“CSI” to end 15-year run with a “satisfying” two-hour finale

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘CSI’ ends 15-season run Sunday with 2-hour reunion finale.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” arrived in October 2000 with a scream — the Who’s Roger Daltrey howling “Who Are You?” over the opening credits. CSI actors, from left, David Berman, Marg Helgenberger, Jorja Fox, William Petersen and Ted Danson appear in a scene from the two-hour series finale, airing Sunday night on CBS. (Sonja Flemming/CBS/Associated Press) CSI: Crime Scene Investigation was a last-minute pickup by CBS, plugged into a Friday lineup whose widely forecast surefire hit would be a reboot of The Fugitive, not a quirky little drama dwelling on hair fibres and blood spatter. “I thought it was never going to succeed,” says Jorja Fox.Sunday night’s final episode of “CSI” would’ve been seriously compromised without the return of William Petersen — who originated the role of iconic “CSI” protagonist Gil Grissom when the CBS series premiered in 2000.

“CSI” wraps up its final case Sunday (Sept. 27), with a two-hour movie (CBS, 9 p.m.) that allows one of the most influential and successful shows in TV history to take a well-deserved final bow. It was a jaunty way to introduce the crack team of blood-spatter analysts, DNA experts and an entomologist who could determine a murder victim’s time of death from a beetle larva burrowed into a blunt-force trauma. The graveyard shift of eccentrics, dweebs and one former stripper has provided audiences with salacious stories for the past decade and a half, but now it’s time for goodbyes. I never thought the audience would also be everyone who’s NEVER done a crossword puzzle!” Though set in Las Vegas, CSI occupies the world of forensic investigators who solve criminal cases not in the streets or an interrogation room, but in the lab, where the truth reveals itself in the evidence they probe.

But as far as changing the TV landscape – and, in some ways, the wider world – I thought that no show had made a bigger impact for those years than CSI. It will serve as a kind of memory book, with original lead investigators Gil Grissom (William Peterson) and Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) returning to the fold. The camerawork and props were artistically grisly, a precursor to “Hannibal,” and the tone ranged from horror to black comedy, with one-liners amid the gore.

Petersen, who now lives in Chicago, says he was never tempted to come back. “I hate [it] when actors decide they’re leaving and then decide they’re coming back,” he says. “We were cool when it went down and how Grissom was going to leave.” Luring him back to close out the series — once CBS declined to renew “CSI” at the end of its 15th season — did not prove difficult. It would spawn two long-running spin-offs, set in Miami and New York, and recently gave birth to a third, CSI: Cyber, which now will survive it as the 15-season run of the original CSI comes to an end Sunday at 9 p.m. Russell (Ted Danson), to help stop one last batch of ultra-bad guys with the tools of their trade: microscopes, DNA evidence, analytic computer programs and other impressive high-tech stuff. “We can’t close every open storyline from 15 years,” says Jorja Fox, who has played investigator Sara Sidle for the whole run. “But the last show is absolutely a love letter to our fans. It wasn’t a “prestige” drama — hardly a Dickensian epic like “The Wire,” lacking the Shakespearean character arcs of “Breaking Bad,” drawing none of the fan-boy mythologizing of “Lost.” It was just splashy entertainment set in an otherworldly Sin City.

Zuiker and executive producer Jonathan Littman invited Petersen out for drinks at the Beverly Wilshire hotel, where they’d first met in 1999 to cast the series, and talked about filming one last show. The two-hour farewell brings back bygone stars including Marg Helgenberger (who played exotic-dancer-turned-investigator Catherine Willows until departing three seasons ago) and Petersen (who headlined for eight-plus seasons as lab boss Gil Grissom). Its premise of solving crimes through systematic scientific examination inspired a “CSI” exhibition at the real-life Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

Zuiker came up with a story, told over two hours, that reunited the original “CSI” team. “There’s been an explosion at the Las Vegas casino owned by Catherine Willows [Marg Helgenberger],” Zuiker says. “Gil Grissom … has gone on to find poachers that are illegally fishing in the ocean. DNA evidence has helped lock up criminals all over the country at the same time it has set other inmates free, when DNA tests revealed they could not have committed the crimes for which they were convicted. We come to find out the bombing leads back to a key character from the series.” For Petersen, stepping into his old role again in a North Hollywood studio was like slipping on a comfortable pair of loafers — and, fortunately, his memory did not desert him. “I remembered everybody’s names.

Because for many people the term “DNA” immediately invoked “CSI,” the show spawned its own phrase, “CSI Effect,” which has been debated extensively for a decade in journalistic, legal, pop culture and even academic circles. This all cemented a period of what Petersen calls “postmodern vagueness,” with people doubting themselves and their world and wondering, “What does it mean? In addition to Petersen and Helgenberger, other past and current CSI stars scheduled to appear include Ted Danson, Jorja Fox, Eric Szmanda, Robert David Hall, Paul Guilfoyle, Wallace Langham, David Berman, Elisabeth Harnois, Jon Wellner and Melinda Clarke. The premise of the CSI Effect is that the show’s popularity may have caused the public at large and juries in particular to place more faith in forensic evidence and less in unscientific evidence like witness testimony. Still, the real end was bittersweet. “I think the actors didn’t want to see the show end, even though Marg had left and Paul [Guilfoyle, who played Capt.

The two shows had similarities — crime procedurals with ensemble casts and viewers just as likely to consume episodes in rerun form as on their regularly scheduled nights. Where is the truth?” “What our show did was give you the truth,” he declares. “You can be confused about many things, but this little piece of lint that we found on the floor, you can count on that.

The thinking was that CBS had just launched spinoff series CSI: Cyber – which stars Patricia Arquette, James Van Der Beek, Peter MacNicol and Shad “Bow Wow” Moss – in March, and it hadn’t done super great in the ratings. Fox suggests its larger premise of scientific analysis is what has resonated with viewers. “Forensics has evolved just over the time we’ve been doing the show,” she notes. “Every season we’d get a couple of new gadgets and gizmos. If “Law & Order” strove for gritty realism (originally), the CBS hit was slick and stylized. “CSI” became an immediate sensation, and the copycats were close behind. “CSI” producer Jerry Bruckheimer was responsible for a few of them — “Cold Case,” “Without a Trace,” a handful of like-minded castaways — but there were so many others. As Grissom told his colleagues on an early episode: forget personalities, ambitions and assumptions. “Concentrate on what cannot lie: the evidence,” he said.

And the actors could say goodbye to each other.” “CSI” has more-than-earned its place in the pantheon of great television series, changing the way crime shows were produced and stories were presented — with still shots and hyperspeed graphics of forensic evidence playing a major part in the narrative. I think one reason we lasted as long as we did was that forensic evaluation felt realistic.” “CSI” didn’t just run on fingernail scrapings, of course. The characters all had their personal dramas, from Grissom’s hearing disorder to his affair with Sara. “In 15 years my job never got boring,” says Fox. “There was an arc to Sara’s life, though I never would have seen it when we started. Fox says she isn’t sure exactly where that will be, but that after playing Sara for 15 years, “I think I probably see her future more clearly than I see my own.” They could try to find a witness, who half the time would end up getting whacked, or they could find the suspect, take him to a sparsely furnished interrogation room and beat him until he talked.

The fear that a single viewer might be confused by the proceedings was forever palpable.) The lab rats and techies clacking on keyboards and chanting “enhance” may not have been hip, but they were lovable. Andy Sipowicz often looked like he needed to change his shirt after a lively beating session, and the interrogation room often required an extra scrubdown. Interest in forensics skyrocketed, and TV reflected the shift with “Bones” and “Body of Proof,” and geeky series in other genres — “The Big Bang Theory,” “Chuck” and “Fringe.” Score one for STEM. “CSI” was Bruckheimer’s first major foray into television, and he brought the free-spending attitude that fueled his movies like “Bad Boys,” “Top Gun” and “Beverly Hills Cop.” The show was both flashy and moody, with major thought put into cinematography. In the “CSI” world, the perp could sit sneering somewhere, confident he or she had gotten away with it, while the “CSI” team was painstakingly examining everything this side of dust bunnies to nail him or her anyhow. “It’s just been a privilege and a pleasure to get onto a show like this,” says Danson. “I was delighted when I got the offer to stay with it on ‘CSI: Cyber.’ ” The legacy of “CSI” even impresses short-timers like Katie Stevens from MTV’s “Faking It,” who will join the cast Sunday night as Liberty Willows, Catherine’s daughter.

There were stellar special effects — big-screen-caliber CGI, for example, to illustrate what happens when a bullet enters a body or a bone breaks (with the sickening sound evoked as well). The delicious grossness of it all was enough to draw the attention of Quentin Tarantino, an A-list fan who agreed to direct the two-part finale of Season 5, “Grave Danger.” “CSI” wasn’t the first show to see its actors come and go. Within the first few episodes, rookie agent Holly Gribbs (Chandra West) — ostensibly a member of the regular cast — was killed on the job and replaced by Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox).

The template was always more important than the personalities, never more evident than when Fox and co-star George Eads tried to play hardball during contract negotiations in 2004 with a walk-out. Boiled down, it essentially means that actual people on juries developed unrealistic expectations, or at least unbalanced fixations, with regard to forensic science.

Many experts have said that this truly changed the way cases are presented by prosecutors, because juries expect clear and quick answers through the magic of forensics and sometimes forget the concept of “guilty beyond a REASONABLE doubt.” I recall a comic version of this attitude on another TV show, The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon (Jim Parsons) was talking to the police after his apartment had been robbed. “When does the CSI team get here?” an impatient Sheldon asked the cops. Prosecutors have complained that juries are less likely to convict if cash-strapped police departments haven’t done high-tech testing with fancy, newfangled technology, but the effect has been pretty anecdotal. The Pete Townshend-penned track that provided the show with a catchy opening gave the Who a boost that multiplied when spin-offs “CSI: Miami,” “CSI: New York” and “CSI: Cyber” all used songs by the band, too: “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Baba O’Riley” and “I Can See for Miles.” Bieber was one of many “CSI” guest stars over the years, a tribe that also includes Taylor Swift, Faye Dunaway, and a hammy, pre-fame Jeremy Renner.

The Biebs’s 2011 guest spot happened to coincide with the release of his concert documentary, “Never Say Never,” which cast the pop star — prior to his subsequent tangles with the law — in a relentlessly angelic light. But Helgenberger set the record straight in an interview on French radio. “He was kind of a brat,” she divulged before covering her mouth in faux-horror at her loose-lipped confession. Villains inevitably had some bizarre baggage: The chimera-like man whose DNA tested negative even though he really did rape and kill that poor woman, or the lady who stole people’s organs and blended them into smoothies to treat her porphyria. The show also opened our eyes to a world of fetishes — and some sexual content that was extremely risque for prime time — including a recurring character who was a dominatrix, an episode that featured a plushy and furry convention, and — freakier still — the grown man who liked to dress up like a baby, diapers and all.

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