May 8, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “CSI”


The original CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION turned the corner on its 14th season tonight, and at its age, the show has little interest in reinventing itself beyond the bare minimum.  The days when William L. Petersen starred and people like Jerry Stahl were writing dark-humored, sometimes transgressive episodes are long past, and after a bit of tumult over the past couple of seasons as Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue entered the series and Marg Helgenberger departed, the show has shown little desire to shake things up.  Tonight marked the exit of original character Captain Jim Brass (Paul Guilfoyle), which was handled in such a low-key fashion that he didn’t even get to say an official farewell.

Season 14 didn’t feature any multi-episode serial killers, or the background character arcs that CSI has indulged in over previous years, like the relationship between CSI Morgan Brody (Elisabeth Harnois) and her father, Sheriff Conrad Eckle (Marc Vann), or the engagement of Hodges (Wallace Langham).  Each episode this season was a standalone procedural, with the only excitement coming from the 300th episode, which featured the return of Helgenberger and an hour heavy on flashbacks, and a lame, jokey outing that had Gene Simmons guest starring as himself.  The season finale, written by Executive Producer Andrew Dettmann and directed by Alec Smight, harkened back to an unsolved crime from 25 years earlier that had led to a present-day killing, where the only mildly interesting aspect was the fact that a former deputy (guest star Treat Williams) was an amateur CSI, who had his own homemade methods to approximate what the real technicians in the lab could do.  The deputy’s daughter turned out to be the killer of the week, and that reflected back to Brass’s B story, which in bare-bones fashion had his long-troubled daughter attempting suicide before her own trial for murder.  It gave the always-reliable Guilfoyle a couple of meaty scenes, delivering monologues to his comatose daughter, but after she’d recovered, one was left to assume, after a final, reflective drink with Danson’s character, that Brass was going to decide to retire in order to spend more time with her.

CSI is an efficient procedural engine (a potential cyber-crime spin-off pilot starring Patricia Arquette was planted in last week’s episode), and while its ratings are no longer dominant, it often wins its timeslot against Chicago PD, and always against Nashville.  Danson and Shue, while using mere fractions of their talent, continue to be strong additions to the ensemble, and with its current cast presumably under contract for the next few seasons, CSI‘s buzz may be gone–especially since just about every other procedural on the air now features snazzy forensic technology–but there’s no reason to think Las Vegas will need to worry about its crimes going unsolved any time in the near future.

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."