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DVD Review: CSI: Vegas – Season Twelve

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After two seasons, Ted Danson is now a familiar sight in his role and in the surroundings on CSI: Vegas. But I will admit to much trepidation when I heard that he was going to be joining the cast in season 12. Maybe trepidation isn’t the right word, actually, so let’s go with terror. 

I’d already seen what looked like an interesting choice when Laurence Fishburne joined the cast in season nine, only to see his role spiral into an unnecessarily dark storyline that sprawled throughout season 11 (which turned out to be his last on the show). I worry that Danson’s casting would follow the same path.

I love this show and the characters the core actors have created and sustained for 13 years now, and each time the producers bring in a new “big name” actor, I’m always worried that it’s simply a short-term ploy to try and hook casual fans in for awhile without considering what will help sustain the show through future seasons. 

Sure, Fishburne is a successful movie actor, but I don’t think he ever planned on doing more than two or three seasons (and three it was), so I worry about whether Danson signed on with the same game plan. Get in, try to get a few new viewers that are thinking “what the HELL is this guy doing starring in a CSI series?” and then leave the show a weaker thing than when they began. Which, as much as I love Fishburne, I thought his stint did.

Well… after watching last season (and continuing on into the new season but that’s besides the point, really) I have to say that all those fears are gone, and I’m amazed at how such a weird and quirky, unexpected choice turned out to be so obviously the right choice.

CSI is often a show that thrives on the weird and quirky. Remember the Plushy episode, anyone?

Danson steps into the “team leader” role quite nicely. In a position once was filled by William Peterson as Dr. Gilbert “Gil” Grissom, it’s tailor made for an actor to be able to have a little fun and play it strange. There are enough talented actors in wonderfully written character roles that easily give us enough of the science and normality so that Danson, as Peterson before him and in some ways Fishburne during his seasons on the show, is able to play the eccentric and provide the audience with a slightly different look at each episode’s circumstances – almost like a prism that allows the story’s light to explode into all of its colorful components and evidence. If you can’t tell, I truly like him in this role.

After the departure of Fishburne’ Ray Langston and the mid-season departure of Catherine Willows (played by the amazing Marg Helgenberger), Danson manages to keep the show entertaining, and the writers manage through his character to add another fine actress into the series with Elisabeth Shue playing Julie (Finn) Finley.

Finn is written as having formerly worked with Danson’s character, D.B. Russell, earlier in their careers. It’s a nice touch that allows some of the “newness” to be spread out among two actors instead of it all focusing on one, while allowing some immediate solidity to Danson’s character’s backstory. He’s just new to this particular CSI unit, it makes us feel, but he’s been there all along working just off camera. With that simple addition, the writers take away any sense of “doesn’t he have to learn what’s going on?” as Fishburne’s character had to endure.

Over the span of 22 episodes – 12 with Helgenberger and 9 with Shue – season 12 of this venerable franchise seems to signal that the producers are definitely not afraid of change, and they are also willing to delve back into some of the quirkier sides of murder and investigation. I hope it’s a signal of many seasons to come with this cast as I will surely be watching them all.

Usually I don’t pay much attention to anything beyond the episodes themselves when purchasing and watching a season box of a network show but there are a couple of things of interest in Season 12’s package:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • “A Crime a Dozen”
  • “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas”
  • “A Farewell to Marg”
  • “Putting on a Freak Show”
  • “A Family Affair”
  • “Death, Trucks & Rock n’ Roll”
  • Audio Commentaries on 2 Episodes

Whereas the deleted scenes are pretty much what you’d expect in such a set, there are a couple of featurettes worth spending time watching, including “A Farewell to Marg,” “Putting on a Freak Show” and “A Family Affair.” The first is a nicely filmed look back at Marg Helgenberger’s stellar work on the series as she says farewell to a character she’s played for over 11 years. “Putting on a Freak Show” is a nice look at the production that went into place creating the world of a Freak Show for episode 6, “Freaks and Geeks.” Finally, “A Family Affair” allows a glimpse into the private life of Doc Robbins (played by David Robert Hall).

As I mentioned above I don’t normally look for the extras in a box like this but as this is a very solid season and a jumping on point for two key characters I can certainly see how they are a nice way for fans of the show to get a closer look at what’s going on behind the camera. I’m glad I made the effort to watch them and will certainly give more thought to such extras in the future.

 

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