CBS’ notion seems logical: Want a new hit? Just freshen up an old one.
“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” debuted back in 2000. A sometimes-chaotic world met some calm, science-based crimefighters.
And now? “The world, weirdly enough, is even more topsy-turvy than it was in 2000,” said Jorja Fox, who starred in the original and returns in “CSI: Vegas,” debuting at 10 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 6).
The new show brings back William Petersen and Fox (they’re shown here), as Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle, who married and retired from the “CSI” world … until an emergency brings them back. Other originals (Paul Guilfoyle and Wallace Langham as Brass and Hodges) also show up.
These familiar characters arrive alongside a new CSI team … and a new lab. “The science is like Disneyland,” said Paula Newsome, who plays the bureau chief,.
This all seems so convenient hat we might forget what a long shot “CSI” once was. For instance:
– Its creator, Anthony Zuiker, had little show-business savvy. When he wrote the script, he was an $8-an-hour tram operator in Las Vegas, where his dad was a maitre d’ and his mom was a blackjack dealer.
– Its star, Petersen, had little in common with the guy he played, the smoothly scientific Grissom. “I never liked science (in school),” he said. “I just didn’t understand it. It sort of worked the other side of my brain, which is pretty empty.”
– And the show almost didn’t make it onto CBS’ line-up. That part was later described in Bill Carter’s “Desperate Networks” (Doubleday, 2006).
At the turn of the century, CBS had lots of series with familiar concepts. Its two most-watched shows (No. 8 and 10 in the overall Nielsen ratings), “60 Minutes” and “Touched By an Angel,” appealed to older viewers; so did others, including “Diagnosis Murder” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
Two fresh concepts were pitched. Les Moonves, the network chief, rejected both, but his younger staffers insisted. He gave “Survivor” a low-risk summer spot, but wasn’t sure about “CSI.”
As the new-season schedule was set, “CSI” was ignored. Then, Carter wrote, there was a twist: Phil Rosenthal, the “Everybody Loves Raymond” producer, was at a meeting to prepare some quips Moonves might say to advertisers. But Moonves suddenly asked what he thought of the line-up.
Rosenthal offered doubts about a show that had Tony Danza as a retired cop, fighting crime in suburbia. Then, Carter wrote: “A new cut-down appeared, all fast movement and dark colors and kicky effects. ‘Now, this I would watch,’ Rosenthal said, as scenes from ‘CSI’ flashed by. ‘This is cool.’”
Moonves redid his schedule, dumping Danza and giving the spot to “CSI.” That season, “CSI” tied for No. 11 in the Nielsen ratings; No. 1 was “Survivor,” no longer confined to summer.
The next season, “CSI” was No. 2, “Survivor” was No. 6. And for each of the three seasons that followed, “CSI” was No. 1.
Petersen did nine-and-a-half seasons, with Laurence Fishburne and Ted Danson following. In all, “CSI” had 15 seasons, tying it with “ER” and trailing only three others (“Gunsmoke” and two “Law & Order” series) among the longest-running hourlong dramas on American TV. It launched spin-offs (“CSI: New York,” “CSI: Miami”) and, with “Survivor,” freshened an old network.
Now – with minor changes to the title and such – “CSI” is back … on the same night (Wednesdays) that starts with “Survivor.” That does seem rather logical.