Well I thought that CSI was one of these shows that had finally emigrated to Blu-ray – it’s glossy, glitzy Las Vegas setting and clinical neon-driven lab interiors surely warranted the step up; the Bruckheimer-produced show must be one of the top ten shows that deserve decent video treatment on the High Definition format. But, alas, after just one season (the last one, series 9) got released – in both the US and UK – on Blu-ray (you can compare the review here) we’ve now dropped back down to SD-DVD level. It’s not to say that I’m not used to this kind of presentation, I’ve been dealing with it for the last decade, but it’s just a shame that they gave us a taste of just how good CSI could look in HD, and then took it away from us.
On Region B UK DVD, the image quality is quite discernibly different from the last season – detail is still very good, and the show maintains its standard as one of the better TV shows on SD-DVD – but there’s just no refinement to the picture. There’s a light layer of noise, where there really shouldn’t be any – it should look flawless. There’s even a little bit of softness in some scenes, and, again, there’s really no excuse for that. The colour scheme is generally presented very well, the glamorous Vegas setting being the culprit for the broad range of colours on offer, and black levels are generally quite good, but not perfect.
All in all, it really is hard to take this step down. For such a pretty, movie-quality show, I couldn’t get over just how course and ill-defined it all was. I’m sure fans will have to put up with this if they want to continue their collection, but it’s just a shame that we don’t have any idea when they’ll start releasing the sets as Blu-ray again, otherwise I would have recommended waiting.
On the aural front things are similarly disappointing – i.e. the track included is far from bad, but it’s also not a scratch on the HD track they did for last season’s Blu-ray equivalent. This is a dialogue-driven show, and the vocals come across clearly and coherently throughout – whether Morpheus’ quietly contemplated words or the shouts of Brass or Willows. Effects are handled reasonably well – gunshots ringing out across the surrounds; breaking glass, the slicing of flesh during both surgery and autopsy, and the grating, painful whine of that bone saw. Sure, there’s little directionality on offer here, but that’s no big deal, there’s generally a nice atmosphere created irrespective of the fact that the track is not quite as precise as you would perhaps like. The score is really quite heavy-handed this time around, and sometimes it works, but sometimes it just doesn’t sit right with the scene – Larry Fishburne’s montage sequences generally getting the most adventurous music, I guess because they want him to seem extra ‘hip’. Bass is slightly off as well, the sub barely picking up any action, which was really disappointing as it might have given the track a slightly more refined feel. Again, disappointing, but not just because this is not what we’re used to after reviewing so many Blu-ray movies, also because this very show has had better treatment on the HD format, and shouldn’t have been so quickly downgraded back to just standard DVD.
The usual plethora of extras accompany the release of the series on the home format – a bunch of Audio Commentaries peppered across the season, provided by a number of crew members and even a few smaller cast members; a few short Featurettes relating to specific aspects of this year’s episodes; and a couple of bonus cross-over episodes – here the other parts of the trilogy that brought in CSI: Miami and CSI: NY.
There are two Audio Commentaries available. The first one is on “Appendicitement” and is provided by George Eads (Nick), Eric Szmanda (Greg), and a couple of the lab rats. It’s the middle entry in the Jekyll serial killer story, which was interspliced with a frivolous ‘road-trip’ side-story that involved all of the Commentator actors here, so unfortunately the focus is more on that side of things rather than the more interesting serial killer plot. But at least they appear to be having fun providing this scene-specific affair. The second Commentary is on “Unshockable” with crew members only – Rascal Flats, Michael Frost Beckner and Kenneth Fink discussing the episode about a rock band and the work they had to do on the technical side of things, as well as noting the continuing story development and the slightly more upbeat plotting.
Frozen in Time looks at the Season Premiere’s opening shot, an elaborate ‘frozen’ image of the lab where plenty of action takes place. This 12 minute Featurette reveals the inspiration for the frozen motion image – a commercial which used that idea to paint a story – and details how they put it together.
Leaving Las Vegas: Langston Heads East spends 23 minutes looking at the Crossover Trilogy, with behind the scenes footage from the respective episodes. It’s quite interesting hearing from all those involved – both cast and crew, and they picked the right episodes to talk about, noting even the very intriguing original dark ending which they were going to go for. There are a few too many clips from the relevant episodes, but it’s still nice to hear from Gary Sinise, and get Fishburne’s input once again (although the praise for him from just about all the crew interviewed gets a bit creepy after a while) and a fair chunk of behind the scenes footage too.
Getting Lost takes a ridiculously brief and unnecessarily separate 3 minute look specifically at the human trafficking episode, Lost Girls, which happens to also be the third episode in the Crossover Trilogy. I’ve no idea why they split this one apart from the above when it is more than just a companion-piece, it’s part of the same damn Featurette. And with over a minute of that dedicated to clips from the Lost Girls episode anyway this tiny extra is an absolute out-of-place waste of time.
Killer Tales: Season 10 of CSI is a 23 minute Behind the Scenes Featurette which focuses on the key elements of this season – recreating the team with Langston in the lead, developing his character, and the main Jekyll serial killer story thread. Larry Fishburne himself pops up for input and it’s a nice, honest and often quite respectful offering, with most of the cast and crew paying heed to the vast chasm after Grissom’s departure.
CSI: The Experience is a strange little feature, introduced by the Creator and hosted by Greg. With input from William Petersen himself as Grissom, you are basically taken through 3 simple murder scenes and given the task of solving the mysteries. This is quite an interesting interactive offering, far better than a simple question and answer game, and much more involving.
Lab Rats: The Saga Continues is another one of those Featurettes dedicated on those irritating lab characters – it’s bad enough that they have a frivolous episode about them every season, but they also have to have a damn 15-minute Featurette dedicated to them too?
As already discussed there are two bonus episodes which round out the Crossover Trilogy that was a part of this season (so the whole trilogy is housed on disc 2, the extra episodes to be found in the special features section). It starts with CSI: Miami – Bone Voyage, then progresses to CSI: NY – Hammer Down and ends in this season of CSI (Vegas). It’s nice to see them include these since, on the early DVD Box Set releases, they didn’t used to bother.
CSI will likely never be the same without William Petersen’s Gil Grissom providing a moral backbone to the proceedings – more than just a team leader, he was the very core of CSI, the one character the show can’t really do without. I initially had high hopes that The Matrix’s Larry Fishburne could somehow find a way to fill Grissom’s shoes, joining the show as the new lead, Dr. Ray Langston, but his showy introduction soon tailed off and his presence was more that of an ‘old newbie’ than anything else. Still, this latest 10th season has gone some way to correct that – seeing a lot more focus on the now-promoted Langston, fleshing out his interesting background and developing his character. He may never come close to fully replacing Grissom, but he’s certainly far better than he was last season. Similarly, CSI may never be the same – may never reach the heights it did in its earlier years – but this season is still very watchable, with some compelling one-off episodes and a gripping season arc about a serial killer who particularly plagues Langston. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.
On Region B UK DVD things feel a little bit, well, out of date. Having seen CSI in High Definition (the last season was released on Blu-ray) it was very disappointing to see the studios effectively downgrade to SD-DVD, as this is the kind of show where pristine visuals are at the forefront. Clearly poorer quality, the video and audio don’t come close to what HD has to offer but for collectors of the show, there’s little choice but to put up with this release. Thankfully there are the usual assortment of decent extras (which are arguably a bit thin on the Audio Commentary front) and those who have bought the first 8 seasons on SD-DVD will not be too shocked by the downgraded format. Still more compelling than many of its competitors, CSI has proven once again that it has life left in its old bones.
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