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On Oct. 6, 2000, CBS debuted a new procedural crime drama, which would go on to span multiple spinoffs in the years since its premiere. Earlier that week, The Hollywood Reporter took stock of the series, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, noting the show’s “slickness and swagger.” Read the original review below:
CBS may be clueless when it comes to figuring out how to lock up the Friday night audience, but with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the Company Broadcasting Survivor will at least be able to say it has a series that deals with clues and nothing else. With Jerry Bruckheimer helping push the buttons as one of three exec producers, the drama comes out of the box with plenty of slickness and swagger. The show’s defiantly hard edge and saucy language also practically beg the audience to feel uneasy. There’s potential to be tapped.
Whether CSI is able to carry the energetic tone without going too far over the top will go a long way toward determining whether it can lure viewers committed to ABC and its transitory “T.G.I.F.” lineup or to NBC with Providence, Dateline NBC and Dick Wolf spinoff Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
The other key factor is the likability of its characters. None of them comes across as terribly sympathetic or sensitive in the pilot teleplay inked by creator Anthony Zuiker. But the actors, including the charismatic William Petersen and the exquisite Marg Helgenberger, lend credibility to the portrayals that might be indistinct in lesser hands. There’s also a compelling, pulsating edge at the outset of CSI that commands instant attention, thanks in part to dynamic work from director Danny Cannon.
What’s immediately apparent is that the show isn’t afraid to offend. Barely 25 minutes into the kickoff hour, this series about a passionate, painstaking team of forensic investigators in Las Vegas has introduced us to bloody torsos, maggot-infested cadavers and the concept of anal swabs. We find lots and lots of the most common form dead people take: stiff and lifeless, not the re-animated ones whom Haley Joel Osment eyed in The Sixth Sense.
At the Vegas Criminalistics Bureau, examining every piece of crime scene evidence over and over is the name of the game. This team of dedicated pros is headed by Gil Grissom (Peterson), the senior forensics officer who runs his department like he runs his life: with unyielding persistence. His teammates include Catherine Willows (Helgenberger), who lays on the conflicted-single-mom thing pretty heavy in the earlygoing.
The evidence-gathering is peppered with scads of flashback that shows the crimes being committed from different angles and perspectives, which proves unique but sometimes confusing. In the opener, the investigations involve a man who may or may not have committed suicide, a guy who may or may not have killed in self-defense and a confounding hotel-casino robbery.
There is good juice behind CSI despite its early predilection toward shock value. Whether gratuitous or not, it could well detract from the show’s sharper, more notable attributes. But the real key to success figures to be the series’ ability to sell audiences on the idea that cop types who poke around dead bodies can be cool. It may be a taller order than making pop icons out of people who eat rats. —Ray Richmond
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