C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation: Season 4
December 6, 2005
Richard J. Lewis, Kenneth Fink, Danny Cannon, Nelson McCormick, ,
Starring: William Petersen, Marg Helgenberger, Gary Dourdan, Jorja Fox, George, Eric Szmanda, Robert David Hall, Paul Guilfoyle, ,
There’s a scene in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle where the girls arrive at a murder scene and promptly discover the whereabouts of the killer by the taste of his sex-wax residue. It’s a direct nod (or homage if you want to get French) of the C.S.I series that tells you pretty much all you need to know about the show. Apart from the unnervingly psychic ability of the examiners going straight for the piece of evidence they need (no agonising months of testing/questioning suspects here my friends) C.S.I is real edge of your seat television. It grabs you in the first five minutes with a murder (or murders) in Las Vegas and we follow the team investigating to its conclusion using forensic testing, never allowing the audience time to go get a cup of tea in case you miss some vital piece of information.
Still going strong in its fourth series and spawning two spin-offs set in Miami and New York, the simple hook of the show has caught the gaze of such Hollywood heavyweights as Gary Sinise and David Ca- Okay, maybe just Sinise, but you get the picture. It’s a great format. Hell, even Quentin Tarantino signed up to direct the fifth season finale.
Unlike most cop shows the lead characters in CSI are 100% professional and all seem to get along without the need for outlandish flirting or big public fights. The writers are also smart enough to know that the best character traits come through subconsciously while on the move, not mulling over a pint down the pub after work (with team leader Gil Grissom there is no “after”). Jorja Fox seems to battling a drink problem but there’s only really one quick scene where it’s even referred to – such is the trust in its actors to deliver without the need for expositional dialogue (there’s plenty during the cases they’re on already).
A great thing we discovered was that you don’t have to have seen any previous episodes to enjoy C.S.I. It’s all about the individual investigations and any prior altercations between the main characters comes through in the way they interact. Stand-out episodes include “Dead Ringer,” a runaway rollercoaster in “Turn of the Screws” (still terrifying despite some bad CGI) and a botched robbery at a convenience store in “Paper or Plastic” which poses the old JFK question of whether or not there was a third gunman. If there was, a trigger-happy cop was doing his job. If there wasn’t then he murdered an innocent bystander.
It has to be said there’s something beautifully cocky about having The Who as your opening title music. It’s like The X-Files opening with “Ground Control To Major Tom” by Bowie, i.e.: very un-Hollywood. Then Bruckheimer got greedy and created Without A Trace, which is essentially the exact opposite of C.S.I. Instead of solving murders they simply have to find the (probably) healthy and very much alive missing person (Timmy’s hiding at his friend’s house, or Timmy’s dead body mysteriously appears in a sealed vault – these are hypothetical examples but I know which one is more compelling).
Occasionally the pressure of the need to come up a new murder scenario each week starts to show (a scrabble fan is literally made to eat his words?!) but C.S.I is never dull and, for once, genuinely interesting in that the audience learns about forensics (did you know citrus from an orange can show up just like fingerprints?). Television at its best.
Not a huge amount but from the “Evolution of an Episode” segments you see just how hard they work to get the show done, so maybe we should count ourselves lucky we got anything at all (Charmed anyone). Split into Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production sections it takes the audience through the day to day evolution of an episode – the traveling to locations, the lighting, the editing etc. There’s also an audio commentary on “Bad to the Bone” with Eli Talbert.
It’s a bit cheeky by releasing the show in two halves per season, but if you’re smart you’ll find the whole season in certain online stores.