September 26, 2013

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “CSI”


CSI:  Wednesday 10PM on CBS

As with Law & Order before it, the franchise that is CSI has dwindled down to a single entry, in this case the original Las Vegas-set version.  The cast has mostly been refurbished, with Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue now toting the biggest forensics kits, and the ratings are fading, a merely 2.0 (tied with Nashville) in last night’s Season 14 premiere.

The show, nevertheless, is still pretty good at its game.  The premiere concluded the cliffhanger presented in last May’s season finale, with a fiendish serial killer following the example of Se7en and staging murder scenes in reproduction of  images of Dante’s circles of hell, with (of course) mysterious coded messages attached.  That episode ended with the abduction of Morgan Brody (Elisabeth Harnois), not just a member of the CSI team but the daughter of Undersheriff Eckle (Marc Vann).  The script, by Executive Producers Christopher Barbour and Don McGill (directed by Alec Smight) offered several layers of twists–some more logical than others–beginning with the reverse that the seeming villain played by Tim Matheson turned out to be one of the victims, and Morgan’s discovery that Ellie (Teal Redmann), daughter of the unit’s Captain Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) was imprisoned with her.  The killer demanded that Eckle and Brass choose which girl was to die; it wasn’t a surprise that the ultimate solution to the mystery involved heavy daddy issues.

Because the episode’s crime involved CSI personnel directly, this was a somewhat unusual episode (although the show tends to do a few of these each season), with only the one storyline and a relatively little amount of high-tech detecting, in this case highlighted by an explanation of human DNA being used as the carrier of information in the next-generation liquid version of flash drives.  The guest cast was strong, with Annabella Sciorra, Eric Roberts and James Callis joining Matheson, and there was hardly any of the franchise’s morbid humor.  The plotting was stretched pretty thin by the final act, but it was all diverting enough.

CSI is still a competent, well-produced show, and while Danson and Shue are far from the limits of their capabilities here, they class the franchise up, while veterans like Jorja Fox, George Eads, Wallace Langham Eric Szmanda, Robert David Hall and David Berman could probably perform their roles in their sleep.  The show has become the victim of its own success, though, in that just about every new procedural now employs some form of gee-whiz technology, making the lab far less distinctive than it used to be.  The off-beat, sometimes jaunty tone that marked the William Petersen era has also become much less evident.

CSI will probably keep churning out episodes for a while, with numbers that are reliable if unexciting (unless Ironside unexpectedly blows it away when it debuts next week), and although the end of the line is in sight, there’s no reason for CBS to rush to send it to that forensics lab in the sky.  Like its technician heroes, it knows what it’s doing.

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."