CBS is looking to toast the 20th anniversary of one of its most successful franchises with a revival.
The network is in talks with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation original series creator Anthony Zuiker, Jerry Bruckheimer and the show’s creative team to bring back the procedural with a new limited series, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. CBS and producers CBS TV Studios declined comment as the potential project is still in the dealmaking stages. Reps for Jerry Bruckheimer Television also declined comment.
Jason Tracey (Elementary) will write the script for what sources say will be a limited series designed to help celebrate CSI‘s 20th anniversary. The flagship series, which ran for 15 seasons and spawned the spinoffs Miami, New York and Cyber, originally 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.
Sources say the potential limited series will be set in Las Vegas, like the flagship that started it all. As for the cast, William Petersen — who led the series for 10 seasons as Gil Grissom and returned for CSI‘s two-hour series finale in 2015 — is said to be among the original stars being eyed for a possible return for the untitled drama.
Talks for a CSI revival first started in July 2018 when rumors circulated that a new take could be produced for CBS All Access, the subscription streaming service that is controlled by ViacomCBS-owned CBS TV Studios. Then, last summer, executives at Bruckheimer’s company reminded the studio 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, with the broadcast network engaging. What remains unclear, for now, is if any CSI update would be a short-order and closed-ended one-off series or if it would be a show that could live on (again) for multiple seasons.
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 17th 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. A revival could also bring new interest to the massive CSI franchise library (parts of which are streaming on Hulu) at a time when programs with a sizable fan base and episode tally are being used to help launch new platforms. (To that end, Dick Wolf just cashed in with a streaming deal with Peacock that covered six of his shows and is said to be worth between $300 million-$400 million.)
All told, Zuiker, Bruckheimer and JBTV president Jonathan Littman and executive vp TV KristieAnne Reed as well as Tracey are said to be attached to the CSI limited series. 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 will not be involved. (Mendelsohn, for her part, has not had an overall deal with CBS TV Studios in six years and is currently set up at Universal TV.)
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.
The news arrives as CBS has only made one early drama series renewal for the 2020-21 broadcast season (rookie Evil). The network traditionally renews the bulk of its scripted originals with one massive announcement but has yet to do so this season. In terms of pilots, CBS has already ordered six dramas with two of them (Silence of the Lambs sequel Clarice and a reboot of The Lincoln Lawyer) having a series production commitment (meaning if neither go to series, producers would be paid a steep financial fee as if they had). Still, the network’s drama pilot crop is particularly strong this season, with a Queen Latifah-led reimagining of The Equalizer and a legal drama starring Grey’s Anatomy alum Patrick Dempsey also in the works, among others.