CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - The Complete Second Season Studio: Paramount Year: 2001 - 2002 Rated: NR Length: 16 hrs 45 min Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen English 5.1, Spanish 2.0 Release Date: September 2 CSI is a rarity. It's a show that isn't dumbed down for the lowest-common-demonator, yet it manages to be popular enough to keep it on the air. It's a one-trick pony of a show with a "trick" that is so compelling, it keeps you wanting more. It's "Dragnet with personality" meets "Quincy without a cause." To be honest with you, I had never seen CSI until I received this set to review. You see, I've almost given up on network television. It is so rare to see a show with smarts. We have all the attitude we can handle on TV these days, but intelligence is sorely lacking. When reality shows make the headlines and are touted as the shows to watch, one assumes that's the best that the networks have to offer. Once in a while, though, they sneak in a gem like CSI. The show follows a forensics team in Las Vegas as they use their particular brand of science to solve crimes. It's as simple as that. No personal dramas distract us from the meat of the show. We follow the investigators around the crime scenes and in the labs. We watch them as they investigate. We don't follow them to bed at night. The show uses humor to great effect, offsetting the seriousness of the subject matter. The team is led by Gil Grissom (William Petersen) - a scientist who uses intuition, as well as science (and dogged determination) to do his job. Petersen consistently turns in a low-key, witty and believable performance, and he is backed up by an excellent cast, including Marg Helgenberger, Jorja Fox, Paul Guilfoyle, George Ead and others. The show isn't afraid of making an occasional twist or turn, occasionally going so far as to conclude, after a lengthy investigation, that no crime was ever committed. This sort of thing is decidedly uncharacteristic of network fare. CSI pulls no punches, and it consistently delivers solid, smart entertainment. Of the episodes I have watched, Chaos Theory, Caged and Anatomy of a Lye are particular standounts, though none of these episodes are likely to disappoint. I'm basing this review on only about eight episodes, so I'm sure there are people reading this who could do better than I when it comes to describing the tenor and history of the show. Let me just say this: if you like the "investigative cop show" genre, you have a sense of humor, and you like a good mystery - this show is for you. Disc 1 Episode 201: Burked * Episode 202: Chaos Theory Episode 203: Overload Episode 204: Bully for You Disc 2 Episode 205: Scuba Doobie-Doo Episode 206: Alter Boys * Episode 207: Caged Episode 208: Slaves of Las Vegas Disc 3 Episode 209: And Then There Were None Episode 210: Ellie * Episode 211: Organ Grinder Episode 212: You've Got Male Disc 4 Episode 213: Identity Crisis Episode 214: The Finger Episode 215: Burden of Proof Episode 216: Primum Non Nocere Disc 5 Episode 217: Felonious Monk Episode 218: Chasing the Bus Episode 219: Stalker Episode 220: Cats in the Cradle... Disc 6 Episode 221: Anatomy of a Lye Episode 222: Cross-Jurisdictions Episode 223: The Hunger Artist Special Features (* Commentary included on this episode) The Video CSI: Season Two is presented in anamorphic widescreen. The picture is generally high in contrast, mostly due to the stylized, theatrical lighting. Theatrical style lighting is frequently used to indicate the strong desert sunshine - we frequently see lots of strong backlighting. The image is very sharp, and it appears that there may be some very mild artificial sharpening present - though this is only visible in a few low contrast scenes on my 32" monitor. Generally, sharpening artifacts are invisible. Some fine grain is present in darker scenes, though it appears to be accurately transferred from the original elements, not introduced as digital noise during the transfer. There is no evidence of the high-frequency filtering that is often seen with TV-on-DVD. The colors are beautifully saturated, showing off the Vegas Strip every time you see it in the background. This is quality stuff as far as TV product is concerned. I dare say there are a number of feature films in my collection that could have benefitted from the care that went into this transfer. I've seen very little television product on DVD that looks this good. The Audio The Dolby Digital soundtrack really pops. I was surprised at the agressiveness of the mix, given what we usually get from TV product. Dialog is clear and full-bodied, without being bass-heavy - and it is firmly anchored in the center channel. The music makes use of a wide range of frequencies, and expands to fill the front soundstage. Surrounds are very active with ambient noise, even in hallways and offices. Telephones ring behind you and off to the side. Equipment beeps are heard from where we know the equipment is located in the room. Low Frequency Effects are present, but you'll hear more activity from your subwoofer when the music plays. Special Features CSI: Season Two includes a host of special features. Commentaries Episode 201: Burked: Commentary by Anthony Zuiker, Carol Mendelsohn and Danny Cannon I only had time to listen to one commentary, and I chose "Burked," figuring there might be more of interest since it is the season premiere. The commentary is very laid-back and straight-forward. We learn a bit about research and writing processes, effects shots, and the mechanics of directing what seem like simple scenes - but turn out to be logistically challenging. We hear anecdotes about events on the set, and how the actors work. There's nothing earth-shattering, here. Informative... mildly interesting, but hardly compelling. Episode 206: Alter Boys: Commentary by Ann Donahue and Danny Cannon Episode 210: Ellie: Commentary by Anothony Zuiker and Gary Dourdan I would like to have seen some commentary by William Petersen or Marg Helgenberger. Featurettes: Makeup, Music & Special Effects (09:55) Here we see the process of creating a corpse for "Anatomy of a Lye." We sit in on a recording session with composer John Keane. Finally, we go to Stargate Films and watch the filming of some of CSI's trademark effects scenes. CSI Shooting Locations (06:27) An interview with Paul Wilson, location manager. We learn how locations are found, and how California locations often double for Las Vegas. We are also told of the several days per year that shooting is done on-location in Las Vegas - on the strip, in the casinos, and in the surrounding desert and mountains. The CSI Tour (08:33) Richard Berg, production designer, takes us on a tour of the CSI set. We see how Grissom's office is "dressed." We learn about the importance of the layout, the paint color and the glass walls at the CSI labs. We tour each of the major offices and labs, and the major set-pieces in each. Tools of the Trade This isn't really a featurette... it's more of an interactive tour of the lab equipment at CSI. You choose from the DNA Lab, Ballistics Lab, and Trace Fingerprint Lab. Once you make your selection, you are presented with still shots of the lab. You highlight a piece of equipment and select it - and Technical Advisor Elizabeth Devine explains what the equipment is, and how it is used in real-world situations. The Making of a Hit (11:37) Jerry Bruckheimer, Anthony Zuiker, Carol Mendelsohn, Danny Cannon, and Ann Donahue talk about the making of CSI, and what has made CSI a hit. We learn that most of the stories are drawn from the news. We learn of the dramatic license often taken (no, DNA can't be processed in two or three hours), but we are told that the technology and science is real (if not embellished). We learn about the development of the Grissom character, and the evolution of the show over season two. The special features are fullscreen. Final Thoughts CSI is a wonderful, intelligent show. The CSI: Season Two disc set is a terrific set with a nice transfer and some interesting special features (though the show itself is far more interesting than the behind-the-scenes stuff presented). If you're looking for some good entertainment, CSI is well worth investigating.