In the words of sermonising Grissom, there is "no room for subjectivity" in this crime drama. CSI reveals the pros and cons of 'criminalistics' as the investigators discover that an apparently obvious kidnapping is not what it seems, while a wife clearly battered to death does not indicate foul play, it's simply a messy accident. Often, these scientists are at loggerheads with Vegas' detectives, and even one another, when dissimilar or contradictory theories seem to explain 'what the hell happened', suggesting a different prime suspect for each one, or perhaps no suspect at all. There are reconstructions and deconstructions of events with use of explanatory flashbacks, and abstract - if occasionally gross - visual effects (we see bullets ripping through internal organs, flesh decaying in time-lapsed synopsis, light penetrating matter to expose microscopic detail), but it's always the logical study of cause and effect that finds a culprit, if one is there to be found, and not the search for human motives or intent which drives most regular crime shows.
First impressions cannot be trusted here, and multiple perceptions of a crime 'narrative' may all prove deceptive (supporting actor Paul Guilfoyle accurately cites "the Rashomon technique" as a contributing influence) when there's a twist ending. It's also true that Quincy (1977-85) is a notable forerunner of this kind of show, but CSI is far more concerned with style than characterisation. Here, leads Petersen and Helgenberger are compelling largely because of their diverse acting experience in genre cinema - Petersen starred in Manhunter, while Helgenberger played a top biologist in the two Species movies. What CSI does have in common with Quincy is a dry sense of humour - which, naturally enough, tends to focus on sinister themes, and the inescapably absurd conceit of having the laboratory team interview witnesses, interrogate suspects, and make felony arrests. Of course, this particular aspect of the programme is entirely fictitious but, nonetheless, it makes for good TV entertainment!
Behind the scenes, blockbuster maestro Jerry Bruckheimer (see Armageddon, Pearl Harbor) is producer of CSI, while British filmmaker Danny Cannon (Judge Dredd) is one of the co-producers and directs some episodes, including the pilot. This package of three discs has the first 12 episodes, the finest of which are Blood Drops - in which two girls survive the horrific slaughter of their family but keep a secret more disturbing than murder, and the highly intriguing Anonymous - that continues the show's ongoing serial killer story-arc, while developing significantly ominous consequences for Grissom.
DVD extras: character profiles, cast and crew interviews, trailer, and optional English subtitles.