Top 50 Power Showrunners 2011
The CSI franchise not only introduced regular Joes to the nuances of DNA and blood-spatter analysis, it pioneered a sea change in the modern police procedural. "Thirteen years ago, no one knew what a crime scene investigator was," says Donahue, 56, who helped launch the mothership series with Mendelsohn and creator Anthony Zuiker before segueing to CSI: Miami in 2002. "You'd be in an elevator and hear someone talk about 'epithelial tissue.' Everybody's conversant in the language now. I try to take it as flattery." More than a decade after the original series premiered, CSI and CSI: NY won their time periods last season in total viewers, and CSI: Miami managed to best its scripted competition. The three series also have been sold in more than 200 markets worldwide. The showrunners are reflective about how the franchise's dense scientific underpinnings made for a steep learning curve. "I did terrible in organic chemistry in college," says Donahue. Adds Mendelsohn, 60, "I never even took organic chemistry." And Veasey, 49, admits she was nervous stepping into the CSI universe after cutting her chops on shows like In Living Color. "I said to Ann, 'I don't know what epithelial means,' " says Veasey. "She said, 'Calm down, you'll get it.' "