Familiar and new elements blend to make the show great (and Grissom’s back)
The original “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” stood out for its blending of drama and forensics.
The series was known for its science and its use of real-life technology, including the latest, almost sci-fi-like products.
In fact, the show’s lab became known nationally for having a better budget than CSI labs at many real-life police departments. After hearing star William Petersen (Gil Grissom) say that, this writer asked officials at a couple police departments and was told that was absolutely true. They said they had to rely on a state lab because they didn’t have the “CSI” budget and tools.
What’s more, “CSI” paid attention to detail, wasn’t afraid to educate viewers, threw in unexpected plot twists and created colorful but realistic characters, all of which proved to be a winning formula. Airing on CBS, “CSI” had a long reign as the highest-rated series on TV. It seemed unstoppable.
“CSI” was created by Anthony Zuiker, who was working as a taxi driver when he came up with the idea. He brought the fresh perspective of someone outside of Hollywood, and that led to “CSI’s” groundbreaking way of telling stories, including the special, biological graphics. Mr. Zuiker teamed up with successful movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer and his production company, and it proved to be a great partnership.
“CSI” (2000 to 2015) was so successful that it inspired spinoffs, which while good, never matched the original show. And after cast changes, the original “CSI” lost some of its punch, and the franchise finally faded.
But the original “CSI” has returned with “CSI: Vegas.” It’s airing on CBS and succeeds because of the writing and the acting by cast members such as Paula Newsome, William Petersen and Jorja Fox.
Mr. Petersen is back as Gil Grissom, the down-to-earth, no-nonsense, smart forensics investigator from the original “CSI.” This writer stopped watching “CSI” when Mr. Petersen left and is glad to see him back. Mr. Petersen’s acting is natural and effortless. (In addition to being one of the stars, Mr. Peterson is one of the show’s nearly dozen executive producers, which include Mr. Zuiker and Mr. Bruckheimer.)
Also back from the original “CSI” is Ms. Fox, whose Sara Sidle is a smart, determined investigator, and it’s fun seeing her relationship with Grissom.
Ms. Newsome stars as Maxine Roby, the geneticist who heads the forensics team at the Las Vegas Police Department. The character appears to be smarter than her superiors and sees things that others in her department miss.
The cast also features Matt Lauria as Joshua Folsom, Mandeep Dhillion as Allie Rajan and Mel Rodriguez as Hugo Ramirez.
The series successfully blends serialized plots with episodic stories, drama with character-driven humor. The heroes and villains are distinctive.
Storylines won’t be spoiled here, other than to say original character David Hodges (Wallace Langham) has been involved in an unexpected, suspenseful plot in recent episodes.
And here’s one other spoiler in episodes that aired recently: Two of the characters ride a roller coaster in one scene, and it’s clear that they actually are on a roller coaster and that they’re really screaming with delight. (There are some things you just can’t duplicate with a green screen.)
Clearly the actors and writers are having fun with a series that is tackling murder stories that differ from those on the original “CSI.” That sense of newness is bringing “CSI” back to what made it great in its very first season back 20 or so years ago.
Hang on tight. No one knows where the new “CSI” roller coaster will take you.