“CSI” The Eleventh Season shows that this veteran series has started showing its age. The crimes themselves are fine but I wasn’t a big fan of the season-long story arcs and although Nate Haskell is a great character, I wasn’t a big fan of his return this season and felt the stories got a bit too dark in spite of a few lighter episodes.
Genre(s): Crime, Drama
Paramount | NR – 962 min. – $69.99 | September 27, 2011
Directed by: Various
Writer(s): Anthony E. Zuiker (created by)
Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Marg Helgenberger, George Eads, Jorja Fox, Eric Szmanda, Wallace Langham, Paul Guilfoyle, Robert David Hall
Features: 2 Episode Commentaries, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes
Number of Discs: 6
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
“CSI” enters its eleventh season limping along in its ratings (fell to around 11-13 million viewers per week) despite adding the recognizable name in Laurence Fishburne in the second half of season nine. However, fans did not like the character’s dour persona and even though the show tried to recapture the intrigue of the Miniature Killer in season seven (one of the best of the series story-wise in spite of a lame reveal) with Dr. Jekyll the previous season and the dominant focus on serial killer Nate Haskell (BILL IRWIN) as Ray Langston’s (LAURENCE FISHBURNE) arch rival in seasons ten and eleven, it never quite caught the same fire and instead got real dark and, as actor George Eads put it in a recent interview, too “fire and brimstone” in the stories.
I will say that as an on-and-off fan of “CSI”, I didn’t mind the addition of Fishburne to the cast because he certainly brought something different versus William Peterson’s more dryly quirky Grissom and they also gave him a unique background as he fights his darker side (similar to Haskell) but despite a good beginning, it doesn’t really lead anywhere except towards a finale that although put together well enough, still was a letdown in the season finale.
Well, not that it matters since Fishburne – wanting to get back into motion pictures and leave the series behind – left with only a single line of his whereabouts in the twelfth season premiere (the repercussions of his actions, though, are present); it’s a footnote if you will for what is probably one of the more forgettable seasons in the long history of the series. And that’s kind of a shame since Bill Irwin turns in a fantastic and at times frightening performance that becomes more of a caricature towards his finale.
While most of the episodes were dark and mostly depressing, like other seasons we get a sprinkling of dark humor or even an entire light episode such as ‘Hitting the Cycle’ in which the CSI’s try to get the “cycle” of deaths: homicide, suicide, accidental and the natural with the latter eluding the team, the winner of which will collect a hefty sum from an office pool. It’s a welcome relief from the rest of the season, as also is ‘The Two Grissoms’ which finds Sara interacting with Grissoms’ mother at a charity ball (and of course a murder occurs during the event).
On the whole, “CSI” season 11 has some good episodes, others were so-so and a few downright below average. Unlike other fans, I didn’t mind Fishburne or his character but at the same time, the series had taken a sour turn and perhaps a change was needed.
Episodes (favorites marked with an asterisk):
02. Pool Shark
03. Blood Moon
05. House of Hoarders*
06. Cold Blooded
07. Bump & Grind
09. Wild Life
11. Man Up
12. A Kiss Before Frying*
13. The Two Mrs. Grissoms
14. All That Cremains
15. Targets of Obsession
16. Turn On, Tune In, Drop Dead
17. The List
18. Hitting for the Cycle
20. Father of the Bride
21. Cello and Goodbye
22. In a Dark, Dark House
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.25/5
Getting Personal: Season 11 of CSI (28:11) – This is an overview on the season and what they wanted to accomplish by supposedly rekindling what made “CSI” great and lighter, though I think they failed in the latter given the Ray Langston/Nate Haskell storyline. It’s a fine featurette which has interviews with the cast and crew about their characters.
Las Vegas Headliners (22:21) chronicles the guest stars that appeared this season from Justin Bieber, Carrot Top, Dita Von Teese, Elliott Gould and Ann-Margaret amongst others.
Audio Commentary on ‘House of Hoarders’ with George Eads (Nick Stokes), Producer/Director Alec Smight and Writer Christopher Barbour
Something Twisted This Way Comes (9:21) is centered on the episode, ‘Sqweegel’, showing the actor who played the killer and how it’s based upon a novel, and an interactive digi-novel. It shows the behind-the-scenes on making the episodes.
Colded-Blooded Killers (9:26) takes a look at the, well, ‘Cold Blooded’ episode and using the life-sized dinosaurs as a part of the plot.
Deleted Scene (1:20) is available for the episode ‘Fracked’. It’s a short scene and doesn’t add much, just a conclusion to the poisoned water storyline aspect.
Audio Commentary a ‘Kiss Before Frying’ with Eric Szmanda, Dita Von Teese and Producer/Director Brad Tanenbaum
Deleted Scene (1:13) is included on the episode ‘Man Up’, but like the other one, it’s mostly expositional and offers nothing to the plot as a whole.
Dita Von Teese Dance Performance (3:50) is the complete performance as seen in the ‘A Kiss Before Frying’ episode.
Intelligent Design: Creating Aeron’s Legion (7:06) is a featurette showing how they created the fictional game used in the ‘Hitting for the Cycle’ episode.
An Underground Perspective (7:28) is focused on the episode ‘Targets of Obsession’, how the set was designed/built.
No features on this disc.
VIDEO – 4.0/5
“CSI” The Eleventh Season is presented in its original anamorphic widescreen transfer and all in all, looks good. There is of course some artifacting that’s noticeable during the darker scenes (and there’s more than a few on this show) but colors are actually fairly vibrant and skin tones look just right.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
The DVD contains a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 that’s has a little oomph during whenever there’s music (be it the opening or the select techno/pop songs for the montages) but dialogue levels are crisp and clear. It’s not a wow-educing track or anything yet still it’s quite good.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, “CSI” The Eleventh Season shows that this veteran series has started showing its age. The crimes themselves are fine but I wasn’t a big fan of the season-long story arcs and although Nate Haskell is a great character, I wasn’t a big fan of his return this season and felt the stories got a bit too dark in spite of a few lighter episodes. All that said, it’s still a decent season and any die-hard fans should still enjoy more than half of these episodes.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman