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When he's not handing out blank cheques to directors; allowing them to spend millions on sets and then more millions on blowing them up, Hollywood's most famous film producer Jerry Bruckheimer keeps a watchful eye on the large group of television shows he helped bring to the small screen.

Most famous of the bunch is arguably CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which first appeared on American screens in 2000. At the time of writing, the sixth season is about to begin stateside, still ably tracking the lives and cases of a team of detectives who are assisted by the latest cutting-edge crime fighting equipment.

CSI: Miami - Season 2, Part One
Of course, the equivalent of sequels in TV-land is spin-offs and so, armed with the theory that you can never have too much of a good thing, Jerry and his cohorts spun CSI into CSI: Miami in 2002 and CSI: NY in 2004. The second series of the former is currently making its way to DVD, albeit in two halves. This first batch contains the first twelve episodes...

Series
If there's a murder in Miami, the first people on the scene are usually Lieutenant Horatio Caine (David Caruso) and the chief Medical Examiner Dr. Alexx Woods (Khandi Alexander). Together they'll strip away the details so that Caine and the rest of his team—consisting of Tim Speedle (Rory Cochrane) and Calleigh Duquesne (Emily Proctor)—can find a motive and, hopefully, a culprit.

Often it's not so much a case of 'whodunit' as 'howdeydoit'; as the team rely on forensic science and a bit of brain-power to work out the logistics of the crime. However, this is more than Diagnosis: Murder with a few bells and whistles; we're afforded a valuable insight into some of the more fascinating police measures; from the tracing of fingerprints to the physics of the flight of a bullet. To spice things up a bit, CGI is thrown into the mix, often giving us a flashback from a totally unique point of view.

CSI: Miami - Season 2, Part One
One could accuse CSI: Miami of being a little too flashy and the presence of Bruckheimer is noticeable in the macho-posing, occasional cheesy dialogue and impatient editing. The music too, including the theme tune performed by The Who, seems to betray the more intelligent aspects of the show. The effect is that CSI : Miami really isn't quite as smart as it would like to think it is. At times it's really rather brainless, but the fact of the matter is, it's also extremely entertaining. Caruso is not an overly dynamic lead but he puts in a solid performance and, while some of his co-stars are less reliable, we're in good company for these twelve episodes.

The choice of releasing all twenty-two episodes from season two should please the bigger fans of the show but this may be a (very) rare case where a 'best of' release would have done the trick. Unlike other genre faves such as Lost or 24, there's not a huge amount of continuity from episode to episode. Sure, there's the continuing plotline of Horatio investigating his brother's death but since that is not of any prominence until mid-season we could easily lose some of the lesser episodes. And there are some patchy entries in the first twelve episodes.

Take the first episode, for example. Blood Brothers is initially a very interesting tale about two brothers protected from the law by government red tape. With Horatio's hands tied by his superiors, we build towards a finale where it's unknown just how he'll bring these men to justice. Not to worry though; the script-writers have an escape clause in the form of a rather contrived and illogical ending. This sort of thing is common-place in the first few episodes and it's an irritation that this sort of laziness can hamper some, initially very promising, set-ups.

Far better are episodes such as Big Brother, in which Horatio discovers his late brother fathered an illegitimate child and Bait where a random shark attack disguises a sinister murder. Like its fellow CSIs, Miami is about as solid as a TV cop-show can be and the repeat viewings that DVD allows could create many more fans of this popular show.

CSI: Miami - Season 2, Part One
Video
CSI: Miami is presented in an anamorphic 1:85 aspect ratio transfer. There is a bit of aliasing present in some of the episodes but this is the only major gripe. Despite the sunny Miami location, the show looks its very best in the darkened offices of the CSI team. It's here that the sharpness and contrast of the video is truly noticeable.

Audio
It’s rare for a TV disc to boast a 5.1 surround sound mix so CSI fans should be thankful that the discs are equipped with such solid audio. However, they will not notice a huge amount of difference between viewing the shows on TV or on discs as the episodes are mostly dialogue-heavy. The speech, incidentally, is as crisp and clear as we’ve come to expect from a relatively high-profile release but there are not too many exciting uses of the surround sound.

Extras
Audio commentaries rank as one of the most favoured special features, but they are very much reliant on the commentators being entertaining enough to sustain your interest for an entire film or programme. Unfortunately, the commentaries on CSI: Miami are full of long silences, mutual back-slapping and not much insight.  The five episodes that contain commentaries (‘Blood Brothers', 'Hard Time', 'Hurricane Anthony', 'Complications' and 'Witness to Murder') seem to be a random choice rather than particularly strong entries.

Elizabeth Devine is the forensic consultant for CSI: Miami and she presents a short featurette on some of the techniques showcased in the programme. It’s separated into nine short chapters that, in a strange oversight, you cannot automatically play in consecutive order. Whether you’ll be inclined to navigate from chapter to chapter really depends on your personal taste but a combined time of seven minutes should give you an indication that this isn’t exactly in-depth.

CSI: Miami - Season 2, Part One
Overall
The quality of the episodes may be slightly inconsistent and the extras a little lacking, but the first part of CSI: Miami Season Two is a well presented package. Due to the fact that these episodes are, mostly, isolated affairs, you can dip in and out of this programme with casual abandon and be guaranteed an enjoyable forty minutes of entertainment. It may not be up to the standards of its sibling series but it’s still a strong programme that puts many shows to shame.


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