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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » C.S.I. New York - The Complete Second Season
C.S.I. New York - The Complete Second Season
Paramount // Unrated // October 17, 2006
List Price: $64.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted October 11, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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In 10 Words or Less
Back on the New York City streets

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: The CSI franchise, Gary Sinise
Likes: Danny Messer, "CSI:NY"
Dislikes: New York City
Hates: Dirty Water Hot Dogs

The Show
The CSI franchise flirted with overexposure with the introduction of a third version of the forensics drama, but managed to maintain its momentum, as "CSI:NY" found a following and a spot among the ratings leaders. That made the show's next move even riskier, as the executives decided to change the show's mood and look to make it lighter and more colorful. They could have killed the show's biggest strength (the gritty atmosphere), but instead the alterations enhanced the crew's down and dirty work with increased contrast.

The change in mood wasn't the only difference in the series in the second season. Along with moving Hill Harper's excellent medical examiner Sheldon Hawkes from the morgue to the streets as a newly-minted CSI, they swapped sexy Aiden (Vanessa Ferlito) for corn-fed cutie Lindsay (Anna Belknap), who brought a nice counterpoint to the cynical city dwellers, and provides those unfamiliar with the Big Apple with a character to relate with. The transition between the two women was handled smoothly and realistically, without any forced introduction, and set up one of the season's best episodes when Aiden's path crossed with the CSIs once again.

It should also be noted that the cartoonish New York stereotype that was CSI Danny Messer (played by the highly appropriately named Carmine Giovinazzo) grew a bit in the second season, and though he maintains one of the harshest city accents to ever grace TV, he has become more real, and has found the requisite in-office sparks with Lindsay on his way to becoming a key part of the show.

With the hard work of establishing the crew done after the first season, the second run focused on delivering the goods in terms of some city-focused mysteries, excellent acting and good use of the settings NYC provided. When a series is set in a place with such iconic locations, they have to take advantage of it, so you get investigations at Strawberry Fields, the Empire State Building and the Museum of Natural History.

Of course, you can't blow all your great locations in two seasons (might be fun for the group to hit the Bronx and visit the Bombers at some point...), so some stories are a bit less grandiose, with strip-club shenanigans and panic-room scenarios among the plotlines. But even when they stray from the tourist traps, they find unique settings, like the roller derby in "Jamalot" or "All-Access," where Kid Rock becomes a murder suspect and performs a song (sadly without any Pam goodness.) Most of the cases have some nod to urban life, be it art galleries, advertising posters or high society. It's the easiest way to fool people and keep that city feel, even if the episode's not entirely New York-centric.

There are a number of memorable episodes here, including "Manhattan Manhunt," the second-half of a crossover with CSI: Miami. It may just be his "NYPD Blue" experience coming through, but David Caruso works very well with the NY group. It would interesting to see the lead CSIs shifted around if/when William Petersen leaves Las Vegas, as Caine and Melina Kanakaredas' Stella Bonasera have excellent chemistry, moreso than she does with Gary Sinese's detective. "Manhunt," thanks to some useful flashbacks, works as a standalone episode, but it wouldn't hurt to check out the first part from Miami (which is available soon on DVD.)

Aided by the series' excellent use of music, there are several episodes that do a number emotionally on the audience, especially as the season comes to a close. The penultimate episode, "Heroes," ties into Mac's military past, but that's just the start of things, as a storyline started earlier in the year returns in a way that affects all the CSIs and says goodbye to one of the cast in a wonderfully fitting way.

The finale again explores Mac's Marine background, by putting him at the center of a terrorist's New York bombing campaign. Caught in a blast that critically injures Detective Flack, Mac is trapped in the rubble, bring back memories of his active-duty days. It's a tense episode, and considering that no one is safe in the world of CSI, it packs some major drama, putting a great cap on an excellent season.

The DVDs
This time, the CSI:NY shows come on six discs, instead of seven, with the extras spread throughout the DVDs, instead of saved for a bonus platter. The packaging that made the first season unique in the franchise returns for the second set, with some slight improvements. The book format now has just four, thicker, sturdier trays, two of which are double-sided. The book, with its well-designed art, is in an embossed, holofoil slipcase that's equally attractive.

The discs feature the same style of animated anamorphic widescreen menus as last season, which offer a choice to select episodes, adjust languages and, when applicable, check out bonus content. Audio choices include Dolby Digital 5.1 English and 2.0 Spanish. There are no subtitles, but closed captioning is included.

The Quality
The anamorphic widescreen transfers are rock solid, looking nearly as good as they do when broadcast in high definition. Colors are vivid and reproduced without smearing, the level of detail is very high, and the overall image is very sharp and clean. There's not a speck of dirt or damage to be found and the franchise's trademark special effect look great as well.

The audio presentation, delivered in a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, is very strong, using the surround speakers to emphasizing the series' excellent soundtrack, as well as some atmoshperic effects. The mix isn't the most dynamic sound you'll hear from your receiver, but the dialogue is crystal clear and nothing is muddy or distorted.

The Extras
Five audio commentaries are included, spread throughout the first three discs. There's a range in terms of the energy and quality of the participants, but none of the tracks stood out as boring or disappointing. As is usually the case, series creator Anthony Zuiker provides the best commentary, though the tandem of executive producer Peter Lenkov and director James Whitmore Jr. are fun to listen to. These are mainly for fans of the series, who want to know the making-of details.

The breakdown: "Summer in the City": director David Von Ancken & editor Bill Zabala
"Grand Murder at Central Station": director Scott Lautanen & writer Zachary Reiter
"Manhattan Manhunt": creator Anthony Zuiker & writer Elizabeth Devine
"Bad Beat": Reiter & director Duane Clark
"Trapped": Lenkov & Whitmore

Five informative featurettes are sprinkled throughout the set, starting with "Top of the Heap: The Cast and Crew Look at Season 2." Though it feels a bit EPK-ish, as if it was shot to promote the show at the beginning of the season, the 10-minute piece has some good interview clips and info. The 7:30 "Rolling with 'Jamalot'" looks at the unique production challenges of a show about women's roller derby. "Behind the Scenes: 'Heroes'" spends 7:30 doing most of the same for that important episode.

"A New Look from the 35th Floor - 'CSI:NY' Set Tour" features Zuiker, as he guides the viewer on an almost nine-minute tour of the second season's new set. Though he can be a bit cheesy, it's interesting to see the set in more detail and to see how much of the sets are fully functional. The set wraps with a 6:30 look at the season finale, again like the previous two on-set featurettes. In all, there's not much about the show thematically that hasn't been covered.

The Bottom Line
I certainly didn't start out as a big fan of "CSI:NY," but as the cast gets more comfortable in their skins, and the writers get a better handle on the cast's strengths, the series get better, earning its spot alongside Las Vegan and Miami. Making some interesting changes to the show, has not messed with the series formula, and instead has lifted the show. The disc arrives in a well-done package with some interesting and entertaining extras. Fans of the series will enjoy this collection, and those new to this entry are getting a great first look.

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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