CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Season 8
Perhaps the most enduring genre used on television series is the crime drama. It has been around almost as long as people were sitting in front of that glowing tube we all know and love. Like any other type of entertainment it has responded to the changes in our society by morphing from one format to another. Many of us grew up on the shows featuring a dedicated detective either in business for himself or part of a police force. He would track down the clues he uncovered at the crime scene and use up a lot of shoe leather tracking them down. There was typically a car chase or two and a gun fight to add the excitement that audiences demanded. Then in 1976 a new spin was given to this classic format. A series called ‘Quincy’ hit the airwaves. He was a medical examiner that used science to foil the bad guys and bring them to justice. The move was in many ways subtle; changing from intuition to scientific methodology. After such high profile cases such as the now infamous O.J. Simpson murder trial science has begun to play an increasingly important part of law enforcement and the justice system in this country. One of the first networks to jump into this pool with both feet was CBS. ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’ is now the flagship series for the eye ball network with two spin offs and a franchise that is starting up across the pond in London for BBC. It should be noted that all of the science is based on reality but just a little bit in the future as far as the level of what they do here. Complex procedures are returned far faster than in real life. The number of tests they do would be cost prohibited in any real crime lab. I have read reports that actual juries have come to expect the level of investigation shown on the CSI franchise/ it may be a bit beyond what can be realistically done now but the series does reflect the growing expectations the public has on science in criminology. More importantly the show is great fun to watch. The eight year wrapped earlier this year and now that season nine is upon us CBS Paramount has released the DVD set. It is one of the best seasons of the series so far with more action, personal drama and intrigue than ever before.
Like all of the CSI franchise the location plays a key role in the characters and stories. This show is set in the fast past city of Las Vegas offering a wide selection of bad guys to bring in. You have everything from drunken gamblers to organized crime to keep the detectives on their feet. The crime lab for this police force is the epitome of high tech. Most of the equipment shown is for real either purchased or on loan from their manufactures. Heading up the main team is Dr. Gil Grissom, PhD (William Petersen) a forensic entomologist. He can take a bug found at the crime scene and determine a time line. The other supervisor on board is Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger). She is a single mother who put herself through college by working as a stripper. Catherine is highly intuitive and determined. Since season seven Grissom has had a romantic relationship with Senior CSI Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox). The couple kept this a secret from the team wanting to separate their personal and professional relationships. She is an expert on material analysis. When it comes to getting everything possible from hair or fibers they call on Nick Stokes (George Eads). He is the most emotional of the group often trying to seek the human aspect of a crime and its effect on its victims. Another senior member of the team is Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan) the expert on audio visual investigation. He is plagued by his past as a compulsive gambler and in this season becomes a suspect in a murder of a stripper. The junior member of the team is Greg Sanders (Eric Szmanda). He started out as a DNA technician but worked his way up to being a field investigator. Joining this season as a regular is David Hodges (Wallace Langham) who works on trace evidence. The main liaison with the detective squad is Jim Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) who takes the results of the CSI team to make the arrest. Handling the constant stream of corpses is Al Robbins (Robert David Hall), the chef medical examiner and close friend of Grissom.
This season starts off with a bang. For most of season seven the team was hot of the trail of the miniature killer; a serial murder who provided an exact duplicate of the crime scene to bewilder the investigators. At the end of the last season the killer was caught but she left on last miniature; Sara trapped under her car dying. The team pulls out all the stops to find her before she dies and ultimately saves her. This had a major emotional impact on Sara who initially accepts Grissom’s marriage proposal but winds up leaving her job and town. Her relationship with Grissom is now out in the open bringing them under the scrutiny of the Crime Lab Asst. Director Conrad Ecklie (Marc Vann). He is a sticker for the rule and the relationship is not by the book. He has had it in for Sara for a while and this is chance to get to her. Things start to look bad for Brown when he crosses one of the last mob bosses in Los Vegas. He gets pulled in deeper and deeper until he becomes the main suspect in a murder. This season covers the usual wide variety of crimes that have been the hallmark of this series. There is everything from headless bodies to a serial killer on the loose. One very macabre episode is about a murder that happens on the set of a pornographic horror film. As usual it highlights the strange imagination of the writers.
Unlike any crime drama that came before special effects play a key role in this series. There is always the now famous zoom through a wound down to the cellular level keeping with the science orientation. There is also some of the best make up effects for the lamentable victims. They look dead far more than anywhere else. Most importantly is the quality of this show. The writing has continued too remain fresh and innovative which is something special after an eight year run. There are also sub pots that provide insight into the lives of the investigators and how the job affects them. The acting is more like what you would find in a top notch movie than the typical TV show.
Not only is this one of the best series on television today the DVD release by CBS Paramount is above and beyond the usual season set. The technical standards are excellent as expected. What set this set above the rest are the extras. One looks at the episode directed by William Friedkin. Another features the departure while another looks at the city of Los Vegas. There is a featurette on the use of forensic entomology. One episode was a cross over with another CBS crime show, ‘Without a Trace’. In many DVD sets they only show the part of the story that was presented in the series. Here they include as an extras the full episode from ‘Trace’. This is definitely one to get.