Quality film news, reviews and features
21st October 2005 12:00:00
Posted by Eamonn McCusker

CSI: New York: Season 1 Part 1

DVD Video Review

It was only in reviewing the recent Region 2 release of CSI: Miami - Part One, given Momentum's splitting of each season - that the structure of the franchises was made clear. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, or CSI: Las Vegas it probably should now be known, aspires to the casinos but due to the limitations imposed on it by its budget, finds itself more on the desert floor than that of the MGM Grand. CSI: Miami is, of course, besotted with the fabulously wealthy residents of the titular city, including the models, diplomats, porn stars and businessmen but, again, what with budget restrictions, it's often left gazing in on those worlds, much like Charlie Bucket left outside of the candy store whilst other kids stuff their pockets full of Wonka bars inside.

New York, on the other hand, does filthy, lowdown and dirty. And it does it well. Whether it be the slums of the Bronx, the runaways who live in the subway or little Italian restaurants with bloodstains on the wall, New York is, out of the three CSI shows, the only one to attain much of what it sets out to do and, equally, is the only one to carry that look throughout the show. Be it the grimy streets of New York, the gothic arches of the building in which the CSI team is based or the dreary, rain-soaked buildings in which bodies are frequently found, New York is the darkest, most gloomy CSI show of them all. But yet, where it out to be bleak, New York sparkles with personality.

No two pairs of characters in any of the CSI shows work together like Danny and Aidan and Mac and Stella. Boasting a team closer to Las Vegas than Miami - Horatio's jumbling of partners and field officers is as confusing to the audience as it must be to his team - New York sticks doggedly to these pairings and over this first season, the relationships never disappoint. As regards Danny and Aidan - no working partnership in CSI has ever been as good as these two, not even Gil Grissom and Catherine Willows. Horatio Caine wouldn't even be this happy were he in a team of one. Danny is an Italian from New York who's hotheadedness is a mirror of the control-freakery of Mac and as the season progresses, his background is slowly revealed. In particular, the episode Tanglewood - not included in this half of the first season - shows Danny to have had flirted with gang life before a career in the police rescued him. But as shown in Crime and Misdemeanour and On the Job - again, neither of which are in this set - part of him remains resolutely outside of Mac's control, which almost loses him his place. As for Aidan, she makes a believable partner for Danny, able to prick his ego on occasion as well as to close a case without him.

But it's the friendship between Mac and Stella that above the usual CSI crime-solving, defines the show. Mac is an uptight ex-marine, who is still in mourning over the death of his wife in the attack of September 11th, whilst Stella, a younger investigator who's altogether earthier and less rigid, urges Mac to get out of the office and meet someone new. These two bicker like a pair of ex-lovers but look altogether ill-suited for a romance. Indeed, the manner of this relationship ebbs and flows throughout the season - typically, Stella does leave Mac well alone but occasionally her frustration at his inability to see how lonely he is causes her to lose patience with him and to draw attention to his frostiness around women. When the season ends with Mac agreeing to meet Rose (Penelope Ann Miller (Rose) for drinks after they met in a diner, you can't help but cheer that CSI has finally learned to not only let its characters have a love affair to also to end on a high. For those of use who've watched Grissom lose Terri Miller to his job, the meeting of Mac and Rose in a bar in New York was a joy.

No CSI show is, however, without fault and New York has two glaring problems. Firstly, the team appears to have been put together as the result of a focus group, with almost all colours and creeds in New York being accounted for - Mac is Anglo-Saxon Protestant, Flack is Irish Catholic, Danny is Italian Catholic, Stella is Greek Orthodox, Hawke is Afro-American and Aidan is Hispanic - which leaves the cast of the show, despite their best efforts, looking somewhat artificial. But, what could be the bigger problem in the long term is that New York has yet to produce a classic CSI episode. To date, Las Vegas has had six truly great episodes - the three involving Paul Millander (Pilot, Anonymous and Identity Crisis), the two that featured Lady Heather (Slaves of Las Vegas and Lady Heather's Box) and, although I had no great love for it, Grave Danger, the season five finale. Miami, unsurprisingly, has not produced one classic episode out of three seasons but, again, nor has New York and although it's only had one season to present itself, it doesn't yet feel as though it will produce one. Whilst it's a great show - week for week, I feel that it's the best of the three CSI shows - it just doesn't look as though it's going to raise its game to produce a few classic episodes in the manner that Las Vegas did. And that would be a shame as, otherwise, it gets so much right.

It is, though, still early for New York and providing that it builds on the end of this first season, I feel confident in saying that they will get much of its second season right. Even here, the second half of the season, which Momentum should be releasing in a matter of months, is an improvement over these first twelve meaning that, unlike the gloomy skies over the city, the future for New York looks bright.



Episode Guide

Blink (40m00s): In a story that owes much to Mark Billington's Sleepyhead, the CSI team investigate a serial killer who imprisons his victims within their own bodies - their minds remain active but their bodies do not respond to stimuli. Mac investigates and believes that he has a suspect, identified by one of the victims who appears able to communicate via blinking. Stella, however, is unconvinced.

Creatures of the Night (39m49s): At a society gathering near Central Park, a woman, who is bloodied and bruised, staggers out of the park and apologises to her father, who is in the crowd, for being late. It appears that she was raped whilst walking through the park but despite there being much evidence in the park, Stella and Danny find it hard to present a convincing case. Elsewhere, Aidan and Mac are investigating the death of a drug-dealer but, like their colleagues, have trouble making a cause due to a missing bullet. But when Mac sees that rats are living nearby and that there are bites on the victim's body, he wonders if a rat have eaten the evidence.

American Dreamers (40m45s): As an open-topped bus drives through Times Square, a young couple ask a man to take their picture but are horrified to find that it is only a skeleton that has been dressed and placed on the bus. Mac initially suspects that the skeleton is only a student prank but when Hawkes finds that the skeleton is of a young boy who died of a blow to the head, he urges the CSI team to investigate the disappearance of any boys in 1987, which leads him and Danny to those who live rough in subways and bus stations.

Grand Master (39m37sm): Mac reluctantly enters the world of hip-hop when an up-and-coming DJ is found stabbed to death following his success in a DJ'ing contest and his recent signing to a major label. All that exists to link the suspect to the murder is a voicemail message of some scratching that Mac asks Aidan to interpret. Meanwhile, Stella and Danny investigate the death of a fashion designer whose body was found in the swimming pool in her apartment, which leads to a seafood restaurant that specialises in serving food on the bodies of nude young women.

A Man a Mile (39m09s): During the construction of Water Tunnel No. 3, a man is found to have died during a planned underground explosion. As Mac and Danny investigate, they come under pressure from the mayor's office who are keen on there not being a delay to the opening of this tunnel but their efforts are complicated by the closed shop run by the construction workers' union. Above ground, Stella and Aidan look into the death of a young college student at a prestigious girls school who was found strangled and abandoned in a creek.

Outside Man (42m23s): Following a series of shootings at a restaurant, where the victims had plastic bags put over their heads before being shot, Mac offers Danny a chance at promotion and asks him to lead the investigation. As he and Aidan progress on the case, it leads them to believe that one or more of the employees may have been involved in setting up the shooting but they can't point to who. Meanwhile, Mac and Danny learn of a subculture obsessed with the amputation of limbs and of amputees when they investigate the death of a man and the discovery of his left lower leg.

Rain (40m16s): "It's Chinatown, Mac!" So says Stella when she and Mac are called to investigate the robbery of a bank that ended with the death of a security guard and two of the robbers, who were burned alive. But the discovery of a charm leads Stella to uncover a kidnapping plot involving the manager of the bank, which leads the CSI team to ask whether the robbery was connected to the kidnapping.

Three Generations are Enough (40m58s): CSI enter the world of day trading when an abandoned briefcase on a trading floor causes panic and a bomb alert. As Mac investigates the contents of the briefcase after determining that it is not a bomb, he and Danny find that it belonged to a broker who was looking into illegal trades being conducted by a number of other parties and who disappeared two nights before the discovery of the briefcase. Elsewhere, Flack and Stella talk catechism when the body of a pregnant woman is found near to a church.

Officer Blue (41m48s): When a NYPD mounted officer is shot whilst on his horse, Mac finds that the only evidence that still exists is a shard of bullet that is lodged in the horse, which is still alive. Convinced that the shot came from a sniper, Mac must decide whether it is better to save the animal or to have the horse put down in order to extract the evidence. Elsewhere in New York, Aidan looks into the death and burning of a kid in an alleyway, which leads her to an Italian restaurant and a possible link to the Mafia.

Night, Mother (40m09s): When the CSI team are required to investigate a murder, the obvious suspect is the woman who was found at the scene with the blood of the victim all over her hands and body but as she is revealed to be a parasomniac - a blanket term that includes any sleep disorder, such as sleepwalking, night terrors, rhythmic movements and sleep talking - Mac is not convinced about her guilt. Danny and Aidan are busy elsewhere in New York, investigating the death of a professional pickpocket who was found beaten to death.

Tri-Borough (39m50s): Following Aidan's earlier investigation involving the Mafia, Danny must now become involved with a case that flirts with the Mob as he looks into the murder of an art gallery owner whose final sale may have been that of a forgery to someone with a reputation to uphold. Meanwhile, Aidan and Mac and Stella are spread over two other boroughs in New York with the death of a worker on a construction site and the discovery of a body on the live rail on the subway. As Mac discovers, with the help of Hawkes, the electrical burns on the victim were applied post-mortem meaning the murder occurred elsewhere with the body being moved after the fact. From where, though, is what Mac and Stella must find out.

Recycling (41m35s): That there is no love lost between New Yorkers and bicycle couriers is evident when Stella and Danny investigate the death of one and find that few of the witnesses care to stick around. Their work is made more difficult when they realise that the courier may have been stabbed at any point along his route, which covers almost five miles. Meanwhile, Mac and Aidan find out what some dog owners are prepared to do to become best in show when a trainer is murdered at a dog show but, again, find that few of the owners take their work seriously when Mac's cold demeanour leaves a few of the dogs feeling upset.



Transfer

The obvious influence on the look of the show is not only the two previous CSI shows - Las Vegas moreso than Miami - but also David Fincher's Seven, particularly the opening of an episode like Rain and the discovery of the dead body in Outside Man. As such, it's vital that the DVD handles the rich colours that we expect of CSI but also dark shadows and both interiors and exteriors. Regular viewers of CSI on DVD will know, then, exactly what to expect of CSI: New York and to not be surprised that its a fine transfer with few faults - colours are good, it flatters the series with a sharp picture and there are few flaws in the image.

Similarly, the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track is also a tradition with CSI on DVD and this one is as good as any of the previous ones. The surround channels are used infrequently for both dialogue and action but are used much more often for ambient effects and the score. It is, though, a complementary audio track and whilst one never notices anything standing out, as such, there are also no obvious faults with it.



Extras

The Science Behind The Scenes (5m58s): Featuring an interview with Anthony Zuiker, Gary Sinise and Vanessa Ferlito, all of whom appear in praise of Bill Haynes, who is the show's technical advisor and who is there on-set to advise the cast on their use of equipment and scientific terms. Sinise and Ferlito appear grateful for the advice offered by Haynes but with brevity of the piece does little but flatter Haynes' input to the show.

Audio Commentaries: There are six audio commentaries spread over the twelve episodes included in this set - Blink and Officer Blue (series creator Anthony Zuiker), Creatures of the Night (writer and co-executive producer Pam Veasey), Outside Man (writer Timothy Lea) and Recycling (writers Lea and Zachary Reiter) - but of those, only Zuiker's can be considered a necessity. Zuiker appears here as Ann Donahue, Carol Mendelsohn and Danny Cannon appear on the opening episodes of various other CSI seasons - to give a voice to the creators and to allow them to set the tone of the series for the viewer. Donahue and Cannon were on the opening episode of the recent CSI: Miami Season 2 Part 1 and Zuiker's appearance here is unsurprising. What makes his commentary stand out from those of the writers is that Zuiker is much less specific about each episode, preferring to talk about the producer's overall plans for the show and how it differs from those set in Las Vegas and Miami. There are silences aplenty on each commentary, which, to me, suggests that those on the CSI boxsets are but a flimsy way to make them look as though there are decent amount of extras.



Overall

I'm curious as to how many of those in the audience and at home during July's Live 8 concerts thought it sweet that four or five middle-aged men were allowed to feature in the show's final hours to perform the CSI theme tunes from Las Vegas and Miami? And what next for the Who? Pinball Wizard for CSI: Brighton? Pictures of Lily for a one-off CSI production for Playboy? Fiddle About for CSI: Pitcairn Island? Suggestions please...

Baba O'Riley, great song though it is, doesn't feel quite suited to a CSI show and I wouldn't have blamed the producers of this show for moving on from The Who. That they didn't is yet more evidence that CSI: New York is just one more application of the CSI franchise in yet another city but, really, it's a much better show than that would suggest. For once, the relationships between the characters gets almost as much priority as the investigations and the actors on the show make the most of it, particularly Mac and Stella's argument in Officer Blue. It should, given the pattern of sequels, be an even poorer show that Miami but it's much, much better. I doubt many will agree with my belief that it's better than Las Vegas, which is fine and understandable, but with Sinise giving this as much class as Petersen, it's a great show that, now, only needs a few standout episodes to make everyone else love it as much as I do...

...oh, and a decent release of the entire season for a sum of money comparable to the Region 1 Season 1 boxset - Ł26 at DVD Pacific - would be nice as well.
Details and Specifications
DVD Video Review

Region: 2

Certificate: 15

Distributor:
Momentum Home Entertainment

Running Time:
486 mins approx
Soundtracks:
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles:
English

Director:
Rob Bailey
Kevin Bray
Danny Cannon
David Grossman
Tim Hunter
Deran Sarafian
Greg Yaitanes
Alex Zakrzewski

Main cast:
Gary Sinise
Melina Kanakaredes
Carmine Giovinazzo
Vanessa Ferlito
Hill Harper
Eddie Cahill
Sonya Walger
-- more --
Ratings
Film
9
Video
8
Audio
8
Extras
2
7