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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » C.S.I. Crime Scene Investigation - The Complete Fifth Season
C.S.I. Crime Scene Investigation - The Complete Fifth Season
Paramount // Unrated // November 29, 2005
List Price: $89.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted November 22, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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In 10 Words or Less
The team is broken up and Tarantino comes on board

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: The C.S.I. franchise, Gil Grissom, Warrick
Likes: Forensic science, Greg, Quentin Tarantino
Dislikes: Catherine
Hates: The wait between seasons

The Story So Far...
Gil Grissom (William Peterson, Manhunter) leads a team of criminologists working the beat in Las Vegas, where the crimes are a bit more involved than usual stuff that makes the 11 o'clock news. His crew uses the full breadth of forensic science to solve murders and more, while their stories are told with true visual style, excitement and a healthy dose of humor as well. In recent seasons, the action has gone beyond the crime scene, to delve into the characters' lives a bit more.

This is the fifth season of "C.S.I." to be released on DVD. The first two sets were released in March and September of 2003, respectively, while the third and fourth collections followed in March and October of 2004. All caught up, it took over a year to get a fifth set. DVDTalk has reviews of all four sets: Season One | Season Two | Season Three | Season Four

The Show
For the uninitiated, when a show "jumps the shark," essentially it has run out of stories to tell and is running on gimmicks. For some shows, it happens before a single episode airs, for others, after several successful seasons. According to a small group of fans online, Season Five of "C.S.I." had two moments that have indicated the show has leapt, both of which brought about some major moments for the series.

After the series hit its 100th episode, the show took a turn, and a major risk, as a subplot that had been growing for almost a year finally came to fruition. In a perfect case of office politics, day-shift manager Conrad Ecklie was promoted to assistant head of the lab, and in his truly evil way, he picks apart the rival night-shift crew, using their faults as a reason to break up Grissom's squad, in the gut-check episode "Mea Culpa," which sees the team thwarted at every turn and questioned about their abilities as CSIs.

Ecklie's dissembling of the team starts by giving Nick and Warrick to Catherine (Marg Helgenberger) to supervise, only on the swing shift, the last place she wanted to work. Sofia, the day-shift CSI who investigated Grissom on Ecklie's behalf, gets bumped down to Gil's team, as punishment for not finding a way to nail him. With the team split up, the dynamic changed, though not as much as one would think, as the CSIs tended to work cases in smaller two- or three-man groups.

The addition of Sofia to the team gave Grissom a new gal pal to play off of, one who was every bit his equal in the field, and flirtatious as well. Grissom's interests tend to lean toward the challenging, especially when it comes to women, making Sofia a great foil for him, but one that feels underutilized, especially after her debut in "Formalities," which featured her stripping out of a red dress in front of Grissom, in order to process a crime scene. A woman who could make Grissom interested was a nice addition, after the Gil-Sara romance concept fizzled out.

Also added to the crew, full-time now, was Greg, who made the jump from the lab to the field. A popular part of the show in his limited role as a technician, it's tempting to say he's a bit overexposed now, but in reality, it was a very smart move. Greg, as a new CSI on the beat, enabled the show to explore forensics concepts from a new perspective. It's also helped create a "C.S.I." cliche, as each series now has a team member who converted from another area of the police.

Greg's mistakes are a change for the investigators after the crew earned something of an infallible reputation in their work. It became something of a theme, as mistakes made by the team lead to serious repercussions. Greg's move also allowed for a new subplot about the search for a new lab worker, introducing characters like Aisha Tyler's Mia, another solid new cast member.

Unfortunately, breaking up the team interrupted the growth of the personalities on the show, though they came together to work some big cases, including the eminently bizarre "King Baby." Though the break-up didn't work dramatically for the show, it helped set up the emotional season finale, where they had to join together again to save one of their own. But it's that finale that's also been mentioned as a "jumping" point.

A big fan of the series, director Quentin Tarantino joined the crew to direct and help write a two-part blow-out that threatened the life of one of the CSIs and instilled Tarantino's unique style and voice into the series. There's no doubt when watching these two episodes that the man behind Reservoir Dogs was the guiding force, though the CSI style is still quite evident. If anything, it's just amped up a bit.

Now, if Kevin Smith directs a story about Nick and Warrick hanging out in a convenience store, then perhaps the show has jumped, but for now, it's simply about crafting the best show. Blending the gorier aspects of the series and the show's wit and intellect with Tarantino's visuals and ear for dialogue was a perfect match, and the episode took the characters, especially those of Grissom and Nick, to new levels of emotion. The idea of Tarantino being a gimmick for this show was a misplaced notion, as he fit in as well as any of the regulars.

Creating great TV is something the crew did often in the fifth season, playing to the show's strengths, namely its ability to explore the fringes of society. "Ch-ch-changes" focuses on transsexuality, while "Who Shot Sherlock?" is about Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts and "Snakes" introduced the concept of narcocorrido, Mexican ballads that tell stories about criminals. Every time you think you've seen it all, the writers on "C.S.I." surprise you again.

If there's a clunker in this season's episodes, it's "Hollywood Brass," which follows Captain Jim Brass, as he tracks down his daughter, who has become a hooker, after breaking her father's heart several times in the past. Whoever thought a Brass-focused episode was a good idea should have thought twice, because it didn't have the same feel as the usual episodes featuring the full team. It also feels like an attempt at spinning off yet another series, as it introduces some Los Angeles CSIs. No matter the intent, the episode is the weakest of the bunch, but not half-bad in execution. It just doesn't hold up against the others.

The DVDs
Packaged in a case similar to that of "C.S.I.: Miami", the 25 fifth-season episodes of "C.S.I." are spread over seven DVDs. The discs are held in seven trays, wrapped in an acetate cover with a Las Vegas landscape on it, along with episode listings. The case is held in an acetate slipcase, with the series' trademark yellow police-tape enclosure.

The DVDs have animated, anamorphic widescreen main menus, made from footage of the show, with excellent animated transitions based on the series' "close ups." Options include episode selections and language set-up. The episode-selection menu is a text list of titles, each with its production number, while the set-up menu offers a choice of English 5.1 and Spanish 2.0.

The Quality
This show is tremendously visual, utilizing tons of special effects, treatments, filters and camera tricks to create a look that has become synonymous with the series. "C.S.I." is the darkest of the three series, and these anamorphic widecreen DVDs capture that well, retaining its sharpness when appropriate, while remaining free of dirt, damage or any digital artifacts. Colors are bright and clean when needed, though the show is the darkest of the three, and the level of detail is quite good despite the darkness.

The audio on "C.S.I." is some of the best on network television, taking advantage of HD's 5.1 soundtrack to deliver its music-driven atmosphere very well. These DVDs pick up the ball, reproducing the show very well. Bigger cues and sound effects get spread around to the surrounds, while the main action and dialogue is fed to the center speaker. The mix is solid, separating out certain music tracks to create a deeper soundfield that enhances the feel of the episodes.

The Extras
With two additional episodes added to the pile this time, the DVD producers added two more episode-length audio commentaries, bringing the total up to nine for Season Five.

  • "Viva Las Vegas" - director Danny Cannon and writer/producer Carol Mendelsohn
  • "Down the Drain" - director Ken Fink and writer Naren Shankar
  • "Formalities" - writers Dustin Lee Abraham and Shankar
  • "Who Shot Sherlock?" - technical advisor/writer Rich Catalani, Fink and writer David Rambo
  • "Snakes" - director Richard J. Lewis, Abraham and actor George Eads
  • "Spark of Life" - Fink and writer Allen MacDonald
  • "4 X 4" - director Terrence O'Hara, Rambo, Abraham and Shankar
  • "Committed" - Lewis and actress Jorja Fox
  • "Weeping Willows - actress Marg Helgenberger and Fink
The commentaries are, like those on the previous season's DVDs, are very informative in regards to the show's production, revealing material that has been cut from the show and talking about what went into making the episode. New to this franchise's DVD releases are the three commentaries featuring members of the cast. Each sits in on an episode that focuses on their character, providing more insight about the show. Eads provides the most enthusiastic track, while Fox and Helgenberger both hold their own behind the microphone. Hopefully this is just the start of a trend, and we get to hear Peterson, Caruso and Sinise soon.

In what has become a DVD tradition for this franchise, "'C.S.I': Season Five - A Post Mortem" spends just over 19 minutes looking back at the season, through interviews with the cast and crew. Getting to hear the various actors, writers and directors' thoughts on the show makes what could have been a superficial summary into an interesting extra.

Though the retrospective does a good job of covering the season's major moments, the 17-minute "'C.S.I.': Tarantino Style'" fills in the blanks on the year's biggest episode. Tarantino, some of the crew and the cast talk about the experience, including how the director got involved with the show and what the shoot was like. The featurette is loaded with on-set footage of the production and shows Tarantino and Eads getting along very well. If they weren't going to do a commentary, at least they gave us this.

The final two featurettes, "The Research of 'C.S.I.': Maintaining the Accuracy" and "'C.S.I': Forensic Procedures On the Scene vs. On the Screen," focus on the series' attempts to keep a sense of realism in the show. "Research" is an 11-minute look at the amount of study and assistance that goes into the show's technical dialogue and procedures, while the 8-part, 16-minute "On the Screen" features a pair of forensics experts, who explain how specific forensics practices compare to those in real life.

The Bottom Line
Office politics dominate the storylines in Season Five, and the changes they affect on Grissom's team reveal more about the characters and their continuing sub-stories. But for those who tune into the show for the cases rather than the personalities, the collection has some excellent ones, including the fantastic two-part season finale directed by Tarantino and several others. Competing with two other "C.S.I." series for the first time, the elder statesman held its own, and took a step ahead.

This DVD collection is well produced, with excellent audio and video, as well as a good assortment of extras, including the first commentaries to involve the franchise's cast. The only disappointment is the lack of a commentary on the Tarantino episodes, though the dedicated featurette is a nice touch. Fans of the series will be very happy to own this set, as it marks a continued growth in the show's personal stories, and includes some great episodes to boot.

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.

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