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Buy from Amazon

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Paramount Studios presents
CSI: The Complete Fourth Season (2003)

Catherine: We're going to need urine samples so we can test for nicotine in your systems.
Mrs. Abernathy: My house is burned down, my daughter is dead, and you want me to pee into a cup. Sure. Why not?

- Marg Helgenberger, K Callan

Review By: Kevin Clemons  
Published: October 11, 2004

Stars: William Petersen, Marg Helgenberger, George Eads, Jorje Fox, Gary Dourdan
Other Stars: Eric Szmanda, Robert David Hall, Paul Guilfoyle, Stephen Root, D.B. Sweeney, Xander Berkley
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for gore, language, violence, sexuality
Run Time: 23h:41m
Release Date: October 12, 2004
UPC: 097368862142
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+A-B+ B

DVD Review

There are very few television series currently airing as of this writing that keep a high level of quality over the course of numerous seasons. It is a given that many shows lose what once made them fantastic (The Practice and The X-Files anyone?), so it is all the more amazing when a series actually gets better as time goes on. Such is the case with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a series that is constantly evolving into one of the best series on television.

By now it is likely that everyone knows the overall storyline for CSI, especially given the two spinoffs that are nearly mirror images of the original, just with different faces and cities as backdrop. Produced by Hollywood action maëstro Jerry Bruckheimer, CSI follows the work of the Las Vegas Crime Lab, the people who collect evidence, investigate what it means, and generally draw a case against a suspect. While this may sound like basic crime television, it is in fact so much more.

By the time the fourth season premiered in September of 2003, the series was already a cultural phenomenon. Board games, computer applications, and other numerous merchandising opportunities had already been concepted and the series was primed for another successful year. While it would have been easy for the show to simply rehash the same formula from previous seasons, the writers wisely expand the characters in their fourth go round.

In the fourth season, Greg (Szmanda) begins to train as a field agent, getting him out of the DNA lab, while Catherine (Helgenberger) and Sara (Fox) each deal with personal matters that may affect their performance. Some may find this to be the last resort of desperate writers who may be running out of ideas, but in many ways it feels natural. The series needs to expand and develop its characters rather than following the same tried and true plot lines that have been around since the series' inception.

CSI does hit several high points during the fourth season including a trio of episodes that rank as the best the series has ever done. The fascinating Jackpot, for example, starts with a severed head. What makes this episode memorable is not the way in which the crime is solved (which is admittedly pretty amazing), but the interaction between Grissom (Petersen) and the residents of the town of Jackpot, Nevada. By relocating Grissom from Las Vegas to a small town in northern Nevada, the series is starting to open up and become more adventurous.

The episodes Homebodies and Invisible Evidence each offer added emotional weight to the series, wrapped around some intriguing plot threads. In the former, the group investigates two seemingly unrelated incidents that eventually come full circle to one another. One deals with an elderly woman locked in a closet for such a long period of time that she eventually begins to mummify, while Sara and Nick (Eads) investigate a burglary that holds more than meets the eye. Sara's encounter with a young girl who has been raped while her family is forced to watch is handled perfectly by the writers and the actors, and gives this delicate situation a sense of dignity. In Invisible Evidence, Warrick's (Dourdan) failure to secure a warrant for a traffic stop search results in the accused almost going free until the CSI team work nonstop for 24 hours to find more evidence. While this may seem to be a gimmick, a deadline to find evidence to convict a killer, the unlikely turn of events in this episode makes it one of the best of the season. We learn that everyone on the staff if fallible and that sometimes a second look is all you really need.

Outside of some of the more memorable crimes—of which Season Four has several—the most widely acknowledged aspect of CSI is its high production values. Owing a lot to producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the series at times resembles a feature-length film. With some ingenious editing as well as some truly bizarre camera angles, the series really takes you inside the case, something that its spinoffs have tried to do but have failed. Being set in Las Vegas certainly helps, as the underbelly of the glitzy city helps out on more than one occasion.

As is that case with any long-running television series, the investigations are undoubtedly the strongest element of CSI. Petersen has matured his character over the course of four seasons and has changed Grissom from a brooding scientist and mastermind to a caring human being. You get the idea from Petersen's performance that he is almost a familial figure to everyone in the unit. It is a terrific performance. Helgenberger is the least successful of the main actors, largely because her role seems to have devolved into a stereotypical take-charge female lead rather than the smart and humorous direction that her character was taken in the earlier seasons. It also does not help that she is saddled with the clunkiest dialogue.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio as their original broadcasts, CSI continues to be the best-looking TV on DVD there is. Colors are vibrant and rich, there's no bleeding. Image quality does vary from one episode to the next, but it is likely that this is more a stylistic choice. Some grain is noticeable but it is likely intentional, while there are no instances of edge enhancement.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: It is fitting that this DVD set is also the best-sounding one. Dialogue is anchored to the center channel and sounds terrific with no distortion or dropouts evident. The rear speakers offer a lot of directional effects and ambient sounds, while the left and right speakers offer nice depth to the sound field.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Documentaries
7 Feature/Episode commentaries by Ken Fink, Naren Shankar, Danny Cannon, Anthony Zuiker, Carol Mendelsohn, Eli Talbert, David Rambo, Richard J. Lewis
Packaging: custom cardboard cover with sl
Picture Disc
6 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: Each CSI boxed set that has been previously released has offered an abundance of commentary tracks as well as numerous other special features, this fourth season set is no exception: this one boasts no less than seven audio commentary tracks. Episodes featured include Homebodies (Ken Fink and Naren Shankar), Assume Nothing (Anthony Zuicker and Carol Mendelsohn), Invisible Evidence (Danny Cannon and Josh Berman), Feeling the Heat (Anthony Zuiker and Eli Talbert), Jackpot (Danny Cannon and Naren Shankar), Butterfield (Anthony Zuiker, Carol Mendelsohn, Richard J. Lewis, and David Rambo), and Bad to the Bone (Eli Talbert). Each track offers insight into the creation of the episode, a collection of anecdotes, how some of the shots were composed, and how the crew goes about recreating some of the more gruesome scenes in the series. Cannon is the most interesting; he seems to be the director of choice for the series, while Zuiker (executive producer) also offers more than a few very interesting tidbits.

The last feature is a documentary that can be broken down into four subsections. The Evolution of an Episode from Concept to Completion offers a fascinating look at just how a show gets put together. The first is Script, which allows the chance to follow a story from the writers' room as we see an idea become a script. This is a very informative piece, but it gets better. Pre-Production examines how the crew plans for a shoot including props, locations, and the schedule of getting the hour-long show taped in a very short amount of time. Production takes us on the set as well as on location with the cast and crew as they shoot the series, while Post-Production shows how everything comes together and is turned into what is seen every Thursday night on CBS.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

CSI is easily one of the single best things about television right now. It is smart, funny, and most importantly, technologically incredible. If you haven't started collecting these wonderful season sets, just what are you waiting for? Very highly recommended.

 


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