'CSI' Revival Inches Closer to CBS Pickup

Matt Lauria, Paula Newsome, Mel Rodriguez
Michael Buckner; Bobby Quillard; Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Matt Lauria, Paula Newsome and Mel Rodriguez

CSI, one of the most successful TV franchises ever, is inching closer to a formal return at CBS.

Stars William Petersen and Jorja Fox are closing in on deals to return for the limited series revival from the franchise's original creative team, Anthony Zuiker and Jerry Bruckheimer.

Additionally, the rumored series has also enlisted Matt Lauria, Paula Newsome and Mel Rodriguez to the cast that is expected to bring back legacy characters and new faces for the short-order entry. CBS and producers CBS Studios declined comment as a formal series pickup has not yet been announced.

Jason Tracey (Elementary) has been leading a writers room for the update, which heated up a year ago. A number of scripts are said to have been completed via the virtual room that ran from April to August. The CSI return — set in Las Vegas like the flagship — was initially eyed to help celebrate the franchise's 20th anniversary last year. The procedural ran for 15 seasons and spawned the spinoffs Miami, New York and Cyber. It premiered on Oct. 6, 2000.

Bruckheimer is spearheading the revival and selected Tracey for the job after the latter started his career on the prolific producer's Just Legal and Cold Case. Talks for a CSI revival first started in July 2018 when rumors circulated that a new take could be produced for CBS All Access. Then, in summer 2019, executives at Bruckheimer's company reminded CBS Studios that 2020 was the flagship's 20th anniversary. JBTV then reached out to Tracey, who developed the pitch with the company and Zuiker. It was taken to CBS in October 2019, with the broadcast network engaging.

In addition to Zuiker, Bruckheimer and Tracey, former CSI: Cyber co-showrunner Craig O'Neill has also joined the exec producing team for the revival. JBTV president Jonathan Littman and executive vp TV KristieAnne Reed also exec produce. Former CSI co-creators Carol Mendelsohn and Ann Donahue, who both have a sizable ownership stake in the franchise, will likely also be credited as exec producers, though they are not expected to be involved be involved.

Petersen — who toplined the series for 10 seasons as Gil Grissom and returned for CSI's two-hour series finale in 2015 — will also exec produce. In addition to Fox, it's unclear as of yet which other CSI legacy characters will make an appearance in the new take. Character details for new castmebers Lauria (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood), Newsome (Barry) and Rodriguez (Enlisted, Getting On) are being kept under wraps. (Lauria previously appeared in three episodes of the flagship a decade ago, while Rodriguez was in a 2004 episode of NY.)

During its 15-season run, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation was recognized twice as the most-watched TV show in the world. (CBS' NCIS — which is now in its 18th season and has birthed two spinoffs, L.A. and New Orleans — now holds that honor.) With its long run and three spinoffs, CSI was a cash cow and became a multibillion-dollar franchise for CBS.

At the time CBS ended CSI, Zuiker told THR that he had hoped the flagship series — which outlived two of the three of its spinoffs — would continue on for multiple seasons. Instead, CBS opted to conclude the series with a two-hour sendoff featuring original stars Petersen and Marg Helgenberger. The TV movie was one of two prevailing CSI wrap-up plans that surfaced heading into the 2015 upfronts, with a short-order episodic run also briefly on the table.

As for the timing, a return to CSI could immediately spark interest in the franchise's library, which would be a boon for CBS All Access. The platform is being rebranded in March as Paramount+ in a bid to broaden its reach and harness the brands of ViacomCBS. (Paramount+ heavily promoted the brands available on the service with multiple ads during Sunday's Super Bowl on CBS.) CSI is among the company's most valued IP. In success, the new CSI would ultimately end up streaming on Paramount+ as well should ViacomCBS look to keep the new jewel in its crown franchise.