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Monday, September 24, 2012

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Season 12 Rates A Weighted 10

The best thing that can be said about the excellent DVD set of the very good twelfth season of the police procedural series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigations" is that it prompted adding the upcoming thirteenth season to my Tivo's Season Pass list.

This review of that set is the first in a trilogy of the DVD sets of the most recent seasons of the three "CSI" series. Each set is being released on September 25, 2012. 

Please look for a review of "CSI: Miami's" tenth and final season later this week and a review of "CSI: NY" S8 early next week.

I was a loyal CSI fan during the Grissom years and LOVED the era of series veteran Greg Sanders being a hilariously goofy lab rat. I deserted the ship when Laurence Fishburne's Ray Langston failed to grab me. 

Langston simply was not quirky enough to interest me and lacked the same rapport with the cast  that William Petersen achieved as Grissom.

Being won over while watching the DVDs, all of which I viewed over a five-day period, of the twelfth season makes me want to revisit the Langston years.

I really really wanted to like "CSI" again when Ted Danson, who I loved as "Cheer's" Sam Malone, came on board at the beginning of the twelfth season. Unfortunately, the writers made the (correctable) mistake of making Danson's D.B. "Moonbeam" Russell too odd right in the opening scene of his first episode. Throwing in a somewhat complex murder aboard an inter-casino tram only added to the negativity that prompted deleting both that episode and my season pass halfway through the season premiere.

I am genuinely glad that the DVD release provided an opportunity for a second chance to watch this season.

The "CSI" writers quickly toned down Russell's oddities to interesting quirks and did a better job crafting the few of the season's twenty-two episodes that required a scorecard to keep the victims and/or suspects straight.

I also liked the touch of adding the oft-mentioned but rarely seen character of Russell's wife. This was a nice homage to Norm Peterson's wife Vera on "Cheers." 

S12 is notable as well for being the last one for Marg Helgenberger's Catherine Willows, who was with the show from the start. The copious special features on the DVD set include Helgenberger's reflections on her 12 years in the role. I look forward to watching it after catching up with the other "CSI" DVD sets.

The writers did a good job with Helgenberger's anticipated departure. Earlier episodes in the season hinted at it and other indications that Willows' story would end on a sappy modern fairy tale note turned out to be inaccurate.

Having "Cheers'" Kirstie Alley replace Helgenberger would have been a nice touch; bringing in Elisabeth Shue as a Dexter-style blood splatter expert with a slowly revealed history with Russell overall worked well. 

Shue did a good job as Julie Finlay, but suddenly having blood splatter play a significant role in many cases after she came on board was somewhat forced.

The elements described above and other aspects of "CSI" S12 earned it a weighted, rather than outright, 10 because it was not perfect but was very good on its own merits and deserved an aged-based handicap. This ranking also reflected that this season would have made an excellent final season if, as speculated, "CSI" was not renewed for the upcoming thirteenth season.

Each S12 episode held my interest and many had interesting twists. Even the few "Scooby Doo" style ones in which it was obvious that the least obvious suspect was guilty were good.

The "Tressed to Kill" episode that involved a serial killer with a real retro sensibility was one of the more suspenseful and creative of the season; a multi-story arc involving the head of a Blackwater-style private security firm maintained a good pace; and separate episodes about robbers targeting weddings and a murder in a mob museum tied in nicely with the series' Las Vegas setting.

The only disappointments, which were excusably after well over 200 episodes, were the absences of bodies located in highly improbable locations or truly baffling evidence found. A middle-aged hunter found with grossly wrinkled skin came the closest and included a nice payoff regarding the cause of that condition.

Former "Charlie's Angels" star Jaclyn Smith earned the most noteworthy guest star of  the season award. She did an awesome job as the flighty and doting mother of highly disliked lab rat David Hodges.

Current dreamy teen heartthrob Justin Bieber playing against type in "CSI's" eleventh season apparently inspired having dreamy former teen heartthrob Jesse McCartney play a 20-something rich boy with Daddy issues.

The only real weak point of the season was an improbable plot that involved a suspect leaving the ultimate victim alone for just over fifteen minutes and staying close by but remaining oblivious during a relatively elaborate staged murder.

The bottom line is that "CSI" received a good makeover in its twelfth season and deserves a second look. The good treatment of the episodes and the rare inclusion of multiple interesting features in a twelfth season set make the DVD collection worth buying.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "CSI" in general or goofy Greg in particular is encouraged to email me.