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Capsule Reviews: CSI vs. NCIS

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Once upon a time, a producer named Jerry Bruckheimer introduced American television audiences to the concept of a weekly TV cop drama that focused on forensic investigations of a crime rather than the usual “Book ‘em, Danno” approach. Although CSI wasn’t the first show to center on forensics, it certainly became one of the most popular, inspiring rip-offs and spin-offs galore. Years later, the original CSI is still going strong, as are its competitors and offshoots. Today, we take a look at a few recent home video releases from CBS/Paramount, showcasing the many, many forensics series out there.

CSI: The Ninth Season
We start with the original series (and probably the best). CSI: The Ninth Season starts out on a very serious note, as faithful viewers say a tearful goodbye to one of the show’s most tortured (but still loveable) characters. And then, just when it’s starting to look like you’re out of the woods as far as cast changes go, star/producer William Petersen moves on to greener pastures — leaving the series in the capable hands of distinguished actor Laurence Fishburne (let the Matrix jokes commence!).

Like any season of any good TV show, CSI: The Ninth Season has its share of bad episodes (not to mention bad acting, mostly from the hands of co-star George Eads), but there are more than enough good episodes to make up for that fact. The biggest highpoint for an old Star Trek fan like me was the episode, “A Space Oddity,” in which the series’ lab rats (Wallace Langham, Liz Vassey, et al) attempt to solve a murder at a sci-fi convention.

CSI: The Ninth Season is presented on DVD and Blu-ray, and the HD transfer on the latter release is nothing short of outstanding. This season was filmed in Super 35mm, and receives a 1080p/VC-1 transfer on BD, with very vibrant colors, a solid contrast, and some very crisp detail throughout. Both releases boast an anamorphic widescreen transfer of the complete season, and the Blu-ray has a spectacular 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack (giving every music queue and sound effect a chance to be heard), while the DVD contains a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. Special features include several deleted scenes, a couple of audio commentaries and featurettes, and a few episodes contain an optional interactive mode.

CSI: Miami – The Seventh Season
As to how this one continues to infest the airwaves is beyond me. I’ve seen some ridiculous TV shows chock full of bad acting in my time, but CSI: Miami always takes the cake in my book. Once more, we get to watch David Caruso take his sunglasses off only to put them back on over and over. Meanwhile, the rest of his semi-oblivious forensics crew attempt to figure out how to work their imaginary electronic equipment (which really takes the show into a half-ass science fiction field).

The Seventh Season picks up with the exciting conclusion from the previous season, wherein the great Horatio (Caruso) was seemingly assassinated. Sadly, this was not the case — Horatio is alive and well and living in Miami. Like many of the episodes that preceded these, there weren’t very many highlights in this season for me (I’m sorry, I simply do not like this show), although the “Raging Cannibal” episode was kind of cutesy.

Presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio, CSI: Miami – The Seventh Season boasts a beautiful (and tan!) transfer, and an equally lovely 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. Bonus materials are limited to two commentaries and three featurettes.

CSI: NY – The Fifth Season
A far cry from the drivel goin’ down in Southern Florida, CSI: NY – The Fifth Season presents itself as a legitimate litter of the CSI series. The premise here has Gary Sinise (who could kick David Caruso’s ass any old day) as the head of a crack team of experts in the Big Apple. Each character carries their own emotional baggage around on an episodic basis, which affects their lives and their work. Thankfully, CSI: NY tends to actually remember the show is about forensics — and doesn’t get too involved in “cop” part of “cop drama.”

CSI: NY – The Fifth Season hits DVD in another fab-a-roo 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer with another fine 5.1 DD soundtrack. Seeing as how the series hit the “100th Episode” mark during this season, this set boasts a four-part featurette about the milestone chapter and nothing else in the Extras section.

NCIS: The Sixth Season
Yeah, it’s a pretty silly show. At times, it might even be dumber than CSI: Miami. But, in the long run, NCIS is a pretty entertaining (and silly) show. In the previous season, the whole NCIS crew was disbanded by the new Director (Rocky Carroll), much to the dismay of Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon, who also co-produces the show, which is his justification for not having to actually emote or act). Naturally, it doesn’t take long for the ol’ crew to get back together.

Several highlights in The Sixth Season include a recurring plot to trap a double agent inside NCIS; a much-needed expansion into the history of David McCallum’s character (he really is the best reason to watch the show); and a laughable two-parter which serves as a backdoor pilot for the rip-off’s spin-off, NCIS: Los Angeles (a series that is destined to join the ranks of W*A*L*T*E*R and Galactica 1980 as Worst Television Spin-offs Ever).

Like all of the other TV on DVD series out there, NCIS: The Sixth Season is presented in a 1.78:1 ratio with anamorphic enhancement. Both the video and audio presentations are commendable, and this set boasts some of the better special features out of all of the four sets (except for Pauley Perrette’s acoustic audio track, which is pretty pretentious — and bad).

OK, so with all these forensic series out there, it’s hard to decide which ones to check out and which ones to avoid. Blu-ray owners definitely have to check out CSI: The Ninth Season: it kicks some major ass. On the SD-DVD front, the regular old CSI still gets top priority in my book. After that, I would elevate the latest installment of CSI: NY far, far above CSI: Miami, saving NCIS for the illustrious “Guilty Pleasure” category.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.
  • kristyH

    Cite your reasons for accusing George Eads of bad acting.

  • Smidge

    Someone’s a biased little blogger

  • Nancy

    George Eads is the best actor on CSI

  • JennaTN

    I completely disagree with you – George Eads is not a bad actor. He’s the best one on the show.

  • GeorgeFan

    You’re an idiot. George is the best thing that ever happend to CSI. He was injured for the last half of the season and still was better than everyone else on the show.

  • *bright

    George had back-problems last year, and his still acted like a pro if you’re referring to less physical activity on his part?

    And when given the chance with some material, IMHO, he outshines everybody in the acting department. But it’s kind of hard to act when you are not given any kind of material to work with. CSI dropped the ball with shoving GE’s character to the background. He’s now the only reason I decide to watch an ep. No Nick and I skip it.

  • claire

    Whattt?
    NCIS is by far sooooo much more better than any of the CSIs.

    CSI: New York is one of my favorite programs.

    The humor is what makes NCIS better than any of the others!

  • http://insomniacentertainment.com Luigi Bastardo

    George Eads is fine for the most part (I definitely give him props for carrying on despite an injury — that’s his Texas spirit, you know), but he is still far from perfect.

    Take that epic Season 9 moment (Episode 1) where Nick has a gun on Warrick’s killer: he seems pretty nonchalant for a guy that’s unsure about his next move. It was a very wooden moment for George, but thankfully he did a much better job in “Turn, Turn, Turn” that same season.

    George Eads himself seems like a great guy. I have nothing against him as a person — I just think he could improve his acting.

  • Deb

    I think you might want to re-watch For Warrick. Nick’s character had this determined look on his face the entire episode and he focused hard on finding the killer. It’s a very subtle thing that GE does. I like that he doesn’t over-act.

    About his back, it wasn’t just an injury, it was a cracked spine so if he seemed a little stiff, well, there you go, he was.

  • Toni

    Looks like members of a certain actor’s fan club have found you, decided to ignore your entire article and focused on one little sentence. Good luck!

  • Jalola

    There was a lot of difference between early spoilers for “For Warrick” and what came to screen. In the final version, Nick was far less involved and the obvious reason is that the episode was slanted to show Grissom as the most personally affected by the death and to give William Petersen his best shot at an Emmy. Well, it failed badly. Not only did Petersen not get a nomination, but many fans felt it rang untrue because Grissom was hardly around Warrick in the last few years. The whole thing seemed like crocodile tears.

    So Eads can’t do much if the writers’ agenda was to put Petersen forward and subdue the Nick character to do it.

  • http://insomniacentertainment.com Luigi Bastardo

    “Looks like members of a certain actor’s fan club have found you, decided to ignore your entire article and focused on one little sentence. Good luck!”

    Thanks, Toni! :)

    Part of being a “critic” is that some people will always disagree with you. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion: you say what you think, they say what they think.

  • http://insomniacentertainment.com Luigi Bastardo

    Thanks for posting that, Jalola — i’s very interesting. Sadly, it’s also very typical of Hollywood. The fact that William Petersen co-produces the show really makes you wonder if he was stroking his own ego or not.

  • Dee

    I don’t think (I don’t know, of course) but William Petersen doesn’t strike me as being an egotistical performer. All his colleagues on the show report that he was the driving force for an ‘ensemble’ production.

    Basing a sweeping statement of ‘bad acting’ on one scene seems a little unfair to George Eads, when he was clearly trying to stay ‘in control’, as opposed to hysterical pontificating at the murderer of his friend. What would you expect from a professional with a gun? A realistic depiction or the Hollywood version?

    Mostly, I cannot believe you mention George Eads in virtually the same breath as David Caruso. I sometimes think that David Caruso is actually a comic actor and we’ve all missed the point.

  • http://insomniacentertainment.com Luigi Bastardo

    Petersen’s always seemed like a pretty laid back kinda fellow, but you never know.

    For the record, Dee, I didn’t mention Eads and Caruso in the same breath — just in the same article. To mention both actors in the same breath would be completely unfair to George. Caruso is downright laughable.

  • GERocks

    You’re soooo wrong..dude..GE can act!

  • YouRSoWrong

    You realize that insulting GE is like insulting kittens and puppies. You bring out the worst in their fans.

    GE’s a great actor. He’s very subtle and doesn’t over do it. It separates him from some of the others I’ve seen.

  • stokesgirl

    I’m going to have to disagree with you on George’s acting. I think he does a great job. Yeah, sometimes his acting is off, that happens to EVERY actor, but he can say more just with a look/emotion on his face that not many actors can.

    However, in the second half of the season he was in tremendous pain and I can imagine how hard it is to focus on your acting, when you are in so much pain.

    I think that moment with Nick pointing the gun at McKeen was poignant. George definitely got across how much he was fighting not to shoot him.

    You do know that when tptb were deciding on who to bury alive in ‘Grave Danger’ that they picked George because he would give the most rawest performance? That must say something about his acting.

  • Vicki

    In fairness Toni – that “one little sentence” was quite an indictment against the man, seeing as he was singled out as “mostly” responsible for all the bad acting.

    It was kinda tough to take without any actual reference to said, “bad acting”. Even as a fan of the guy I don’t necessarily agree he walks on water, but I also felt surprised by the sentiment.

    Kudos to you, Mr. Bastardo for taking the time to expound on your point of view (even though I still disagree ) without unnecessarily insulting George or his fans. Wish some of them could have done the same. It only makes us all look crazy.

  • http://insomniacentertainment.com Luigi Bastardo

    Cheers, Vicki.

    “It only makes us all look crazy.”

    Aw, crazy isn’t necessarily a bad thing: the whole wonderful world of blogging as we know it would hardly exist without craziness, right? :)

  • Sansam

    The issue is why did you single out George? I mean yeah, you explained yourself and listened to the fans of GE which is commendable.

    He must be doing something right. I mean, he’s working steadily in a successful show. In the end, isn’t that what we all want. To do well enough to make a living?

  • kate

    george eads was a good actor at the beginning of the series but, as far as i can tell, the justified credit he got after the grave danger eps completely went to his head and his acting became overbearing and tired. The pout he gets and the tough guy look all the time is one dimensional and boring. he believes he is the best actor on the show and his arrogance pours across the screen and detracts from every scene he is in.