CSI - The Complete Fourth Season Studio: Paramount Year: 2003-2004 Rated: NR Length: 16 hours, 34 minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, anamorphically enhanced Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround Closed Captioned Special Features: Commentaries on 7 episodes, 50 minute documentary on the making of an episode No S.R.P. Expected Street Price - Under $70 USD Release Date: October 12, 2004 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation starts off with a compelling two-part episode in season four, as the CSI team track a serial killer. This episode mixes sex, perversion and humor to a great degree, making for an unusual and provocative episode. I’ve watched about half of season four, and I find it to be among the most compelling seasons of CSI so far. Excellent storytelling, flashy photography, and outstanding performances make this a great show, all around. There are those who point to the scientific liberties taken in the show as serious shortcomings, but in the interest of dramatic license I don’t have a problem with the shortcuts, as long as the stories stay compelling. CSI won the 2004 People’s Choice Award for Favorite Television Dramatic Series. So far, the series only gets better with age. Video I continue to be amazed at the quality of video in these CSI season sets. The anamorphically enhanced video is razor sharp, has excellent contrast and beautiful colors. Whites are bright and clear, never blooming, while blacks are deep, but maintain decent detail in the shadows. Colors are neutral and beautifully saturated - if there is one thing that makes this series stand out it is the use of color. Grain is used stylistically at times, but is very mild when not used as a style choice. This is a beautifully shot series, done in a cinematic style, that comes across exceptionally well on DVD. Audio The audio is mixed in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. The spaciousness of the track is admirable for a television series, giving good spatial cues for sound effects in the left and right mains as well as the surrounds. Dialog is generally pinned front and center. Music fills out the soundstage very nicely. Frequency response is excellent throughout, offering up an expansive sound in musical cues and dialog. Very nice. Audio Commentaries Episode 401 “Homebodies” Naren Shankar and Ken Fink Episode 402 “Assume Nothing” Anthony Zuiker and Carol Mendelsohn Episode 404 “Invisible Evidence” Danny cannon and Josh Berman Episode 405 “Feeling the Heat” Anthony Zuiker and Eli Talbert Episode 407 “Jackpot” Danny Cannon and Naren Shankar Episode 412 “Butterflied” Anthony Zuiker, Carol Mendelsohn, Richard J. Lewis and David Rambo I sampled portions of this commentary. Given the number of participants, it isn’t a terribly active dialog. The information they do impart, though, is almost always relevant and of interest. They frequently discuss the crafting of the scenes in terms of the writing and the editing, telling how different aspect of a scene were cut to hide or reveal plot points or character motivation. This is some discussion of what amounts to a CSI formula, indicating the usual timing of certain revealing information, involvement of CSI character, etc. It’s interesting, listening to these comments, to think back about other episodes and how they might fit the formula. Finally, there is discussion about conversations the producers have with the network about how much blood and gore can be shown in an episode. If you ask me, CSI gets away with quite a lot. Episode 418 “Bad to the Bone” Eli Talbert The Evolution of an Episode From Concept to Completion (50:48) This special feature os not anamorphically enhanced, and is shown in a full-screen aspect ratio. This is a four part documentary detailing script writing, pre-production, production and post production activities, showing the evolution of an episode from concept to completion. This includes a “Play All” feature and totals over 50 minutes. The four parts of the featurette follow the making of the episode, “Suckers.” In the first part, Script, we sit in on writers meetings, listening to the back-and-forth between writers and producers involved in crafting the story. Included are interviews with Danny Cannon and Josh Berman, where they explain the research and writing process. In the second part, Pre-Production, we sit in on a pre-production meeting. Danny Cannon, Josh Berman and others talk about the pre-production schedule. Others describe set design, building and dressing in preparation for shooting. Discussion of practical and other visual effects, as well as makeup, casting, and more can be found here. The third part, Production, talks about the days of shooting. Danny Cannon, William Petersen, Paul Guilfoyle and Marg Helgenberger and others talk about the difficulties of shooting on location in Las Vegas - when they have the opportunity to do so. The input from the stars of the show is limited, but it’s nice to see. This segment ends back in Los Angeles, on set, shooting scenes with actors as well as practical effects scenes. The final part, Post-Production, deals with scoring, editing, visual effects, etc. Danny Cannon walks us through the process, and we watch over the shoulder of the editors as a rough cut is made. We hear from composers and musicians, sound effects editors - all the people who create the sound of the episode. This is an excellent look behind the scenes of CSI, a quality Special Feature, and the only special feature outside of the seven audio commentaries. Final Thoughts CSI may not be for everyone... but what show is? For me, it is television at it’s finest. This DVD set contains a number of commentaries, which is nice for those who enjoy listening to them. The meat of the special features, though, is the 50 minute look at the crafting of an episode from start to finish. Excellent video and audio quality are the reason to buy CSI on DVD. That’s been the case since season two, and it continues to hold true in season four. CSI fans - this is a no-brainer. This is an excellent season set.