is the shit right now. It went toe-to-toe against NBC’s Must See Thursday and came out on top, it rivals Law & Order
in generating popular spin-offs, and through computer video graphics made blood spatter and gun shot residue sexy and exciting. Add to that the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Southwest, Las Vegas, as a backdrop and you got yourself a ratings juggernaut. In its fourth season, our band of criminalists, while examining corpses and semen stains, have some personal issues to deal with.
The leader of the group, Gil Grissom (Petersen), fully recovered from his hearing problems of last season, now must sort out his feelings for his co-worker Sara Sidle (Fox). Gil’s right hand, Catherine Willows (Helgenberger), has to deal a large gift of money from her biological father, a casino owner and probable murderer. A promotion has gotten the other members, the aforementioned Sara, Nick Stokes (Eads), and Warwick Brown (Dourdan) in a competitive spirit. And one of them will crack under the pressure. But don’t worry, the true focus is still on the forensic evidence, decomposing corpses, and messed-up murderers the make the show so watchable.
Since this is a very popular show, I’m not sure what I can say that hasn’t already been said by other critics. So I’m going to throw out a few impressions I got from watching this season. One thing I noticed is how the show explores various unusual subcultures. From furries to vampires to clowns, they are used mostly as a backdrop but it does make for interesting television. Though I’m not sure if introducing the concept of “yiffing” to America is a good thing. (Look it up, I dare you.) And clown sex is never a good idea. Just say no.
It’s also nice to see the writers changing the formulas a little. You have Grissom in a small town getting his forensic groove on old school style, the team investigating crimes that are really just bizarre accidents, and even not being able to get the suspect on the evidence. A controversial episode has a man who stole, killed, and committed bizarre acts and the show gives no real explanation. While that frustrated some viewers (I know it pissed off my grandmother), it does reflect some crimes that have no rational or even irrational explanation. Unfortunately, the show tends to overlap onto L&O territory.
One episode has a couple killing their child so he won’t suffer the debilitating death from Tay-Sachs disease, a genetic disorder. Law & Order: SVU had an episode featuring the disease earlier that same year. Since both shows do cover similar subject matter, this will happen–but you think they could have held off on producing the script until it didn’t seem so been-there, done-that. But this is a minor quibble about a well done show.
We get quite a few episode commentaries and a multi-part making of featurette in this set. While listening through the commentaries, I noticed that they all include writers and directors but no actors. I’m not sure if this was because of scheduling or budgetary concerns, but it is a little odd. Still, the discussions are quite good. They give credit for many of the ideas for the show to actual CSIs who the staff consults regularly. They also discuss directions they plan for the season as a whole along with specific inspirations for individual episodes. I’m curious how they decided which episodes get commentary. For instance, they have the first part of the season opener covered, but not the second part. And not having the actors present, you are missing a significant part of the making of the episode. This is compensated a little by the making of featurette, which is actually four featurettes.
The four cover the creation of the episode “Suckers” where a casino is conned out of millions of dollars as well as a victim who looks like she was bitten by a vampire. These are very informative, seeing the process from selling the script concept to setting up the sets and props to the perils of location shooting to creating the special effects in post-production.
Since the start of the present season of CSI, its fifth, the fourth season is now in syndication, but if your curiosity is piqued, getting all the episodes in one shot and the extras make the box set worth a rental at least.
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