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CSI: Cyber: Season 1

Paramount // Unrated // September 15, 2015
List Price: $55.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted October 18, 2015 | E-mail the Author
In the latest of a continuing series, my wife Nicole returns to offer her thoughts on another show I'm not likely to ever watch.

by Nicole Rizzo

In 10 Words or Less
How do you catch the faceless and the nameless?

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Criminal dramas, technology, computer geeks
Likes: Patricia Arquette,James Van Der Beek
Dislikes: People who prey on others
Hates: Too many Special Features

The Show
What's the very first thing you do when you wake up? Or right before you close your eyes? Or anywhere from three to five times an hour, for those who can't get enough: you turn to the internet. Whether it's to check your bank account balance or post the latest picture from Little Johnny's soccer game, or just to check an email, our generation has become a slave to the internet. You've bought the newest software and invested in all the up-to-date security features, but do you really know how safe your personal information is? As I sit here typing this review, I wonder, "Could there be someone reading my screen?" My husband is the computer genius of the family and our daughter is a close second. I'm the mom who frequents Facebook and scrolls Pinterest for the latest and greatest craft. What made me nervous but now scares me even more after watching CSI:Cyber is that there is so much more going on in what they call the "deep" or "dark" web.

I admit to clicking on the, "Can you imagine this…" videos that are posted on Facebook and shake my head at how someone can take over your baby cam or how an old love interest can make life very difficult because you weren't into them. What has our world turned into where there are people out there who chose the internet to punish someone, take revenge, or show off? This season of CSI:Cyber is riddled with such scenarios and I'm quite impressed with how the cast brought these everyday problems to life and how they themselves use technology to turn the tables on the villians. Though we've all become slaves to technology in some fashion, it's knowing what to post, where to post it and how much we're willing to share that keeps us safe.

Since its inception in 2000, the CSI Franchise has brought us stories of criminality from Vegas, Miami and even New York. This time around, we're centered in Washington D.C., the home of our country, the birthplace of our security divisions and the hub of the inner workings of our country. If there was anywhere in the United States to feel safe or secure, it's there.

I've said it before in previous reviews that every character has a back story. It's how that back story is woven into the series that can make for great television. Emmy winner Patricia Arquette does a great job leading the cyber crime unit, a division of the FBI. Her ability to observe--mainly body language and facial expressions--is what sets her apart. With a background in Psychology and having lost her practice to a cyber criminal, she is out for blood when it comes to catching a cyber villain. She has so much to gain and so much to lose, all at the same time. Will her past come back to haunt her future or will it help propel her forward?

I grew up watching James Van Der Beek on Dawson's Creek as the perfect boy next door. Fast forward twenty some odd years and he's all grown up, but still the same "Dawson". He plays ex-Marine Elijah Mundo. His military experience and techie geekiness make him even more desireable that when he was playing opposite Katie Holmes. His take-no-prisoners and break-every-door-down persona is the perfect balance to Arquette's cool-as-a-cucumber yet always thinking demeanor.

Bringing a tremendous amount of character-actor experience to CSI:Cyber is another Emmy winner, Peter MacNicol. MacNicol brings so much to the series as he's done before, in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Grey's Anatomy and most recently Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. He's is the firm, yet friendly; strict, yet lovable FBI Assistant Director in charge of bringing the cyber crime division to fruition.

Rounding out the cast is the trio of cyber geniuses, reformed black-hat hacker Brody Nelson (Shad Moss), extraordinary computer analyst Daniel Krumitz (Charley Koontz) and social media guru Raven Ramirez (Hayley Kiyoko.) They are young, yet quite seasoned and more than capable at both their former and current positions. They too carry a lot of excess baggage and as we see during the season, they not only grow and mature as individuals, they grow as a family.

New dramas struggle to find a stand out episode, and when the season is only 13 episodes long, it's even harder. I think all the episodes in this disc set were well rounded and beautifully written and directed. The cast brought so much of themselves to each episode, incorporating their own personal strengths as a actors.

The DVDs
Shipped in an embossed holofoil slipcase, the 13 episodes in this collection arrive on 4 DVDs in one clear keepcase with a pair of dual-hubbed trays, with an disc breakdown on the inside front cover. The discs feature animated anamorphic widescreen menus with options to play all the episodes, select a show, adjust the setup and check out bonus features, though it was a task getting to some of them, as they are listed with their episodes. This set's audio options include English Dolby Digital 5.1, English and Spanish DD Stereo, while subtitles are available in English SDH.

The Quality
The visual effects of this set were amazing. Every scene was crisp and clear and full of color, reminiscent of CSI:Miami, which was always gorgeous with deep, rich hues. The video was full of detail (especially the main video screens) and there were so problems with the visuals.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks mimics the show's broadcast audio presentation well, with the dialogue sounding clear in the center channel, while the sides and rears feature a great deal of activity, including atmospherics, effects and music.

The Extras
The more reviews I do, the more excited I get looking forward to the "Special Features" included in the box sets. Some sets have contained amazing, captivating extras and some have nearly put me to sleep. The "Special Features" for CSI:Cyber fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. With over two hours of extras, there was a lot I was either going to love or hate. First off, both commentaries, "Kitty" (43:13) and "Selfie 2.0" (42:06), were quite insightful, thanks to the offerings of creator Anthony Zuiker. Zuiker gives an in-depth explanation as to how the franchise has evolved since 2000 and how a cyber crime division was the inevitable setting for this new season. The writers once again picked stories straight from the headlines, giving the viewer a more personal connection to the storylines. As you listen to the commentary, you start to think about the future of crime and where is headed and how it affects each and everyone of us on a daily basis.

"It Can Happen to You: Season 1 of CSI:Cyber" (22:57) pairs up Co-executive Producer Craig O'Neill and Executive Producer Pam Veasey, giving a play-by-play breakdown of how CSI:Cyber was born, how they chose the actors they did and where they see the series continuing in the "CSI" franchise. The writers really do an excellent job of playing off the strengths of each of the actors.

I was very intrigued by "Welcome to CTOC" (7:01) because it allowed the viewer to go into the think-tank of what goes on in real-life crime detection. Basing the set on a true to life command center, Production Designer Vaughn Edwards brought you into the set and made you feel a part of each episode. With the help of Mary Aiken, a cyber psychologist in Ireland, Vaughn incorporated old time D.C. with a modern flair, making it more appealing to the viewer.

As with most series, the bloopers seem to all be the same time after time. I found myself uninterested in "Gag Reel: A Bug in the System" (3:16) as I was faced with the same, and rather boring, misspoken lines, wrong entrances and character flubs. It was nothing I haven't seen before and I'm sure I'll see it again.

I think like most viewers, I take props for granted and overlooking them as they're just another part of the scene. I was fascinated by Prop Master Leonard Hancock. A bit quirky in his own right, but cleverly ingenious in another, Hancock discusses his role in "Tech Tools of the Trade" (6:31), emphasizing the importance of getting just the right prop for each scene and making them as realistic as possible. He's inventive in his use of everyday "trash" to create something super "techie." I find his work and creativity very cool!

Again, with the deleted scenes (29:58) most of the scenes remain on the cutting room floor, with snippets making it to the final cut. I actually enjoy trying to figure out what the slight differences were when I watched the final take.

Seeing "Launch Promos" (4:16) was a first for me. It's basically the same redundant commercial as seen on tv, just edited slightly different. I have to say though, I'm totally sucked in when I hear, "It can happen to you…" in Patricia Arquette's seductive whisper.

The Bottom Line
I'm not one to pass up a drama series, especially another crime drama by the makers of CSI. I was excited to find myself feeling the twinges I once did when I first watched CSI: back in the early 2000's, completely captivated by the insane storylines coupled with the outstanding actor performances. This show certainly has the potential to walk in the footsteps of its CSI predecessors. This set both looks flawless and sounds like a dream, and the extra features are definitely worth a look over. Whenever art mimics real-life and situation make you stop and could happen to you, then you know you have a winner. As we are early into season two now, I know this franchise is going places and I can't wait to see where it heads next!

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.

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*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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Highly Recommended

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