CSI: Crime Season Investigation’s twelfth season is effectively a changing of the guard, and an inevitable one at that. Just like William Petersen before him, Laurence Fishburne stepped away after the eleventh season of CSI, ending his three season run and leaving a void for a new big name to join the cast: Ted Danson in the role of D.B. Russell, the new Night-Shift Supervisor of the CSI department. However, that’s not the only personnel shift the season brings as the show waves goodbye to Marg Helgenberger (one of the few remaining original cast members), and welcomes Elisabeth Shue and Elisabeth Harnois. With so much change, many shows would be content to slow the season’s pace to a crawl, but instead CSI charges forward with some impressively weighty stories huge in scale and character movement.
The Las Vegas CSI team have become comfortable with one another thanks to the core base of Stokes (George Eads), Sara (Jorja Fox), Sanders (Eric Szmanda), and Catherine Willows (Helgenberger) providing the unit with a consistent staff over the years. Absent a supervisor at the season’s outset, they meet D.B. Russell (Danson) their new boss fresh on a very strange case. The season continues on normally with a few single-serving episodes until the meat and potatoes story arc arrives: a vast conspiracy involving a close associate of Willows, professional hit and clean-up teams, and a threat that even the FBI can’t protect against. The end result of it sees CSI in need of a replacement for Willows, leading Russell to bring on Julie Finlay (Shue), a woman he once fired for unclear reasons, as his new Assistant Night-Shift Supervisor. The unit settles in, adjusting to the new character dynamics, just in time for a season finale cliffhanger that reveals Russell’s past with Finlay, the potential for another team member to step away, and a kidnapping.
Ted Danson settles in quickly as the new boss of the CSI team, and his ability to mix quirky levity with a serious demeanor make him a great replacement who’ll stay for many more seasons to come. Shue on the other was either wildly miscast or poorly written for based on the evidence that the writers want her to come across as impulsively self-destructive and petulant, but it’s a personality that makes little sense for someone in her line of work and with a mostly successful career behind her. It’s either a case of bad writing or casting an older actress in a role whose personality belies the foolishness of youth.
Whatever the case, there’s something to be said for a show in its twelfth season that not only manages to snag two respected, well-known actors starting from scratch as its leads but also keeps up the pace while doing so. Compare that to ER, which was flailing about in its twelfth season, unable to draw a new big name and thus digging into its alumnae ranks to bring back characters viewers didn’t really care about the first time around, and CSI’s twelfth season is all the more impressive.
DVD Bonus Features
The extras in the set are really nothing special considering the gains and losses to the cast in this season alone, but we do get audio commentaries on two episodes, three episode-specific featurettes, a farewell node to Marg Helgenbergers, a welcome party for Ted Danson, and some deleted scenes. A brief season recap is also included.
"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - The Twelfth Season" is on sale September 25, 2012 and is not rated. Crime, Drama. Directed by Jeffrey G Hunt, Brad Tanenbaum, Alec Smight, Louis Shaw Milito. Written by Anthony E. Zuiker, Carol Mendelsohn, Richard Catalani, Dustin Lee Abraham. Starring Elisabeth Shue, Ted Danson, George Eads, Marg Helgenberger, Eric Szmanda.