Revisiting the success of ‘CSI’

The one that started it all, acclaimed TV series “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” finished its celebrated run in late 2015. Its worldwide renown has led to spin-offs “CSI: Miami,” “CSI: NY,” and “CSI: Cyber.” But the original is still the bar by which gripping forensic science narratives are measured. Here are some of the reasons for its unprecedented success.

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Firstly, unlike some of its contemporary, similar-themed shows, “CSI” always abided by the “no red shirts” rule. In movie parlance, this means that new characters added to the show will always have an important role to play and not just cameo as non-playing characters or NPCs. The show prides itself on developing depth in characterization. For example, consider Greg Saunders (played by Eric Szmanda), who went from being a seemingly minor role as a lab tech to the full-fledged investigator.

Secondly, it started the so-called “CSI effect,” which helped casual viewers greatly appreciate and understand the inner workings of crime investigations. Things like the need to secure the crime scene, avoiding evidence tampering, being meticulous about fingerprints, and looking for gun residue suddenly became household concepts. More importantly, it drew younger fans into wanting to pursue forensics as a career.

Another great thing about the series is that we are never forced to invest so much in the personal dramas of the characters as in the plot itself. Though the actors’ roles are extremely fleshed-out, there are no ’80s-style “Dynasty” moments in this show. We relate to them yes, but mostly because of the work they do, not their love lives and petty quarrels, among other things. Solving crimes precede everything in “CSI.”

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Hi there, my name is David Berkowitz, your resident TV and movie fanatic from Chicago. For similar reads, drop by this blog.


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