CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is a popular Alliance Atlantis/CBS police procedural television series, running since October 2000, about a team of forensic scientists. It is set in Las Vegas, Nevada in the present. (The choice of Las Vegas is not just for show: the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's crime lab is the second most active in the nation, trailing only the FBI's lab in Quantico, Virginia.)
The team investigates mysterious, unusual, and sometimes gruesome deaths to determine the circumstances of a murder. They also investigate other serious crimes, but death by foul play is a staple of the series.
The main characters include:
- Gil Arthur Grissom (played by William Petersen) is the head of the Las Vegas CSI unit, and a forensic entomologist with a degree in Biology from UCLA. Nicknamed "The Bug Man", Grissom knows sign language and has inherited his mother's otosclerosis, a disease which was causing him to slowly go deaf but was countered with surgery. His hobbies include his work, cockroach racing, reading and roller coasters. His team is made up of four main investigators, with assistance from a team of technicians.
- Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) is second in responsibility for the Las Vegas unit, assuming command when Grissom is out of town or otherwise on leave. Willows, a blood spatter analyst from Bozeman, Montana first worked as a stripper, in order to pay her way through college at UNLV where she studied medical technology. She has a young daughter. Tragically, after her ex-husband's murder, she was unable to find evidence convicting his killer.
- Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox), is a materials and element analyst, and a child of ex-hippie parents who ran a bed and breakfast at Tomales Bay, California. A physics major at Harvard University, Sidle previously worked for the San Francisco coroner and crime lab. She was recruited by Grissom, a man she sees as more than just a boss. Sidle sometimes takes her assignments a bit too personally, especially if the victim is a woman. She was raised in a violent abusive family, and lived in foster care after her mother killed her father.
- Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan), a Las Vegas native and a chemistry major from UNLV, is an audio/visual analyst and recovering gambling addict.
- Nick Stokes (George Eads), an easygoing and friendly ex-fraternity brother with a degree in Criminal Justice, is a hair and fiber analyst from Dallas, Texas.
Other cast members include Jim Brass (Paul Guilfoyle), a homicide detective; Greg Sanders (Eric Szmanda), a young lab technician who idolizes Grissom and recently became a CSI; Archie Johnson (Archie Kao), a computer and technical expert; and the coroner, Al Robbins M.D. (Robert David Hall), who performs the autopsies.
The series is known for its unusual camera angles, high-tech gadgets, detailed technical discussion, and graphic portrayal of bullet trajectories, blood spray patterns, organ damage, methods of evidence recovery (e.g. fingerprints from the inside of latex gloves), and crime reconstructions.
Although real-life criminal science investigators hardly leave the lab other than to conduct field tests and rarely (if ever) interview criminal subjects, CSI does an excellent job of portraying a little known aspect of police procedures. Without dramatic embellishment, in showing the responsibilities of the investigators, the show might not be as great a success.
The show's characteristic gadgetry and occasional use of yet-to-be-invented technology has moved the show nominally into the genre of science fiction and garnered it with a 2004 Saturn Award nomination for best science fiction, fantasy, or horror television series.
A spinoff series, CSI: Miami, began in 2002; this stars David Caruso. A second spinoff, CSI: NY, starring Gary Sinise, premiered in fall 2004. Meanwhile, similar shows, such as Navy NCIS (now called NCIS, eliminating redundancy), Crossing Jordan, and Medical Investigation have appeared on both the CBS and NBC networks.
As of the 2003–2004 season, the series was the #1 popular show in the United States according to the Nielsen Ratings. It has also been credited for a large increase in college applications to forensic science programs. It has been speculated that the show's popularity, especially after the September 11, 2001 attacks, is partly due to its underlying theme of skilled experts solving problems. The show's storylines reiterate that there are people working to expose both criminals and conspiracies, seeking justice no matter how these threats elude pursuit.
In July 2004, George Eads and Jorja Fox were briefly fired by CBS, allegedly over contract disputes. Eads had been hours late for work on the first day of filming for the fifth season, and Fox had allegedly not submitted a letter demanded by CBS confirming that she would be on-time for shooting. The disputes were resolved in just over one week, and the two were rehired by CBS.
Although the show is set in Las Vegas, the production is actually based in Santa Clarita, California, and most scenes are filmed in or around Santa Clarita. The cast and crew do occasionally travel to Las Vegas to film on location.
History of the show
Originally, the show was to be broadcast on ABC. At the time, ABC was the number two network, behind NBC, and CBS was on a decline which was becoming difficult to reverse. However, when previewed to ABC reviewers in 1999, the show was rejected as being too confusing for the average person. CBS quickly picked up the show for its Friday slot, and the show and the network shot to the top - CSI regularly averages 25 million viewers for new episodes and a remarkable 15 million for reruns. ABC fell in the ratings so far that it is in competition with Fox for number three.
The show was moved to Thursdays in 2000, in a successful attempt by CBS to challenge NBC - a line-up which included Friends, Will & Grace, and ER. CSI maintained its ratings in its new timeslot, and when Friends came to an end in 2004, CSI's ratings continued to strengthen, putting pressure on NBC's new Thursday shows.
CSI is sometimes credited with the resurgence of American crime dramas, although earlier shows like Law & Order had been strong for years and had already spun off a successful series before CSI premiered. Along with spin-offs CSI: Miami (2002-, CBS) and CSI: NY (2004-, CBS), the show is credited with reviving the genre. Shows launched to try and siphon off some of CSI's ratings included Crossing Jordan, Cold Case, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Medical Investigation, and Without a Trace.
Notably prevalent among most of them is a focus on the forensic aspect of criminal investigations. Physical clues are intensely scrutinized, and nearly invisible evidence is often emphasized, such as a tiny piece of thread or a dandruff flake.
- CBS CSI official site (http://www.cbs.com/primetime/csi/main.shtml)
- CSI Files - unofficial news site (http://www.csifiles.com/)
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0247082/) at the Internet Movie Database
- CSI: Miami (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0313043/) at the Internet Movie Database
- CSI: NY (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0395843/) at the Internet Movie Database