'CSI: Miami' is still alive and kicking on Monday nights

The Baltimore Sun

CSI: MIAMI - The Complete Fourth Season -- CBS / $54.99

Horatio Caine (David Caruso) and Company are getting new respect this fall after directly pummeling Aaron Sorkin's highly publicized new NBC drama, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

For three straight weeks, CBS has attracted twice as large an audience as NBC at 10 p.m. on Monday - thanks to the dominance of CSI: Miami.

The fourth season, which arrives on DVD Tuesday, was a rich one thanks in large part to Caruso's continued excellence in the lead role.

Love him or hate him - and lots of people did take an unseemly delight in his film flops after he walked out on ABC's NYPD Blue in 1994 - he has an on-screen presence as powerful as that of any actor working in weekly network television.

Caruso is no longer the boyishly good-looking heart-breaker he was on the Steven Bochco cop drama. But there is a still a super-charged, kinetic connection that takes place when the camera moves in for a close-up of his face.

Middle-aged and even doughy, the face is nevertheless eloquent in what it suggests about the pain and suffering Caine has witnessed as a criminologist in steamy, sexy, ultra-violent Miami.

The series does not skimp on sex or violence.

The 25 episodes in the season four DVD are full of both - and the most appealing part of the package is the candor with which the cast and crew discuss how the two elements, in tandem with Caruso's star power, drive the series.

Special features

Often, interviews and audio commentaries seem like cheap add-ons to give the mere appearance of extra value to DVD collections - but the special features in this case are exceptional.

Three mini-documentaries take viewers through the entire production process - from story idea to script to filming and post-production editing - with a thoroughness and insight that I have yet to find on any other DVD from a weekly TV series.

The set designer explains the color scheme - amber (sunlight) and green (tropical foliage) - and the way it is his job to "pump that color though every scene."

The costume designer says, "The operative word here - maybe you heard it - is 'sexy.' Miami is sexy. The people are sexy. Everyone is sexy."

And she details the ways that theme shapes her selections in attire.

The process of creating a quality network drama in what amounts to 10 days (once the script is ready for shooting and sets are designed) is a remarkable story. And this DVD tells it exceptionally well.



Speaking of performers whom one tends to love or hate, Jennifer Love Hewitt's first season as Melinda Gordon, a young newlywed who can communicate with the dead, also makes its debut Tuesday. It contains cast commentary, deleted scenes and bloopers.



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