In 10 Words or Less
Tracing the evidence to the Big Apple
Loves: The C.S.I. Franchise, Gary Sinise
Likes: New York City, Eddie Cahill
Dislikes: Dat friggin' accent
Not content with dominating two nights of the week with crime scene investigations, CBS brought out a third edition of "CSI", putting it smack-dab in one of the world's biggest cities: New York. Of course, the experts wondered if this was too much of a good thing. After all, the creative staff would be mostly the same one that once created just the original Las Vegas version, and would now be responsible for three teams in three cities. The risk of spreading the "CSI" brand too thin was real and a concern, enough of one that even original "CSI" star William Peterson voiced his concerns.
The risk certainly has played it out in some viewers' eyes. "CSI:NY" doesn't fit the mold of the first two series. First off, the characters aren't just scientists. They are full-fledged cops, carrying guns and badges along with their test tubes and goggles. Secondly, it would be hard to find a person who doesn't have at least some knowledge of New York City, whereas the other two series have something of a foreign, almost exotic feel to them. "CSI:NY" is street-level and...well...New York. It's that feel that only the Big Apple has, and the show captures it well. But without the flash, the series can seem a bit staid in comparison to Grissom and Caine's crews.
If the series' glamour doesn't stand up to that of its brethren, the acting likely exceeds it, starting with Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump) as Detective Mac Taylor. Sinise's character, who was widowed thanks to 9/11, has the no-nonsense personality that the show needed in the lead. While Grissom's sense of humor and humanity are proper for the lighter mood of the Las Vegas team, New York is grittier and required a CSI who could go nose-to-nose with the city's underbelly. Sinise can do that without becoming the overly-serious cartoon that David Caruso's "CSI Miami" character frequently becomes.
Mac's second-in-command, the stereotypically-named Stella Bonasera, is played capably by the equally ethnic Melina Kanakaredes ("Providence"). The female characters on "CSI" often seem to be in place in order to explore more emotional issues and to provide a sympathetic shoulder for victims. Stella certainly does that, but she's got a bit of a hard edge to her as well, preventing her from allowing emotion to get the better of her, the way the ladies in Las Vegas do. The same can't be said for Eddie Cahill's character, Detective Don Flack, the CSI crew's liaison with the NYPD proper. Cahill really stood out playing U.S. Olympian Jim Craig in Miracle, and has carried that intensity to New York, where he gives his part the proper gravity of a New York City cop.
The rest of the main cast, including resident hottie Vanessa Ferlito, hotheaded paesan Carmine Giovinazzo and stand-out medical examiner Hill Harper, are an excellent support for the main group, each of whom carves out a spot for their role quickly in the series thanks to their unique character development. There's some attempt in the first season to look at the lives behind the work, but it's limited mainly to some throwaway lines that aren't really followed up on. The original "CSI" took nearly four years before focusing on the characters' private lives, so there's still time.
As expected, the unique locations in the metropolitan area are key to several episodes, including Central Park, Coney Island and the United Nations complex. Among the best episodes in the first season are "On the Job," which sees Giovinazzo's Danny caught as a suspect in a case, "Rain," a story centered around a Chinatown bank robbery, "What You See is What You See," the Mac-focused season finale, and "Tanglewood," a battle with a new generation of mobsters. "Tanglewood" is part of a huge theme for the show, as the CSIs try to take on the corruption that seems to be a part of every organization in New York, whether it's the cops, dock workers or clothing stores.
Also included in this set is the "CSI Miami" episode "MIA/NYC – NonStop," which introduced the "CSI:NY" characters. This was an excellent pilot for the series, and may be a better story than anything from the first season, with the resources of both the Miami and New York teams available.
Unlike recent "CSI" season sets, this one doesn't come in a wraparound acetate cover, but instead is packed in a book-style case with seven trays, that's housed in a holofoil-covered and embossed slipcase. The package has some great art, especially on the book, but it's a tight fit that's not easy to put back.
The discs have stylish animated, anamorphic widescreen menus with options to select episodes and set up languages on the first six discs, each of which holds four episodes. The episodes are ordered by airdate, not production number. The seventh disc includes the special features. Language options include English and Spanish, while there are no subtitles. Closed captioning is included.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen, the way it is seen on HD broadcasts, these episodes of "CSI:NY" look great, with excellent color and detail. The style of "CSI:NY" is loaded with special processes and effects, and these DVDs present them beautifully, as everything looks extremely sharp and without a trace of dirt, damage or distortion. This is about as good as it gets.
The audio, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, sounds great as well. The series uses some of the best original and source music in the franchise and a large amount of special audio effects to enhance the crime close-ups. The mix isn't feature-film dynamic, as there wasn't any directionality or panning, but it does a nice job of creating an engaging experience with plenty of atmospheric sound.
Seven audio commentaries make up the bulk of the extras. The participants are:
• Creator/writer Ann Donahue on "MIA/NYC Non-Stop"
• Creator/writer Anthony E. Zuiker on "Blink"
• Writer Pam Veasey on "Creatures of the Night"
• Writer Timothy J. Lea on "Outside Man"
• Zuiker on "Officer Blue"
• Writers Lea and Zachary Reiter on "Recycling"
• Zuiker on "Tanglewood"
For some odd reason, everyone involved is practically whispering during their commentary, with the exception of Lea and Reiter. For the most part, the tracks focus on how the episodes were created, with a lot of information about the techniques and ideas that go into the show. Anyone interested in going behind-the-scenes with the creators should enjoy the commentators, which provide almost 5 hours of extras.
The seventh disc holds five featurettes, which look behind the scenes of "CSI:NY". The featurettes are all full-frame and closed captioned. "The Cast Examines the Characters" (14:39) includes plenty of interview footage of the cast and creators, and looks at the casting of the series and the roles themselves. It's a very good look into the meat of the series.
The six-minute "The Science Behind the Scenes" covers some of the concepts used by the CSI team in the show, and talks about what consultant Bill Haynes brings to the show, while "'CSI:NY' - Set Tour" joins production designer Carey Meyer for...a set tour, which is nine minutes long. The New York sets are quite intriguing and finding out about it all reveals some story background and technical info about the production.
At almost nine minutes, "The World's Largest Crime Scene" is a great complementary piece to the commentaries, as the creators and some of the cast discuss how New York was chosen as the new location and how the show was put together. It's followed by the 9 1/2-minute "The Zoo Year," about the many animals used during the show's first season. It's certainly not a standard angle to take for a featurette, which means someone was certainly paying attention when putting together these bonus features.
The Bottom Line
"CSI:NY" is a different animal from its predecessors, due in large part to the setting and also a change in the way the show is put together. The series is more purposeful in its pacing, gorier in its depiction of crime, and grittier overall, like the city itself. Because of these changes, it feels closer in tone to the multitude of crime series out there, instead of a clever mystery. But it also features the best actor yet to grace the CSI franchise in Sinise. "CSI:NY" is still better than most of what's on TV, just not as fresh as Las Vegas and Miami.
The DVDs look and sound great, and the usual set of interesting extras round out the set. Fans of the CSI franchise, and there are plenty of them, will enjoy watching these episodes in optimal quality.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.