September 22, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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After 3 years of the morass that was Laurence Fishburne’s tenure, the original CSI:  CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, now with a new Wednesday 10PM timeslot, may have recaptured some of its old mojo.  The potential hero of the tale is Ted Danson, newly installed as D.B. Russell, head of the squad after Fishburne’s execution of his serial killer nemesis caused his own banishment (to farthest Baltimore) and the demotion of Marg Helgenberger’s Catherine Willows.  Danson isn’t necessarily a better actor than Fishburne, but he’s far better suited for this assignment.  Fishburne had the unenviable task of replacing William L. Petersen, who had singlehandedly given the show the particular mix of dogged investigation and unflappable dark humor that makes it different than its procedural cousins.  The idea seemed to be that the best way to keep people from missing Petersen was to get as far away from his character as possible, but Fishburne’s Robert Langston was instead mostly dour and tormented.

Danson, who’s been tearing up cable TV in recent yearsin shows as disparate as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Damages and Bored to Death, brings the show some sparkle and unpredictability, wryness mixed with an unexpected snap–the latter most evident in an eruption at Nick (George Eads)–which will be leading to more reorganization, and cast changes, within the squad    Of all Danson’s previous performances, his Russell seems to reach all the way back to the DA he played in 1981’s Body Heat, a serious courtroom opponent who was given to some unexpected tapdancing.  
Other than Danson’s arrival, the season premiere was a familiar-ish CSI plot (a combination of shootings and a stabbing all taking place within the same 73 seconds on a Las Vegas tram, with an erotic octopus mixed in for a little kink), and as such, somewhat tired.  Another new cast member, Elizabeth Harnois as the hot daughter of the officious head of the daytime CSI squad (she is also, of course, a brilliant investigator), who’d been introduced last season as a guest star, had a couple of set-up scenes for what will become her new job on the force.  
Change, on a show like CSI, is not revolutionary.  Still, for a series entering its 12th season, Danson’s recruitment may give CSI a much-needed jolt as it prepares to do battle with the similarly shaken-up Law & Order:  SVU and ABC’s new Revenge.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."