CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Series 7 Part 1 Review
The abiding memory that anyone coming to Season 7 of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation will have is of the dying moments of the sixth season, when in a lurch away from the blood and grue of the crime lab, Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle cosied up to one another, he in a Hawaiian shirt, she in a silk dressing gown. An unforgettable moment, yes, but one that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons, notably the Sidle and Grissom have never remotely looked like a plausible couple and which, as they shared a bedroom and, we're led to believe, a bed, all known means to measure embarrassment and discomfort were left null and void as this standard hurtled off all previously accepted scales.
The producers of CSI have never been at their best when portraying romance. Actually, they're been routinely awful when dealing with the private lives of their Las Vegas investigators. The storyline that remains the standard-bearer of CSI plotting was Grissom receiving the news in the dying minutes of Season 1 that he was showing signs of developing the same deafness that had afflicted his mother. One that was sadly incurable. Anyone thinking CSI might have made something of is was sure to be disappointed as the brief mention of it in episode one led to a court case in which the defence attorney and consulting forensic scientist took advantage of it before, in that season's finale, Grissom was fortunate in receiving a cutting-edge procedure that would not only halt the advance of his deafness but would reverse it completely. A problem solved...albeit a problem that went largely unmentioned throughout the twenty-four episodes that year.
The producers of CSI tend to want to forget the personal situations they get their cast into. Having been buried alive in the Tarantino-directed Grave Danger, Nick (or Poncho) bounced back with a, "How're you doing, Nick?" / "Above ground, Wilcox!" and showing no trauma other than a fear of bugs. Nick and Catherine danced around each other for so many years that the band that accompanied them have long since breathed their last and are now as mummified as one of the bodies extracted by CSI from the Nevada desert. It was strange, then, to see the producers of CSI write themselves into a corner with the getting together of Grissom and Sidle. Even before the end credits stopped rolling in Season 6, my own thoughts were that, like Grissom's apparently incurable deafness, the Grissom and Sidle romance would be mentioned less than half-a-dozen times and briefly at that before the producers found a way to write themselves out of it and, as though it had never happened, simply move on.
And so it happened. Season 7 begins with a spectacular season-opening stunt by the Cirque de Soleil but regular viewers will have no more interest in that than they will the oven glove found in the personal effects of the witness. What we're really waiting for is some frisson of the love affair between the two. Perhaps a kiss snatched between Dr Robbins and a freshly autopsied corpse. Or a brief holding of one another's hands over a portable DNA analyser. And, well, we get a brief glance between the two of them and the gift of a veggie burger. It's hardly Casablanca. In fact, it's not even the Compo'n'Nora affair-what-affair? of Last Of The Summer Wine.
However, it's not all bad news with Season 7. In trying to give its audience a substantial case to follow, the writers came up with the Miniature Killer, a serial killer who proved they still knew something of Gil Grissom. Like the Joker asking of Batman, "Where does he get those wonderful toys?", Grissom is attracted to the Miniature Killer by both his job and the wonderfully detailed crime-scenes-in-miniature that the killer leaves behind them. The first case is the death of a retired rock star with such detail in the shoebox-sized crime scene that it's only Grissom's eye staring through a window that gives it away. The camera pans from the real crime scene to the miniature and back again, each time allowing Grissom to note something out of place or a clue on the back of a tiny little cushion. The season is all giveaways and red herrings as they close in on the killer only to find their suspicions, though correct, had identified the wrong man. Later killings confirm this, notably the double killing of Officer Kamen and Barbara Tallman in Monster In The Box. However, as you might expect, it comes down to a drama concerning the kidnapping of Sara Sidle, a scale model of where she will die and Grissom leading his team to save her. One doubts if the cliffhanger ending, like the Grissom/Sidle romance, will feature very much in Season 8.
A story of such substance also filters down to smaller stories spread throughout the season and, happily, these are all a good deal more interesting than the Grissom'n'Sidle love affair. Catherine is date-raped at the end of the first episode in the season and finds it tied into a revenge plot against her father, casino and retired mob boss Sam Braun. An episode dealing with a rash of happy-slapping/fannysmacking has Greg Sanders run down a suspect in his SUV, which leads to his standing in a court room accused of wrongful killing. This story comes and goes throughout the rest of the season leaving Greg somewhat subdued than he has been before. As with CSI seasons before it, there are some very odd moments, not least when five dead bodies in the morgue, including two killed in a chainsaw accident, sit up and begin speaking to one another and, in Loco Motives, the unhappy goings-on around the unluckiest man in the world, one who tells the story of how, to his surprise, he didn't run over the puppy that he bought for his daughter's eighth birthday but, instead, backed his car over his daughter. And Roger Daltrey offers viewers the worst guest appearance in CSI to date, appearing in various awful guises as a long-lost mob boss. Happily, the more understated Ned Beatty more than makes up for this in Sweet Jane.
However, this season ends at an odd point. Grissom leaves for a four-week teaching assignment - William Petersen was taking a break from CSI to appear a production of Dublin Carol in Providence, Rhode Island - and other than an uncomfortable moment between him and Sara in which they say goodbye but, oddly, don't kiss, it sees Michael Keppler (Liev Schreiber) brought in to replace him. Sweet Jane is a good episode and does the right thing by the song - opening with The Velvet Underground and closing with The Cowboy Junkies - but it would have been much better had it featured at the start of Momentum's second half-season set. Once again, this illustrates the problem with this release schedule with Sweet Jane and Keppler really belonging with Redrum, Meet Market and Law Of Gravity, which conclude his storyline. Or, in a point I'll never get tired of making, midway in a boxset of the entire season. Unfortunately, as good as many of these episodes are, the presentation of the season, or half-season, continues to be the problem with Region 2 CSI with viewers in the UK having to wait to January - no, I couldn't believe it either - to pick up the second half of his set. Whilst I doubt anyone is, those waiting for the denouement of the Miniature Killer or Grissom'n'Sara romance will have to be patient.
This is largely a reprint of what has been said before regarding CSI on DVD but it remains just as relevant here. The standard of the show's production has gotten better over the years but the DVD presentation is no better or worse now since its first appearance on disc. Anamorphically presented in its original 1.78:1 off a high-definition master, this half-season from the show's seventh year looks very good indeed with rich colours, an impressive amount of detail and a decent handling of the frequent switch between the bright sun of the desert to the darkness of the CSI labs without any problems. However, being of a standard with the earlier releases, this isn't anything than you won't, should you already own a CSI set, have seen before.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVDs is a clear improvement over the NICAM stereo of the broadcast versions with infrequent use of the rear channels and subwoofer, typically for ambient effects and the score. It is, though, a complementary audio track and whilst one never notices anything standing out, as such, there are also no obvious faults with it. All of these episodes feature English subtitles.
There are no extras on this DVD set.