September 27, 2012



CSI:  Wednesday 10PM on CBS


WHERE WE WERE:  This time, as they say, it was personal.  In last season’s finale, imprisoned former Las Vegas Undersheriff and more recently mob boss Jeffrey McKeen (Conor O’Farrell) reacted badly to losing $2M in bribe money.  He had Undersheriff Conrad Ecklie (Marc Vann)–the father of CSI Brody (Elisabeth Harnois)–shot, and even worse, had the granddaughter of D.B. Russell (Ted Danson) kidnapped. And just to make things a little more difficult, Stokes (George Eads), pissed off with Russell, had just announced that he’d resigned.

WHERE WE ARE:  Following the evidence, of course.  The season premiere, written by Executive Producer Don McGill and Co-Producer Christopher Barbour (from a story by Barbour) and directed by Alec Smight, didn’t even take time for a “Previously On,” jumping directly into the action.  Before long, Jules (Elisabeth Shue) was not too wisely following one of McKeen’s crooked cop minions into a sex club, where Russell’s daughter was being held–no sooner was the little girl found, however, than she was lost again.  Bodies (mostly of bad guys) piled up, McKeen gave Russell a 12-hour deadline to return the $2M to him, Stokes was dragged in from a drunken near-stupor to help, and after some convenient plotting (a piece of paper that literally could have been manufactured in only one building in all of Las Vegas, for example), order was restored.

CSI debuted in 2000, just a year after SVU, and it was the first high-tech procedural.  Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it was all gleaming lab equipment and fancy visuals, telling its stories as much with montages of liquids being poured into centrifuges and DNA charts being scrutinized as with dialogue.  The CSI mothership, though, also contained some tangy characters (the spin-offs, not so much), most notably William Peterson’s Gus Grissom, the genius who ran the lab with a imperturbably dark sense of humor. (FOX’s Bones was the show that built on this, turning its own forensic thriller into an ensemble rom-com.)   CSI stumbled when it tried to replace Peterson with the much gloomier Laurence Fishburne, but the decision to dump Fishburne in favor of Ted Danson has been a very good one, and along with replacing the (voluntarily) departing Marg Helbenberger with Elisabeth Shue, it’s given the old show a new lease on life.

Tonight’s episode was particularly good, fast-paced and with opportunities for both Danson and Shue to demonstrate their acting chops–especially Danson, whose DB was going half-crazy when it seemed like his granddaughter might be permanently lost.  There was even a pause for the return of the strangest plot tangent of the past season, a friendship between Brody and nerd supreme Hodges (Wallace Langham) that… well, it really can’t be on the way to becoming something more, can it?

The rebound in quality showed up in CSI‘s ratings last season, too, when what was supposed to be a battle to the death between it and SVU turned out not even to be close, as CSI won the face-off by almost a full rating point (and by 5 million total viewers), and more often than not beat hot newcomer Revenge as well.  This season it’ll face two new dramas as competition:  NBC’s Chicago Fire, whose pilot feels older than the 13-year-old CSI, and the much more dangerous Nashville on ABC.  The latter has a shot at taking over the hour, but CSI isn’t going anywhere.  It’s a tribute to the show’s producers and the programming executives at CBS that the series still feels fully capable of taking the hour’s crown.

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."