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Since discovering CSI on one of the more obscure cable channels I’ve become something of an addict. After tuning in nightly for weeks on end I managed to catch almost all of the first three seasons, and I’m currently working my way through the forth series of the show as fast as Channel 5 can air it. The blend of interesting characters and labyrinthine plots makes for compelling viewing, especially now that the writers are beginning to weave subtle plot points and character traits throughout the series (such as Grissom’s hearing loss). However, it’s when compared to its spin-off show that the brilliance of the original comes to the fore. The main difference here is the calibre of the actors—I like and care about the characters in CSI, which is something that cannot be said for CSI: Miami. Thankfully those viewers who don’t have access to satellite/cable television or Channel 5 (and let’s face it, that’s a lot of people) can now take home the first half of season three courtesy of this boxed set from Momentum.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Season Three, Part One
Episodes
Rather than engage in a lengthy discussion about each episode, or indeed the series as a whole, I’ve chosen to write a brief synopsis of the twelve episodes included in this boxed set.

Revenge Is Best Served Cold
Catherine and Nick head out to the desert to investigate illegal street-racing after the discovery of a body at an abandoned airstrip. Meanwhile, back in town, Grissom and the rest of the team are working on the case of a poker player who died suddenly during a high-stakes game. As usual, things are rarely what they seem.

The Accused Is Entitled
In one of the best episodes of the season, Grissom and the team investigate the suspicious death of a woman found in the hotel room of a famous movie star. When the case goes to trial the defence bring in Grissom’s old mentor, Philip Gerard, in an attempt to discredit the CSI team’s evidence. As the case progresses Gerard resorts to questionable tactics to secure an acquittal, including the exploitation of Grissom’s hearing loss.

Let the Seller Beware
Grissom and Catherine work the case of a wealthy couple found murdered in the grounds of their home, which had recently been put up for sale. Meanwhile, Sara investigates the murder of a high-school cheerleader whose eviscerated, partially eaten body was discovered on school grounds.

A Little Murder
When a dwarf is found hanging from the rafters at a convention for little people Grissom is called in to determine if it was suicide, or something more sinister. On the other side of town, Catherine is attacked when she and Warwick attend the site of a burglary gone wrong.

Abra Cadaver
In a guest appearance that sees him reunited with his Manhunter co-star William Petersen, Tom Noonan plays a magician who just happens to be the prime suspect in the case of the disappearance of a woman who simply ‘vanished’ during his act. Elsewhere in Las Vegas, Catherine is assigned to look into whether the death of a rock star by an overdose was an accident, suicide or murder.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Season Three, Part One
The Execution of Catherine Willows
Fifteen years after Catherine Willows’ evidence put the prime suspect in serial-rapist and murderer case behind bars, the accused is granted a temporary stay of execution when a number of young women are found dead in similar circumstances. Catherine and Grissom reopen the investigation to determine whether they really got their man, or if the killer is still at large.

Fight Night
When a boxer dies in the ring during a prize fight the CSI team are called in to determine whether the death was simply a tragic accident, or if foul play was involved. Meanwhile, Catherine investigates a gangland shooting that took place outside of the boxing venue, while Nick looks into a jewellery store heist.

Snuff
In perhaps the darkest episode of the season, the CSI team investigate the discovery of a pornographic film that appears to portray the murder of a young woman. Examination of the footage leads the team to the hotel where the film was shot, and to a possible suspect. Elsewhere, entomologist Grissom discovers a desiccated body, covered from head to toe in fire ants. Grissom uses his understanding of the creatures’ life cycle to begin to unravel the mystery.

Blood Lust
After apparently running down and killing a teenaged boy, a middle-eastern cab driver is beaten to death by an angry mob. When the CSI team arrive on the scene they discover that the boy had been eviscerated prior to the car striking him, leaving the team with two questions: who stabbed the boy, and who were the racists responsible for the death of the cabbie?

High and Low
Catherine looks into the murder of a man who was apparently shot dead in the parking lot of a diner, while Grissom, Warrick and Nick investigate death of a man who was apparently jumped from the top of a building. When Grissom discovers evidence of a struggle on the roof the focus of the case shifts to uncovering the identity of the killer—but was it murder, or a tragic accident?

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Season Three, Part One
Recipe for Murder
Grissom and Catherine investigate the grisly discovery of a severed arm in a grinder at a slaughterhouse, which in turn leads them to an expensive restaurant. Meanwhile, Warrick and Sara investigate the apparent staged suicide of a schizophrenic young woman.

Got Murder
When a group of birdwatchers discover a raven carrying a human eyeball, the trail eventually leads Catherine, Sarah and Nick to a divorced man and his two young children. Meanwhile, Warrick and Grissom investigate the circumstances of an unusual autopsy, which leads to a sleazy car dealership.

Video
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (as broadcast on Channel Five), and is anamorphically enhanced for your viewing pleasure. The show is naturally very ‘gritty’ in appearance, with plenty of filters used to give it a very stylised look (think The Matrix), and I’m pleased to report that it looks better than ever here. Sharpness, contrast, black level and colour rendition are all much improved over the standard TV broadcasts I’m used to, and thankfully I couldn’t spot any particularly severe artefacts (although some minor aliasing is present in a couple of scenes). All in all these transfers do an admirable job of recreating the film-like quality of the source material.

Audio
Prior to receiving this set I’ve ‘only’ ever listened to CSI in good old Dolby Surround, so I was looking forward to hearing the show in full 5.1 glory. As one might expect, it really does make a difference to the whole listening experience, with everything sounding much ‘crisper’ on DVD. While it’s predominantly dialogue based—and thankfully this element of the track is crystal clear—the mix is surprisingly immersive, with frequent re-direction of the score to the surround channels establishing just the right mood. Add to this the occasional discrete effect and you have a very atmospheric experience.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Season Three, Part One
The one fly in the aural ointment comes in the shape of the episode Blood Lust. For some strange reason the 5.1 track is totally unbalanced, with the dialogue channel also emanating from both the front and rear left speakers! To add to the frustration, the right channel is all but silent for the duration, creating a terribly distracting effect that forced me to switch my amp into stereo mode just to get through the episode. However, I would imagine that my check discs are not representative of the finished article, and that someone noticed this uncharacteristic blunder before mass production began.

Extras
The set contains a small collection of bonus material, starting with the CSI Moves into Season 3 featurette on disc one. Running for a little over thirteen minutes, the piece includes interviews with cast and crew as they examine some of the trials and tribulations that the characters go through over the course of the twenty-two episodes that comprise series three. I found this featurette a little more palatable than the standard ‘making of’ featurette, and it was genuinely pleasing to hear from the actors themselves.

The second featurette, entitled The CSI Tour: Police Station, is hosted by production designer Richard Berg, and takes you on a short (nine minute) tour of the police station set. While this is interesting enough the first time around it’s unlikely that it will suffer repeated viewings, and so is slightly disappointing overall.

The best of the supplemental material takes the form of audio commentaries on the episodes Revenge Is Best Served Cold, The Accused Is Entitled, Fight Night and Snuff . With input from Anthony Zuiker, Danny Cannon, Ann Donahue, Ken Fink, Richard Lewis and Naren Shankar, the commentaries provide many interesting and informative insights into the creative process. It is a testament to those involved that the tracks manage to entertain given the often grim subject matter, but I can’t help feeling a little short-changed by the fact that there are only commentaries on four out of twelve episodes…

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Season Three, Part One
Overall
CSI is one of the most consistently entertaining shows on television at present. Sure it’s formulaic, but the charismatic cast of characters, led by William Petersen’s Gil Grissom, are more than interesting enough to carry this minor burden. There isn’t a single ‘bad’ episode in this boxed set—a rarity when it comes to episodic television shows these days—and I found myself returning to certain episodes time and time again (even with knowledge of the eventual outcome). Technically this set is very accomplished, with fine visuals and soundtracks that actually enhance the viewer’s enjoyment (the unfortunate audio glitch on the episode Blood Lust aside). However, in spite of the commentaries and featurettes, I can’t help but think that slightly more could have been done with the extras. I would have liked more input from the actors themselves, such as their inclusion on the commentary tracks (or they could even have recorded separate tracks for some episodes). My other criticism relates to the decision to releases the season as two sets rather than one, which not only forces the customer to wait months between releases, but also to pay more than they would for a single release. These minor quibbles aside, Momentum has delivered an excellent package that more than does justice to the source material. It is for this reason that I don’t hesitate to recommend this set.


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