Click Here!Now airing its ninth season, CSI started as a show in 2000 that drew the eye of critics (i.e., those who are actually employed in the jobs the series depicts) for its portrayal of the crime investigation process as well as the ire of those who frown upon television violence and other objectionable things. All of this spotlight, however, just caused the show to grow in popularity and in 2002 it became the most watched show in America (although now with a high-dose of reality like American Idol and the like, CSI’s commanding lead isn’t as impressive as it once was). Needless to say the show has continued on and with the likes of Laurence Fishburne appearing in its latest season, it shows no signs of slowing.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is a fast-paced drama about a passionate team of forensic investigators trained to solve crimes the old-fashioned way – by examining the evidence. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is on the case 24-7, scouring the scene, collecting the irrefutable evidence and finding the missing pieces that will solve the mystery.

This first season may seem old hat now, but this marks not only the first season of the show to arrive on Blu-ray (yup, Paramount actually went back and started from the beginning) but also refreshes the video and the audio from a previously released 4×3, Dolby Digital 5.1 mix to a 1080i 16×9 DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix. I’ll touch more on that in a bit, but needless to say if you’ve only seen this first season in its standard definition DVD release previously then this is a whole other ball game in terms of a viewing experience. Fans can skip on by the next couple paragraphs as I ramble about this season, as they’ll know what to expect.

Stepping into this first season now after eight others have followed it and so many other shows have imitated its high-on-gore factor when it comes to crime scenes and autopsies, but there’s still fun to be had here. The introduction of the cast is key, as although it is a show you can pop in and watch any of its reruns of without any real previous knowledge of other episodes, it simply flows a hell of a lot better when you know the characters, their histories, and their relationships with one another on the show. Granted that can be said for any well-written show, but it needs to be said here if only because there’s plenty to gain from watching this first season rather than just jumping into the current season.

With the series combining two or three different crimes into one episode, there’s rarely a dull moment to be had from this season and when paired up with the shows unique visual style of ultra-realism and grittiness that looks more like a big budget motion picture than a standard TV show, CSI is definitely a fantastic looking show and one that definitely sets itself apart from the other network shows (although nowadays so many shows look like they were made on Hollywood budgets…guess you could say CSI has inspired more than just other cop/crime drama shows).

Of course there are jokes to make about this series too (CBS got a bit overzealous with all of the spin-offs…which were nevertheless successful, but man), but for the most part if you haven’t gotten into CSI yet, then you’re really missing out. Gripping, gritty, realistic (or hyper realistic, depending on who you talk to…but this is a drama, after all), CSI’s first season is mandatory viewing for those who love mystery shows. Highly Recommended.

The Blu-ray
Egad…I had no idea this show was this old, but man does it ever look good on Blu-ray. Coming from 2000 (almost ten years old…amazing), CSI’s first season debuts itself in 1080i widescreen for the first time available on home video. Granted this is the first HD release of it anyway, but since the previous DVD release was 4×3 only, the OAR and improved audio mix is reason enough for fans of the series to upgrade to this package. On the outset everything looks new about this release—new package (in a double width Blu-ray case, housing the five discs), new cover art (foil reflective!) and a surprisingly nice menu system.

I’ve talked about the video a lot already, but I’ll do it again: 1080i, VC-1 encoded, and in widescreen for the first time. Sure, it’s not full HD (that’d require 1080p), but this is as good as this show will ever look and I have to say…the look of the show translates fantastically to Blu-ray. Vibrant, moody colors and fantastic visuals, CSI’s first season is as impressive in story as it is visually. Unfortunately the audio is a little less impressive, as although it’s a fantastically crisp and clear 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, it just isn’t something that this show…well, needs. There’s some solid surround usage throughout the series, but nothing that would genuinely require a 7.1 mix (which is the first release from Paramount to support this, I think…not even Transformers got DTS-HD, let alone 7.1) and the majority of the audio comes out of front channels regardless. Although there is a hefty amount of LFE output, so that was surprising, at least. But a 5.1 track would have sufficed just as well. Hrm…I daresay I just complained about a 7.1 track. Strange.

First up on the extras docket is the People Lie but the Evidence Never Does, a carryover from the 2003 DVD release that is high on fluff and low on content (although cast and crew interviews are included, so worth checking out for that at least). Thankfully the extras don’t remotely stop there—there are plenty of new extras that are exclusive to this release. Starting in that area we have the Director’s Cut of the Pilot with commentary, presented in HD, and CSI Season One – Rediscovering the Evidence, which trashes the 2003 DVD extra, as not only is this a retrospective but includes tons of cast and crew interviews. On top of this it’s a pretty meaty extra, running nearly thirty minutes, so fans will absolutely love this extra.

Deleted Scenes is a mixture of high-definition and standard-definition deleted scenes, while Gag Reel is entirely standard-definition. Also included is an array of Series & Episodic Promos used to tout the show. This wraps up the extras and, quite frankly, short of recording new commentaries on the episodes, this is as good of a package as I can think of.

Overall fans who own the previous edition shouldn’t hesitate to upgrade as this is a great “refresh” for a fantastic series. Those looking to get into the series also couldn’t have picked a better time, as the widescreen transfer of the series is definitely the way to go. Highly Recommended.

CSI – The First Season arrives on Blu-ray on May 12th.

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