the other two offerings, and on such a crucial episode it comes as a welcome addition.
Smoke and Mirrors: Directing Feature Television is a fifteen minute Featurette with some of the various CSI TV Directors discussing how TV shows have evolved in budget and style over the years, almost to a movie level. Some of them even attribute the cause in this surge in quality to be because of CSI itself - apparently they started the trend. I'm not sure whether I really agree with that - when it started CSI was famous for its montages and detailed lab effects sequences, whereas something like 24 has much more obviously blurred the line between movies and TV - still this is a nice Featurette, looking at the dark style and tone that they were trying to observe over the course of third 7th season and featuring plenty of example snippets from the show itself, thankfully almost always narrated over by the contributors.
Then there's Las Vegas: The Real Crime Solvers. Actor Robert David Hall (the mortician in CSI) hosts this eighteen minute Featurette about the real Las Vegas Crime Lab, with the Captain of the squad taking you around the lab and chatting to Hall about the accuracies, the comparative lab work and so forth. There's quite a lot for forensics fans to pick up on here, not least the fact that the real crime lab looks like it cost the same as the budget for one table in the show's glossy fictional lab! A quality addition that does not have too much fluff or excerpts from the show's episodes to spoil the technical and trivial insight that it offers.
The 25-minute Featurette The Evolution of CSI Season 7 has many of the Producers and other crew members discussing how this is arguably the best season, how things have changed over the years and a great deal has been learned through experience. They talk about the fact that this will never be a soap opera, that this is always more about forensics than about characters' personal lives, despite the fact that this season is probably the most significant in that department. Some of the cast - including, most interestingly William Petersen - pop up to talk about their characters, with discussions about Grissom's sabbatical and contributions from Jorja Fox (Sara) on the revelation of the relationship between Grissom and Sara, which has been planned (and arguably ongoing but hidden) ever since the start of CSI. For fans of the cast, this is probably the best addition, and a reasonably rare opportunity to have some input from Petersen.
Miniature Murders spends just under a quarter of an hour looking at Grissom's new nemesis, the obsessively precise miniature killer, with lots of clips from the show, and discussions on the evolution of this character from real life people who create crime-scene miniatures from the crew members involved. They talk about the season-long arc with the serial killer and how it was the first time that they had invested in such an ongoing storyline for this show - and it was a clever move because it is one of their best seasons. A nice final Featurette to round off a half-season jam-packed with extras.
I've always been a big fan of CSI (and its spin-off Miami), so I was pleased to find that this last season has been one of the best in a show that has been running for seven years now. I don't know how much impact the writers' strike is going to have upon the release of the half-filmed eighth season, but I hope it is not long before we get to see the conclusion to what was started here and see if this great TV show can keep up its impetus. Technically, the DVD release is strong, with decent video and audio as well as a wealth of extras including Commentaries on just the right episodes and Featurettes that are actually worth checking out. Recommended.
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