‘CSI’s ‘Immortality’ finale draws highest ratings in nearly 4 years

28 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’ recap: Grissom and the gang say goodbye.

Appreciating the “CSI” finale – 15 years, countless bodies, piles of cash, and multiple spinoffs later – really requires going back to the beginning.In the end, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” died as it lived: fun, flabby, and altogether too invested in the undying love of two deeply sexless characters.

This was a show that CBS had relatively little faith in, placing it behind what the network saw as its likely star in the class of 2000, “The Fugitive,” on Friday nights. The two-hour finale of the CBS mainstay bent over backward to reunite many fan favorites, most notably original cast members Marg Helgenberger and William Petersen. The Center gave the “CSI” family a chance to talk about what the show meant to them and the audience. “We have a great message,” creator and producer Anthony Zuicker said. “Which is – on the worst day of people’s lives, you can come in and solve a crime and bring peace of mind to the survivor and put the bad guy behind bars.” Statistics show that during it’s 15-year run, “CSI” had an estimated world audience of nearly 74 million viewers, a fact that most of those in front and behind the camera credit to chemistry. “We had such a tight group, tight camaraderie, and you know a big family because we spent many many years together and many hours together,” Marg Helgenberger said. Disney was so disappointed about the scheduling the studio, which developed it, backed out as a financier, one of those decisions that produce headaches and finger-pointing with eight or nine zeroes attached. Sure, and there were plenty: Original series stars William Petersen and Marg Helgenberger returned, relegating final-phase stars Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue to a few scenes (for him) and a throwaway reference to an offscreen death (for her).

By now, of course, the ratings had shrunk to a fraction of where they were in the program’s heyday, with multiple cast changes and different leads (William Petersen, Laurence Fishburne, Ted Danson) over the run. Sure, there was always plenty of wacky, exploitative murder mysteries to be solved, but once Grissom departed for the wilds of the world, the show lost its center and slowly became just another case-of-the-week procedural. And there was that mysterious redheaded young investigator, proudly declaring that this was her first day on the job. “Where did that girl come from anyway?” asked Grissom.

Among the program’s more dubious contributions to society was something lawyers refer to as the “’CSI’ effect,” with juries expecting whiz-bang evidence, and regular viewers of the show suddenly considering themselves forensics experts. Though Petersen’s return for the series finale gave the show a badly needed jolt of original “CSI” magic, it also meant that the love story of Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle returned to center stage. In that respect, it has something in common with that other durable crime franchise, “Law & Order,” which has caused plenty of people to wonder why the legal system can’t neatly wrap up a trial in a mere 30 minutes.

The least manufactured was Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger), who hotfooted it out of L.A., where she’s an FBI agent, because the casino where the bomb went off belonged to her. It felt really good to get a pat on the back from my dad … I have emotionally come to grips with the fact that TV shows have to go up and TV shows have to go down at some point.

She initially was Grissom’s subordinate but eventually became friend, lover, wife, estranged wife, ex-wife — in the most uninteresting ways possible. Frankly, anyone who has watched TV in the last 20-some-odd years should have instantly known whodunit when Doug Hutchison (who has been playing a psycho as far back as Tombs in “The X-Files”) showed up, but that really wasn’t the issue.

And because the case involved recurring character dominatrix Lady Heather (Melinda Clarke), Gil Grissom (William Petersen) had a handy excuse to leave his houseboat in San Diego and head to Sin City. Fox and Petersen always existed within the show’s universe without an ounce of chemistry, so when the series opted to make the two its “one true pairing,” it went all in on the show’s least interesting relationship. Sadly, there was plenty of Grissom-and-Sidle relationship drama in the finale, as we quickly learn that the two have divorced and it becomes clear, when Grissom returns to Las Vegas to help investigate a string of suicide bombings, that they are still in love with each other. It was sort of sweet and undeniably sentimental, although not nearly as funny as that ridiculously long story about the lonely whale that Grissom told the killer.

But the trail quickly leads to Lady Heather, which brings Grissom back from his pro bono adventures as, like, a maritime anarchist. (One of Grissom’s first lines in the movie: “Looks like somebody jumped a shark!”) The finale turned on a few very out-there flourishes, some pseudo-scientific (South American mind-control flower!) and some pseudo-psychographic (lots of talk about the metaphorical implications of “dominance” and “submissive”). And yet, for all the ham-handed story moments — including Ted Danson toiling in the background of the episode, as though in his own universe, before literally packing his bags and shuffling over to join the cast of “CSI: Cyber” — the finale still managed to capture some of that stupid fun of the “CSI” glory days. That said, if anyone can explain that whole bit of business about how the color-coded bees would lead Grissom and company to the murderer’s location, more power to them.

It included any number of dry Grissom jokes, including him referencing “jumping the shark” while holding bloody, detached shark fins, inferring that a murderer was “forever alone,” as well as murmuring, “who are you” while searching for the killer. No, but really, at a certain point in the second hour, “Immortality” went full soap, with Heather and Sara interrogating each other vis-à-vis Grissom: This was helplessly weird in the context of what CSI used to be.

So give the creative team some credit for seeking a way to make this feel like something approaching a proper sendoff, despite the somewhat clunky and unapologetically sappy nature of it. In the final analysis, “CSI” remains a testament to Hollywood’s famous “nobody knows anything” maxim, a series that not only became the linchpin of CBS’ programming strategy for most of this century but which turned an unknown writer and former Vegas tram driver prone to talking about himself in the third person, Zuiker, into a millionaire many times over. Like every show in the franchise, it was set in a world where steadily more attractive philosopher-kings use futuristic technology and apparently bottomless reserves of funding to capture maniacs. But perhaps the most egregious misstep the finale makes is in its conclusion when, after finally taking over as CSI director, Sidle leaves the career she’s built to wander around the oceans with Grissom. In one scene he was looking at a bunch of bomb parts on the table and in his imagination (added later with vfx) he sees the parts lifting off the table and coming together as a bomb.

Instead, he’d been undergoing stem cell treatment for lymphoma, which meant he had multiple sets of DNA swimming through his body. (Or something like that.) The resources of the Vegas crime lab are really something. It breaks Sara’s back and sends her on her way, and the implication is clear: If her relationship only works by following Grissom to the ends of the Earth, then her true calling is following Grissom to the ends of the Earth. Not only did Sara and Grissom get to conduct an elaborate experiment using color-coded bees, but Grissom got to tell one of his former underlings, “We’re going to make a bomb and blow you up.” Don’t worry, they only blew up a dummy.

Gil wanted to get out of it and said, “Where did she even come from?” Catherine, looking incredulous, responded: “My vagina!” Gil didn’t recognize Catherine’s daughter Lindsey all grown up. SHE QUIT ME… BECAUSE OF YOU!!!” This led Grissom to give a good long speech about the 52-Hertz Whale, a lovelorn semi-mythic mega-creature who sings a love song at a frequency far too low for a lady whale to ever hear him.

And Sara got to take over as director of the CSI program. “Vegas is lucky to have you,” said Grissom. “The oceans are lucky to have you,” said Sara. The short answer is no. ‘CSI’ being my first TV script the last thing on my mind was ‘Is this a format that can last for 16 years.’ I was new to television and new to the industry. Right after the announcement (of the finale movie) at the upfronts we threw ourselves into a room at Bruckheimer’s office and we broke this thing in a couple of weeks.

It really gave me the chance to prove to them that the kid from Las Vegas who never wrote a script before, after learning from all of their expertise, was about to bring it home. I wrote this (spec movie) called ‘The Runner.’ A buddy of mine, Dustin Abraham, when he first got to L.A. in ’97, he gave it to an agent at William Morris. I called them and I’m like ‘I’m at the bar.’ It was like Abbott and Costello — the Vegas guy goes to Barney’s Beanery and it’s actually Barney Greengrass at Barneys New York.

When I get there Scott has my script and says ‘This is really good, do you have another one?’ I said, ‘This is what I got.’ They signed me right there. I went into (Littman’s) office with lime-green index cards and talked to him about ‘CSI.’ He told me we had to get into this narrow window of pitching season. He called up Nina (Tassler, then head of drama at CBS) and told her ‘I don’t know if you’ll buy it but this will be the most entertaining 20 minutes of your life.’ By the grace of god Nina Tassler in October hears this pitch. Jonathan told me ‘Don’t run around like you usually do because her office is small.’ And Jonathan told me ‘If you don’t sell it today it’s dead.’ So that was my motivation. (Tassler) told me ‘We’re going younger right now with a show we just bought called ‘Survivor.’ If you write me something great I will fight to get it on the air.’ I wrote the script in three days and the rest is history.

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