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The History of CSI, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 924

Essay

The history of the fictional CSI: Crime Scene Investigation show allegedly begins with a true-crime show called The New Detectives: Case Studies in Forensic Science. Jennifer Zuiker, the wife of a Las Vegas tram-car driver named Anthony,  liked the show and asked her husband to watch it with her.  He liked it too, and decided to try his hand at writing some scripts for a fictional treatment of the same theme, namely, the use of DNA and other high-tech tools to solve crimes. He decided to place it in Las Vegas because he had grown up there and still lived there, where his mother worked as a card dealer. Cut to the present: Anthony Zuiker is the creator and executive producer of the most watched drama franchise in the world. His mother is retired. And, according to Internet Movie Database, Jennifer has filed for divorce.

It turns out that Zuiker was more than just a tram-car driver. He was a skilled and imaginative writer with plenty of panache. And he had luck. An L.A. actor friend of his asked him to write some audition material, and Zuiker, who used to take part in competitive forensics — debate, in a word — kept him supplied.  That friend’s agent liked the material Zuiker wrote and asked him to write a movie script. That script got turned into a movie called The Runner, starring Courteney Cox. Which gave Zuiker a tentative entre into Hollywood. He even pitched a script to an interested Leonardo DiCaprio. But a highly successful Hollywood producer named Jerry Bruckheimer had also seen some of Zuiker’s stuff, and liked it. He called. Zuiker pitched the CSI plot line and Bruckheimer bit, because, in his own words, he loves “process stories.”

Bruckheimer arranged a meeting with Touchstone Pictures (a production label owned by Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group). Although Steve McPherson, who later headed ABC Entertainment, liked the idea, ABC (owned by Disney) passed on it. From there it went to Nina Tassler, who at the time led CBS’s drama development. She liked it, and so did actor William Peterson, who was guaranteed payment under his contract whether he performed or not. This convinced Les Moonves, who headed CBS Entertainment, to develop the show. The final impetus for approval came from Phil Rosenthal, the executive producer of CBS’s Everybody Loves Raymond, who liked some CSI clips that Moonves showed him. When ABC backed out of financing, Toronto-based Alliance Atlantis agreed to fund half. CSI was then slated to debut on October 6, 2000, in the Friday 9:00 PM slot. At first it was thought that CBS’s The Fugitive, which aired an hour earlier, would help hook crime-show viewers. It may have, at first.

Zuiker wrote the pilot episode, which was directed by Danny Cannon (Phoenix). Zuiker wrote six more episodes, joined throughout the season by experienced writers such as Ann Donahue (China Beach), Andrew Lipsitz (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman), Carol Mendelsohn (Hardcastle and McCormick), Jerry Stahl, (Thirysomething), Eli Talbert (Providence), and actual crime-scene investigator and author Elizabeth Devine. The lead actors and their characters were William Peterson as Dr. Gilbert (Gil) Grissom, Marg Helgenberger as Catherine Willows, Gary Dourdan as Warrick Brown, Jorja Fox as Sara Sidle, George Eads  as Nicholas (Nick) Stokes, and Paul Guilfoyle as Homicide Captain James (Jim) Brass.

CBS quickly knew it had a major hit on its hands. Opening with The Who’s Who Are You as its theme song, the show’s often quirky, Simpson’s-like episode titles (Crate n’ Burial, To Halve and to Hold, and Sex, Lies, and Larvae), innovative fast cuts, stylistic flash, and graphic explanations of the technical aspects of corpses and crime were a hit with the 25–54 age-group. It finished the season number ten in America with ratings of 17.8 million but growing fast. (In 2004 it even won the coveted 18–49 group, something that Moonves himself believed CBS would never accomplish.) By February, 2001, Moonves decided to take on NBC’s Thursday night programming. Together with Survivor, he did, and won. By then CSI was being viewed by between 30 and 40 million households around the world a week. It was spin-off time.

CBS knew that CSI could become a franchise because NBC had already done the same thing with its hit show Law & Order. By following this model, both networks could openly  imitate themselves rather than having competitors do it for them by pretending to offer unique programming. Zuiker re-partnered with director Danny Cannon and two of his original writers, Ann Donahue and Carol Mendelsohn, to create the pilot episode (Cross Jurisdictions), which aired in May of 2002. In September of 2002, CSI: Miami debuted, with David Caruso (NYPD Blue) as Horatio Cane, Kim Delaney as Megan Donner, Emily Proctor as Calleigh Duquesne, Adam Rodriguez as Erik Delko, Khandi Alexander as Alexx Woods, and Jonathan Togo as Ryan Wolfe. Its first season ratings were 16.45 million viewers, #12 in America, but by various metrics and sources, CSI: Miami soon became the world’s favorite TV show.

In September of 2004, CSI: New York debuted, starring Gary Sinise as Mac Taylor, Melinda Kanakaredes (Providence again) as Stella Bonasera, Hill Harper as Sheldon Hawkes, and Eddie Cahill as Donald Flack, Jr. Again Cannon directed a script (MIA/NYC Nonstop)  written by Donahue and Mendelsohn. It was seen by 23.08 million viewers.

The CSI franchise quickly spread to mobile games, novels, comic books, and video games, where it may well remain popular after the TV versions are cancelled. CSI: New York, having been moved to Fridays (where the original CSI began) may be the first to be autopsied.

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