The CSI franchise has been rolling on for over a decade now. Not many shows make it to a tenth season these days, so it’s a mark of the Las Vegas original’s quality that the show has survived for so long. However, can a procedural show with a fairly rigid formula keep itself fresh after more than 200 episodes and still attract a new audience?
Well, the answer to the latter is probably no. Everyone knows the CSI blueprint: a crime is committed and our attractive group of investigators use a combination of state-of-the-art forensic techniques and good old fashioned police-work to bring the killers to justice. After ten years, you’ll already know if you like the show, and if you stuck with it after the big-name departures of William Peterson, Gary Dourdan and Jorja Fox (though Fox does return for several episodes here), then it’s unlikely anything here that will change your mind.
The big-name addition of Laurence Fishburne continues to pay dividends, keeping things relatively fresh. That’s not to say the presence of William Peterson’s Gil Grissom isn’t missed, but the calm, gentle gravitas that Fishburne brings to Dr. Langston gels nicely with the rest of the cast, particular in his friendship with fellow medic Doc Robbins (Robert David Hall). Following his introduction in Season 9, here we get more of an insight into the man, although his strained relationship with his dad and his worries about an “anger gene” that runs in the family often feel crow-barred into the script.
Along with your everyday murders and robberies, there’s a larger story-arc at play, with a serial killer on the loose in Vegas. Dubbed “Dr. Jekyll” due to his particularly nasty habit of performing unnecessary, life-endangering, surgery on unsuspecting victims, Langston embarks on a personal crusade to catch him. CSI’s arc episodes are often the most involving and that’s again the case here, particularly with the two-part finale that reintroduces Langston’s incarcerated nemesis Nate Haskell, so wonderfully (and creepily) played by Bill Irwin.
As ever, the standalone episodes allow the show to explore different worlds and ideas, some of which are more successful than others. Highlights include an episode where a potentially racist cop apparently shoots a defenceless African American; a heist gone wrong that shows us the killer from the start; and a harrowing tale where a friend of Captain Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) finds her missing family’s case reopened. Elsewhere the gang investigate crimes involving professional bowling and the disgusting world of “panty-sniffers”, while the rich history of the show is drawn upon as links to crimes dating back to serial killer Paul Millander from the early seasons are uncovered.
There’s also the now traditional “lab-rats” episode, focusing purely on the lab technicians, which highlights the sweet romance between Liz Vassey’s Wendy and Wallace Langham’s Hodges that runs throughout the season. Notable guest-stars include Michael Kenneth Williams and country-rock band Rascal Flats, playing themselves.
It’s testament to the series that, even in the unspectacular, run-of-the-mill episodes, the writers can still wring surprises with clever writing and direction, while employing a willingness to toy with expectation. The show is aging, but it can still surprise.
Essentially, though, this remains just another season of CSI. It’s not spectacular, nor especially pioneering, but it’s still very well made and still very entertaining, with nothing to suggest that the show can’t continue for another decade.
Extras: A decent turn-out, with a series of documentaries that don’t outstay their welcome detailing subjects such as the virtuoso opening scene of the season, the genesis and production of the cross-over episodes with CSI: Miami and CSI: New York (both of which are included here), and a piece covering the “lab-rats” episode, written by Vassey and Langham themselves. Informative, and entertaining, it’s nice to see a more light-hearted side of the cast and they obviously have great enthusiasm for their show.
Released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 7th February 2011 by Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment.