CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - The Complete Fifth Season Studio: Paramount Year: 2004 - 2005 Rated: NR Length: 18 hours, 8 minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1, Anamorphically Enhanced Audio: Dolby Digital English 5.1 Closed Captioned Special Features: Behind-The-Scenes Featurettes, Audio Commentaries on 9 Episodes Suggested Retail Price: $99.99 USD Release Date: November 29, 2005 The fifth season of CSI altered course somewhat from previous seasons - bringing in office politics and splitting up the team. While this enabled the writers to come up with more personal dramatic sequences, it also pulled the focus away from CSI’s tried and true formula. That’s both good and bad, in a way, since even CSI’s “signature shot” has been liberated and used in countless other shows - not the least of which are two other CBS shows, NCIS and Criminal Minds. In that respect, a change of pace is a good thing. Still, while I found season five to be enjoyable, it wasn’t as compelling as previous seasons when taken as a whole. Without a doubt, the best episode of the season is the two-part finale, “Grave Danger”, scribed and directed by Quentin Tarantino (and I’m not even a Tarantino fan). In this episode, Nick is called to investigate human remains. After a trail of evidence leads him further and further from the secured scene, he is abducted and buried alive in retaliation against the CSI team over an old case. A ransom demand is sent to the crime lab, along with a link to a live webcam feed of the CSI in his coffin. It’s a race against time as the CSI’s follow the evidence to save their friend before he runs out of air or is consumed by fire ants. This is a compelling two part episode, with Tarantino’s trademarked dialog and style all over it. The two episodes are among the best in the history of the CSI series. The Transfers I’m still impressed 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 clean while blacks are deep - maintaining decent detail in the shadows. Colors are beautifully saturated. If there is one thing that makes this series stand out it is the use of color - there is so much in Las Vegas that is well represented in that respect. 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. The audio is mixed in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. The spaciousness of the track is excellent for a television series, giving good spatial cues for sound effects not only in the front soundfield, but in the surrounds as well. Dialog is generally pinned front and center. Music fills out the soundstage very nicely. Excellent transfers, as continued on since season two. The Extras Commentaries “Viva Las Vegas” - Danny Cannon and Carol Mendelsohn “Down the Drain” - Ken Fink and Naren Shankar “Formalities” - Dustin Lee Abraham and Naren Shankar “Who Shot Sherlock” - Rich Catalani, Ken Fink and David Rambo “Snakes” - Richard J. Lewis, Dustin Lee Abraham and George Eads “Spark of Life” - Ken Fink and Allen MacDonald “4 x 4” - Terrence O’Hara, David Rambo, Dustin Lee Abraham, Naren Shankar “Committed” - Richard J. Lewis and Jorja Fox “Weeping Willows” - Marg Helgenberger and Ken Fink I listened to the commentary on “Committed”. It is sort of “rehearsed casual.” There are obvious talking points for Lewis - dealing mostly with writing and casting. There is some talk on shooting style and research as well. Fox seems to mostly respond to his comments. There’s a bit of joking between them, and frequent quiet passages. It gets more interesting toward the end. Not very deep, but a few points of interest. Featurettes These featurettes are not anamorphically enhanced: CSI Season 5: A Post Mortem (19:06) The bulk of the cast and several producer / writers comment on the controversial change in direction seen in season five. They discuss the positives and negatives of the changes, and how they affected stories and characters. Included are comments from William Petersen, Marg Helgenberger, Gary Dourdan, Jorja Fox, Paul Guilfoyle, George Eads, Robert David Hall, Mark Vann, Eric Szmanda, Carol Mendelsohn, Naren Shankar, Louis Shaw Milito, Robert J. Lewis, Kenneth Fink and Josh Berman. Overall, a good dissection of the season and the reasons behind the changes. The Research of CSI: Maintaining the Accuracy (10:55) Sarah Goldfinger, Carol Mendelsohn, Dr. Gary Telgenhoff (forensic pathologist), Daniel Holstein (Criminalist), Kathy Guenther (DNA Scientist), and others discuss the efforts taken to maintain some authenticity in the show - within the bounds of good storytelling. The point is made that they take liberties with time - instead of a DNA test result coming back in months, it takes minutes on CSI. The “CSI Effect” that seems to influence the criminal courts in real life is also mentioned. CSI: Tarantino Style (17:33) Carol Mendelsohn and William Petersen talk about signing on Quentin Tarantino to direct an episode. Tarantino, a long-time fan of CSI talks about taking his style to CSI. George Eads talks about his character’s predicament in the episode. Other cast members talk about Tarantino’s familiarity with the show and their work, specifically. When the episode started running long, it was decided to make a two-parter. This opened the door to bring in some of Tarantino’s favorite character actors - including John Saxon - to take part in the episode. It gave Tarantino the opportunity to add some character history and trademark dialog. Tarantino also talks about the unusual situation where a feature film director gets to direct characters that he - and the actors already know so well. CSI: Forensic Procedures On the Scene vs. On the Screen This is a collection of eight featurettes, totaling over 15 minutes. These featurettes take a closer look at specific procedural scenes from season five. Real CSI’s narrate the procedure. The scenes include: Spatter Up Photo-Realism IBIS A Star Shaped Wound Printing a Bird Feather Identifying Tire Treads Giving the Third Degree A Ninhydrin Print Final Thoughts Though there were noticeable stylistic and plot changes in season five, CSI remains an enjoyable show. This DVD set includes beautiful transfers, a number of commentaries, and over an hour of featurettes. A good set to for fans to get their fix.