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Television Media

The Rise of CSI 242

Posted by JonKatz
from the smash-geek-drama dept.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has become the most successful, intelligent, improbable and geekiest drama on commercial network TV. Considering its setting -- Las Vegas -- and its subject matter - decomposing pigs, corpse-sucking larvae, transgender serial killers, serial killer make-up artists, murderous and skate-wielding hockey fiends -- and its near total absence of traditional TV fare like sex or shoot-em-ups, this show shatters conventional wisdom about what people want to see on TV. A year ago, CSI seemed promising. Now it's great and getting steadily better. And as CSI has become more successful, its production values have soared. At times, it's beautifully shot, a cross between the old Miami Vice and the early days of The X-Files, from which it borrows heavily.

The stars of CSI are William Petersen, 49, who plays the solitary, brooding, and obsessively scientific Las Vegas Crime Scene Investigations chief Gil Grissom, and Marge Helgenberger, who plays his sidekick Catherine Willows. They have a team of young and hunky criminalists, including a recovering gambling addict and an ex-jock who has fallen in love with a casino hooker. According to Variety, C.S.I. has become the number two drama on network TV (behind ER), with over 25 million viewers a week.

The real star of the show is science. Grissom and Willows and the other criminalists share one pronounced trait -- they believe nothing anybody tells them, and they only trust solid evidence. They depend heavily on a well-equipped crime lab and use a wide variety of scientific tools to re-construct crimes. Like X-Files, the show shoots many scenes in darkness and shadow, and has a tendency to include brief and disciplined flashes of shocking gore: the path of a bullet will be illustrated graphically, or a diseased organ, a rotting corpse or slashed artery. Computers are a mainstream tool of this crew, along with smart thinking, and laser and DNA testing.

Like X-Files, the show has a dark view of science. Science is the real hero and the real star, but it's used mostly to reveal truth in sad circumstances. The CSI criminalists work in a depressing world where they nonetheless seek the raw truth, and believe in the ability of science to uncover it. Grissom is an older David Duchovny. He has a lonely life, a corrupt boss, endemic authority problems, and absolutely no patience for the stupid, dishonest or lazy. He shares another trait with Mulder -- he has to deal with the fact that in this world, the good guys don't always win.

It's fitting that TV's most intelligent drama follows one of its shlockiest programs -- Survivor. It would seem to be a foolish pairing, an idiotic broadcast followed by one so cerebral. Together the two shows cover the spectrum of contemporary TV. But while Survivor seems to become more unbearable by the week. CSI, already good, is getting better all the time -- gutsy, smart and inventive.

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The Rise of CSI

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  • Problem with CSI (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gazbo (517111)
    They do incredibly clever, incredibly observant things. They make huge logical leaps.

    We don't make the same leaps, so they have to explain them all, and find some excuse to do so; this gets tired after a while, when sombody performs a bit of a monologue - they may as well turn to the camera and say 'And for the folks at home...'

    ..and fp..
    • I have to agree. As much as I like CSI -- and, in fact, I like it a lot -- sometimes it just feels like they're pushing the science thing to the viewers. After a while, it tires me to hear they repeat after the millionth time that they only believe in pure science :-)

      But after all, it's a pretty innovative show, and people who haven't seen it yet should definetely check it out someday.
      • sometimes it just feels like they're pushing the science thing to the viewers. After a while, it tires me to hear they repeat after the millionth time that they only believe in pure science :-)

        Not a bad thing, except that they're not actually pushing `pure science'.

        They're only pushing materialism - as if it were the be-all and end-all, the totality of science - in the guise of total, pure science. Materialism can only take you as far as you currently believe `reality' extends, which can seem to be a long way but is pretty limiting in the grand scheme of things (think Copernicus).

        In the end the only proof of her position a materialist actually has is her faith: exclusive proofs are generally impossible, and one good counterexample [fossilivory.com] can break generations of hereinbefore `irrefutable' beliefs.

        The big myth underlying materialism is that you can completely understand and control the universe around you, which is again only true in a strictly limited degree, and in reality is just arrogance. Anyone who proclaims total control of their life, to say nothing of the lives of others, is simply displaying the limits of their knowledge (from another POV, their ignorance) in public.

        There, have I used enough emotive words now? (-:
      • yeah, and the fact that most of the science is bunk. Its fun to watch their experiments, but don't expect to reproduce them any more than say, McGyver. Not that I'm knocking McGyver. I loved it more than Monday Night Football. I even watch Stargate SG-1.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      She may be an ex-stripper, but she's hardly some goggling piece of eye-candy who mooches around after Grissom all day, telling him how brilliant he is. She's gutsy and smart in her own right. Jeez......
    • Re:Problem with CSI (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Minupla (62455)
      Nothing new there, although they do make nice use of Brass on occasion as a stand in Watson to their Holmes. But this is a problem mystery shows, and novels have had for a long time. If your plot is going to be twisted, every now and again you need to explain it to Watson. I really don't see a good solution...
      • If your plot is going to be twisted, every now and again you need to explain it to Watson. I really don't see a good solution...

        You have to have a good way to connect the dots so that things fall into place. Or else you wind up with two-parters. This has sometimes been done well with many of the visuals.

        All too often writers, people in debates, etc make a logical leap, and what has happened is that we do not see the step by step connecting of the mental dots that make it all gel. You have to slow that process way down so that you can judge the relevancy of the information as each peice drops into place.

        Sort of like a jig saw puzzle where many, but not all of the pieces are in fact the same shape.

      • Disclaimer: I've only seen a couple of episodes. Maybe they've improved in the meanwhile.

        Well, one thing that makes this difference from Watson/Holmes is that the scientific explanations are often in the middle of the show. If, on the other hand, the necessary explanations were left until the end, you'd also have a buildup of suspense.

        I agree with the OP, though. The show may be alright but the dialogue is sometimes ridiculous in the way it's handled. Scientists explaining things to each other as if they're all idiots strikes a false chord. And there are so many scientific leaps made that sometimes the audience is put into "Awe gee" mode, becoming passive and having to accept it all (and sometimes becoming a little overly impressed). If they cut down on them, focused in on a select few that really turn the plot, (and maybe spend a little more time on character or whatnot) they could probably get more mileage out of the science.

        They probably ought to take a look at how Law & Order handles it. Even though they go into the intricacies of law and police work, they were usually very good at keeping the audience in the loop without making certain things obvious.

        One easy way to do this is to have a forensic scientist have more than one working theory that they're in the process of figuring out. That way they can explain everything they're doing to someone else because it's more natural. "I think this because of this this this, but it might be that because of that that that, you'd better check in with me later on in the day. Oh, and by the way, if you find any X at the crime scene, let me know, will you? It might be sprinkled on the walls."
      • Nothing new there, although they do make nice use of Brass on occasion as a stand in Watson to their Holmes.

        My understanding is that this is why Doctor Who had companions. Since Katz mentions the X-Files, I would also suggest that this is the original reason for the Scully character (and now Doggett.)
        • My understanding is that this is why Doctor Who had companions.
          *grins* and I always thought it was because The Doctor would have looked silly in a skirt that got shorter as the season went on :).

          Seriously tho, ya. That's Brass's character's purpose a lot of the time I think, too, but it would get just as repetitive to have the characters constantly calling Brass over so they could explain it to us too, not to mention that with 2 or 3 investigations per episode, Brass would have to eat fewer doughnuts! :)
    • by Yosemite Sue (15589)
      While I admit that many of the explanations on CSI do seem to be directed towards the viewers, and the resulting dialogue rather artificial, I don't think this of itself suggests that the characters are not true scientists.

      Scientists are always learning. I am not in forensics, but have done some time in labs, one thing that is part of being a researcher is to learn from others who have more experience. A new CSI out of school is NOT going to know everything right away. And even the more experienced scientists are rather specialized, and need to consult with experts in other areas (i.e. the pathologist, the anthropologist) from time to time.

      And yeah, the science on CSI isn't always perfect ... but it's a heck of a lot better than what passes for science on most popular tv shows these days!

      YS
    • Re:Problem with CSI (Score:2, Interesting)

      by quiggy (266165)
      There are slightly larger problems to the show than just large logical leaps. Like it's predecessor in the scientific crime solving genre, Quincy ME, the main characters would not solve the crimes. I know a lot of people enrolled in the Forensic Chemistry program at my college (as I was once enrolled in it myself, but now I am just straight chemistry), and I even took some of the classes in crime scene investigation. The lab monkeys don't investigate crimes and the the investigators know as much of the science as most of the views of the show. If you've ever watched Law & Order (which has enough procedural problems itself), you'll see that the lab analysis guys appear for 30 second spots to tell the real detectives about the lab report. While slightly more realistic, the investigators would only recieve a report, not actualy visit the lab to talk in person, not to mention the complete inadmissibilty of any evidence in the lab when the police enter. The rules of evidence that govern who can even enter the lab, also goes to who can enter a crime scene. It's all very formal and proper just so there are no problems when the evidence is introducted into court. Often, as even this is shown in some of these crime shows, what the police are sure of, and what the police can prove in court are often two different things. The lab technicians and crime scene processors don't have the time availible to also be the ones who investigate the crimes. The main reason why this kind of a show isn't realisitic, is that the police are often as scientifically ignorant as the viewer base of the show. Unfortunately, that doesn't make good television.
      • The lab technicians and crime scene processors don't have the time availible to also be the ones who investigate the crimes. The main reason why this kind of a show isn't realisitic, is that the police are often as scientifically ignorant as the viewer base of the show. Unfortunately, that doesn't make good television.

        There is already a reality show where the detectives lack scientific knowledge and often, also lack basic logic. It's called 'the news'.

  • by Wag (102501) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @12:12PM (#3101274)
    CSI is clearly the best looking show on TV. I think that is part of its attractiveness. How many scientists do you know who look like Marg Helgenberger and Jorja Fox?
    They might be geeks, but they're Hollywood geeks.

    It is by far the best shot HDTV on tv right now. Pitty more people can't see it that way.
    • I never would have watched it if not for it being in HD. It was the first available show on while I was checking out my HD OTA reception on my new 51" wide-screen TV.

      I'll always remember the first time I saw it come on. The tailing end of Survivor was on, in 4:3 with gray bars. Then up came CSI, at 4:3 with gray bars. As the 5.1 music kicked in, the "Simulcast in HDTV" faded in at the bottom, and at the same time the gray bars moved apart and the image (nighttime shot of Vegas) grew to fill the space. Incredible! I sat there with my mouth hanging open with tears in my eyes. What a beautiful sight! (they haven't done the animated bars since though)

      For those of you who think you're getting the same experience with your $100 HD decoder card and your 17" monitor, dream on.
    • by jesup (8690) <[randellslashdot] [at] [jesup.org]> on Sunday March 03, 2002 @02:38PM (#3101805) Homepage
      CSI is gorgeous in HD - the night shots of Vegas from the air, with all the color; the dark exteriors and interiors which would wash into a blur on a regular TV; the closeups of evidence, etc are wonderful in HD. HD does such a good job on color and low-light reproduction compared to NTSC that people who see it at my house are amazed, and CSI is a great example. I think the transfers or camera work has gotten better too since it started.

      And everything said in the article is true - it's a riviting drama where science is often the star, for more so than the old detective-story-ish Quincy was.

      I'm shocked it ever made it to the screen, and hope it'll be there for a Long Time.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What most television executives today miss, is that shows that are POPULAR (ie, get good ratings) always have something UNIQUE about them.

    Examples: Gilligan's Island, Seinfeld, M*A*S*H, The Beverly Hillbillies, I Love Lucy- they all have something unique about them, whether it's a crazy background plot, the first successfuly show starring a woman, or a show about 'nothing'.

    It seems that all of the sitcoms that are coming out nowadays are just copies of each other. Shows that have been on the longest now (Simpsons, Drew Carey, Frasier) seem to still be popular, but are definitely losing their charm as writers struggle to find new story lines. But these shows all had something definitely unique about them, and that's what made them popular.

    Airing shows that are trying to be based on 'real life' just come off as copycats of Friends or Seinfeld, and they definitely don't duplicate the success of those shows.

    Want to know why shows are popular? They have a theme. Whether it's the Sopranos with the mafia theme, West Wing with it's presidential theme, ER with it's hospital theme, or NYPD Blue with it's cop theme, these shows are popular because they interest people.

    Throwing another "The Show" out on TV won't captivate people to watch.

    But give us something unique, and television audiences will eat it up.
    • Want to know why shows are popular? They have a theme. Whether it's the Sopranos with the mafia theme, West Wing with it's presidential theme, ER with it's hospital theme, or NYPD Blue with it's cop theme, these shows are popular because they interest people.

      Before you said that shows became popular because they were unique; the Sopranos definitely is something we haven't seen before, and you could argue the same for West Wing (though there have been several shows dramatizing politics), but ER and NYPD Blue have been done many, many times before.
  • by loggia (309962) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @12:16PM (#3101286)
    The show was rejected 25 times by television executives before someone on CBS realized its potential.

  • Light, Light, Light (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JohnBE (411964)
    The characters are two dimensional and they also sum-up a complete forensic case in one episode. I think were they to spread a case over several episodes it'd be much better. Prime Suspect and Silent Witness were two programs that managed to do things in a more gritty way. It comes across as as a cross-between Scrubs and Columbo.

    • The idea is a good one for a very specific audience, but CSI should not do that because it would be horrible in syndication.

      You couldn't sell it properly.

      It works with dedicated fan bases like soaps and sci-fi, but is bad for other things.
  • Painful grammar (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    You've got be kidding with the insanely poor grammar. As one of the regular columnists with some supposed role in representing the thoughtful tech community, could you make a tad more of an effort?

    "it's" means "it is."

    "its" is similar to "my" or "your".

    its setting. its subject matter. etc...
  • Great show (Score:2, Interesting)

    by John Jorsett (171560)
    I just discovered CSI a few months ago, thanks to my Tivo 'recommending' it. It's a great show. The only thing I don't like about the characters is their tendency to use their authority to push people around. I've encountered enough authoritarian jerks that it rubs me the wrong way.
  • by NReitzel (77941) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @12:25PM (#3101321) Homepage
    While the modus operandi of the show is stimulating and thought provoking, the facts presented are sometimes from some parallel universe. I'm a licensed EPA inspector, and sometimes the writers of this show come up with things that might have been feasible thirty years ago, but aren't plausible in our modern safety-oriented society. This leads me to believe that the writers include among them some old fart (from a fellow OFC* member) who hasn't let factuality come in the way of a good spin. Perhaps he (she?) is an out-of-work political speech writer.

    I'm all for using clever scientific methods to knock off troublesome momos, but using stuff that has been unobtainable for twenty years stretches credibility a bit. While that bothers me personally, a worse possibility is causing people who aren't knowledgable (like network TV watchers) to want our government to institute even nastier safety restrictions to solve problems that have actually been fixed for decades.

    Ok, it's a nit, but it bugs me.

    * Old Farts Club

    • examples? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Damek (515688)
      I don't mean this negatively; I'm sure you're right since it's just another TV show. I'm genuinely curious as to what sorts of facts or "unobtainalbe" things you're talking about...
    • You are remembering that this is a TV show? You expect people to petition the government to make policy decisions on the basis of a TV show? Perhaps you are taking this "TV show" a little bit too seriously and may want to lay back a bit and just enjoy it?

      You and just one of a recurring theme of experts who are offended by TV shows that impinge on their areas of expertise. The folks writing this have a marginal knowledge of the area, if that. Anyone watching these TV shows are not going to be influential enough to change gov policies. Relax!

      This show is much better than any forensic show before (Dr. Quincy, anyone?), but to think that this could change government opinion; please, the gov knows where to go to for experts, and it's not a bunch of TV viewers with a half-assed opinion.
  • by toxcspdrmn (471013) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @12:27PM (#3101325) Homepage
    I saw CSI (the episode with the animated bullet trajectories) on British TV only last week. A laudable effort to make science accessible to the mainstream, but it did seem to me that the "mainstream" they were aiming for must have the attention span of a goldfish.

    The Miami Vice comparison is particularly apt - lots of jump cuts etc. The CG animation is sometimes overused (and the animation of a bullet striking a lung had me rofl).

    That said, much of the basic science is sound. I particularly liked the admission that while a $10k electronic nose was very cool when it came to identifying perfume residues, the same results could be had with a bottle of adsorbant and an existing benchtop gas chromatograph).

    Anyway - I'll be watching it again to see if they can get the balance of plot/science/graphics right. If nothing else, it is nice to see an attempt to incorporate some properly researched, hard science into a mainstream show. Better they labour the explanations a bit than dumb it down at the expense of veracity.
  • I'm rather surprised to see CSI as an actual news item on Slashdot. Usually Slashdot reports brilliant happenings in the world, CSI is probably one of the lamest shows available right now, and I'll tell you why.

    First of all, a "total absence of traditional TV fare"? Don't make me laugh. Whenever these guys talk about anything scientific, whether it be a virus in some ones system, a fork going through their body or what have you, it is *always* accompanied by CG showing *exactly* what they are talking about. There is nothing left to the viewers imagination. The directors assume an extremely unintelligent audience and feel obligated to visually show every single theory.

    This being said, it really takes away from the show. For just 5 seconds you are taken out of the story and handed some over exaggerated CG of a bullet going through someone's arm, or a fork going through a chest, etc. Then you're popped right back into the story again! It ruins the continuity of the show.

    Most intelligent drama? Do not be so quick to loosen your toung. This show hand-holds you through each episode. X-files leaves much to the viewers interpretation, CSI does just the opposite.
    • by cgray4 (39638)
      Maybe you haven't noticed, but the animation only illustrates what the actors are thinking happened -- not necessarily what actually happened. Maybe it's a subtle way of telling people not to believe everything they see on TV. But it certainly leaves the possibility of people imagining alternate scenarios.

      Also, the cuts between the animation and the story are always extremely fast. You don't have to have much of a memory to remember what was going on just before them. If you don't like them, you must have hated Requiem for a Dream.

      As for hand-holding, CSI seems to leave nearly as much to the viewers interpretation as the X-files. Even when the X-files were good, they still showed plenty of gore and other nasty things. Also, most of the cases were resolved -- or at least resolved in the viewer's mind. Besides, if a show like CSI left cases unresolved, people would get angry. CSI is a straightforward cop drama where X-files was a sci-fi / character based show.

      If you really feel the need to criticize CSI, criticize the acting. Those people should be told that their show is in prime time and not during the day.
  • We have seen like one season here in Denmark.

    It is the one american TV series that I am watching (back in the old days it was X-Files, and I saw Voyager at some point as well).

    I can only agree that this is a winner.

  • I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned Quincy, M.E. [timvp.com] as one of the precursors to CSI. As far as I can recall, Quincy [yesterdayland.com] represented the first "detective" on television to use medical and forensic techniques to solve crimes.

    By the way -- No mention of Quincy would be complete without a reference to his sidekick, Sam Fujiyama, played by Robert Ito [northernstars.ca].
  • Katz can't even get the actors names correct.

    It's Marg, not Marge...and it's pronounced as it's spelled. Like 'cargo' without the O on the end.

    I'm all for reviews, but if i'm going to have to start paying for /., you guys could at least get someone who uses proper grammer and actually does research before writing a review.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I enjoy watching CSI but I often wonder how real it is.

    For example, in the hockey episode they shined a light (and viewed thru a filter) and concluded that there had been 30 different women (or was it men) sex partners there. OK, people with active sex lives are likely to wash their sheets from time to time! Even if the sheet isn't washed, I suppose a DNA test could figure out that semen was from different sources but how can some kind of fancy light?

    There are many other things I doubt in the show too. This isn't just a minor quibble because the whole show rests on the forensic evidence. Since a fun show.

  • CSI needs some kind of background plot, something like a super smart serial killer who they can never catch. They have recently started to develop the relationships between the characters, but I don't think this is enough to sustain the show long term.

    Chris
    • I disagree. Look at Law and Order, for example. There aren't any links between the 'perps' and the main cast, and it has been a sucessful show for years. Now there are three versions of it. CSI is fine the way it is. People want to see the logical reasoning that the characters demonstrate, not victory of evil.
  • by -ryan (115102)
    I hate that show it is so NOT geeky. It's probably what hollywood thinks is geeky. I fscking hate that show.
  • CSI may be good... (Score:3, Informative)

    by big_debacle (413628) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @12:41PM (#3101381)
    ...but some of the shows on TLC and the like such as Forensic Detectives are far superior. They look at real cases and over the course of the half hour show can take you over the investigative steps even if they lasted a year+. In addition, they have no need to gloss over certain details or make something look cool my doing a computer generated graphic. For example, the bullet pierced the lung is sufficient explanation without showing an animated picture of the same lung deflating. Check it out sometime.
    • You are comparing a network TV show with TLC?! Come on, the TV watching public (that doesn't watch TLC) will not watch the cut and dried TLC shows. The fact that a show that is ladden with this much science and tech being successful is a near miracle! It may be the inroad needed to try and get the masses interested in science and forensics. Just remember the target audiences when you think about how well TLC and CSI are doing.
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @12:46PM (#3101400) Homepage Journal
    When I watch a show like CSI, I cannot help but compare it to Quincy, M.E.. On Quincy, the forensic science was, to the best of my ability to judge, accurate. Furthermore, Quincy frequently went after "larger issues" like Tourette's Syndrome, illegal waste dumping laws, and so on.

    Now, CSI almost never goes after any thing "larger" - it's almost always just some guy offing some other guy. Also, the science is almost as atrocious as Taco's spelling. On one show they made the following bloopers:
    1. Asserting that the rubber tires on your car are what protect you from lightning (wrong: it is the fact that the car's metal body provides a Faraday cage to shunt the strike around you rather than through you)
    2. Asserting that the iron in blood makes it conductive (wrong - the iron is safely sequestered within the hemoglobin molecule. It is the presense of ions like sodium and chlorine that make blood conductive)
    3. Asserting that electrocution with normal 100V powerline current would create a "fern-like" pattern on the body.

    In none of the above cases was the error necessary to the plot - in fact the lightning goof would have been far better played out had Grissom said, "No, actually that is a common misbelief. What protects you is the shielding action of the metal car body. If lightning can jump thousands of feet of air gap, what makes you thing an inch of rubber WITH METAL WIRES IN IT would stop it?"

    Furthurmore, the show has to have this BS conflict between Grissom and the sherrif (after all, one rule of modern TV is that ALL AUTHORITY FIGURES ARE ASSHOLES). Again, on Quincy, the chief of police and the head of the M.E. department all were foursquare behind Quincy.

    Plus, do we have to have all these stupid shots of what the investigators think happened? "Hmmm. The bullet came through this window and hit him in the head " (CUT: blue-tinged shot of fake bullet breaking fake glass and impacting on fake head).

    • Furthermore, Quincy frequently went after "larger issues" like Tourette's Syndrome, illegal waste dumping laws, and so on. Now, CSI almost never goes after any thing "larger" - it's almost always just some guy offing some other guy.

      I agree with you in large part, but some of us like shows that just present an interesting drama without the need to preach a sermon (of course, only Hollywood "approved" sermons).

      I think the "issue of the week" is better left in shows of the 70s and 80s.

    • Considering I watch the show for entertainment value and not a science lesson, what do I care?

      You wanna watch Bill Nye the science guy, go ahead. But why bitch when his show doesn't have a significant plot.. hmm.. maybe because that's not the point.

      • And when I watch Angel or Buffy the Vampire Slayer I don't hold them responsible for the science. However, a show like CSI has made the deliberate effort to tie themselves to "science", so they bloody well can take the time to make it accurate, especially when that time is NILL! One of the funniest episodes of Thugs on Film was when they reviewed Jurrasic Park II, and Stubby was going on about how they could just as easily got it right as wrong.

        It's the same thing here - they could just as easily get it right as wrong, it would not cost dollar one more to make, nor would it take any longer, and they would not lose the suspension of disbelief as they do now.
    • I guess you're making the same mistake I did when I started watching the show: confusing entertainment with science classes. If you want something realist, 100% accurate in every single detail, you should watch the Discovery channel. They even got a forensics show, I guess.

      What amuses me about CSI is the drama, or even some of the thrill of discovering who is the bad guy. Not the science details.

      Ask the average person about any of the things you mentioned. You'll probably end with "Huh?" for an answer.

      It's not a science class. It's entertainment. If you want politically correct moral lessons, 100% accuracy you should go to a good educational facility. These things aren't mandatory on TV.
      • What amuses me about CSI is the drama, or even some of the thrill of discovering who is the bad guy. Not the science details.

        That's my favorite part. They do a good job of presenting the viewer with all of the evidence and suggest working theories. There is enough time to digest that, and then draw conclusions. They do a good job of not leading the viewer by the nose or wrapping things up by having the characters 'just happen' to know something the viewer wasn't shown.

    • by Joe Rumsey (2194) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @02:18PM (#3101741)
      The conflict between Grissom and the guy who represents the mayor's office (I didn't think he was the sherrif, actually, but you could be right.) has nothing to do with authority figures being assholes. You've read that into it based on your own bias. The reason that whole running subplot exits is to highlight Grissom's tendency towards finding the truth at the expense of all else, including people's feelings. It's a recurring theme in the show, and that's not the only device they've used to show it. Grissom is one of my favorite TV characters ever, and that's part of the reason why. Like you and me, he is not perfect, and he knows it. Frequently the tasks that involve dealing with people get delegated to Willows.

      Also, I agree that they made a bunch of scientific mistakes in that one particular episode. I even posted something about it on another website at the time, the only time I've done that. But it's the only episode that's been that bad, it's usually much better. It isn't perfect, but that was the worst of the bunch. If it's the only episode you've seen, it's not fair to judge the whole series by it.

      I agree with another poster that I don't want them going after larger issues. There's plenty of preachy trite crap on TV dealing with "larger issues" all the time, it's great to have one show that can tell interesting personal stories with believable, well thought-out, and imperfect, characters for once. Quincy was a two dimensional cardboard cutout medical examiner, who needs more of that? It's everywhere!

      • The conflict between Grissom and the guy who represents the mayor's office (I didn't think he was the sherrif, actually, but you could be right.) has nothing to do with authority figures being assholes.

        It is the Sheriff that Grissom conflicts with: The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, LVMPD, reports to the Clark County Sheriff, not the mayor of the City of Las Vegas.
    • Furthermore, Quincy frequently went after "larger issues" like...

      Like punk rock. In Next Stop Nowhere: Quincy, the Punk Rock Episode [requestline.com], Quincy tackled punk rock, with exactly that sort of "larger issue" attitude. It showed how punk threatened our early-80s values, showing a mosh pit in which someone was stabbed with an ice pick, "punk" self-mutilation, etc.

      Luckily the whole thing wrapped up safe, with ol' Quice dancing to the sounds of Tommy Dorsey, and asking: "Why would anyone want to listen to music that makes you hate, when you can listen to music that makes you love." Why indeed.

    • Last week, during the autospy of a dead hockey player, they pulled his dental plate from his mouth. While many hockey players have plates none are stupid enough to play while wearing it.
  • CSI: HDTV (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ZenJabba1 (472792)
    If you think it looks beautiful in SDTV, wait till you see it in HDTV, its an amazing picture quaility, with an great story line.

    I started watching it only because it was in HDTV, now I'm hooked and love it
  • by Gray (5042) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @01:06PM (#3101466)
    I always saw CSI as successful for pretty much the same reasons as Law and Order. It requires a low emotional commitment but a high intellectual commitment. They're both about systems first and the people within them second. There is a demographic (a lot of them work with computers) that eats that up.

    My only complaint would be the same as a bunch of other people here, they play is real fast and loose with the science. Often it has nothing to do with a plot point, it's just poorly researched.

    I understand there are crazy time constraints on network television, they aren't made of time. I would suggest hiring a 'resident geek' to read scripts somewhere on the way out and suggest 'technical' fixes to move their science more into reality. I think it would really help the show, and it would give them access to a world of wierd science stuff they aren't getting now. And make it more crediable ta boot.

    People who's heads are full of wierd science are a dime a dozen down at the local comic store (or here on slashdot), pick one up..
  • The last two lines of the intro I caught the other night, while investigating a (TBD) murder that occurred during a beer league hockey game:

    "Hockey sure can be a brutal sport."

    "Yeah, it can be murder."

    I mean, c'mon. 'Nuff said. I sure didn't see much special about the show, tho I'll admit it's well shot.
    • That episode was actually bland, as far as episodes go. Some of them are surprisingly... I won't say riveting, but they really grab your attention, and bring you along for the ride. The hockey one, while good, was one of the more mediocre of the bunch (insofar as I can say CSI is mediocre, as it's my favourite show on TV right now).

      --Dan
  • CSI should hardly shatter any "conventional wisdom". TV shows should be marketable in one sentence formulas. CSI started on Fridays, and similar to the X-Files which also started its life on that day of the week, the formula was "bad and gory things happen to people, and there's a hot female costar".

    Fox tried to follow up the success of The X-Files with Millenium which persisted for a few seasons only because the network wanted to remain on good terms with Chris Carter. Millenium also tried to follow the niche of a gory TV series set in the present time with something resembling police work to investigate crimes. Why didn't it have the success of CSI--because Fox let Carter get away with not following the formula used in The X-Files. For The X-Files Carter carefully chose the young and attractive Gillian Anderson and elevated her role to be equal to Duchovney's. Carter was not forced to do this either for Millenium or for Harsh Realm. In the past decade US television SF has swung decisively towards recognizing the importance of having hot young females as the stars, similar to how the Winter Olympics is really about figure skating and the Summer Olympics are about gynmastics, and similar to the last successful TV Western set in the past being Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman. Note that James Cameron created for Fox Dark Angel which follows Cameron's typical pattern of having a strong female character as the star. Unfortunately Fox failed to follow the formula again--almost no network SF other than the Star Trek franchise can build a large audience if the show is set in the future. At least Voyager management made the correct decision of introducing the 7 of 9 character in a skintight catsuit to save the show.

    Almost all bombs can be explained by not following the formula. CBS's The Fugitive failed because CBS failed to follow the formula that the lead character should have some sort of superhero edge. The loner who comes to town and fixes things decades ago rapidly morphed in being a superhero or angel, not an ordinary guy. It would have been even better had the star been made female with martial arts ability.

  • Notice how the 50-something main character resembles CBS's 50-something audience, and how impatient he can be with the headphone-wearing kids in the crimelab. Obviously it's meant to re-enforce their viewers' perspective, rather than challenge it. I always felt like the show was geared towards my grumpy uncle Ed, or like it's a Simpsons parody of a CBS show. The fact that it concentrates more on the forensics than, say, a character's fight with the bottle makes it a good tech show. But I do get the feeling sometimes I'm not the target audience.
    • Notice how the 50-something main character resembles CBS's 50-something audience, and how impatient he can be with the headphone-wearing kids in the crimelab.

      This is true, but the show also demonstrates (especially with Greg), that even 'headphone-wearing kids' are a lot more than they might appear. Greg's work has been pivotal to several cases, he's great at what he does, and half the time he's a walking encyclopedia of biochemical compounds.

      So sure, he's a 'headphone-wearing kid', but just because he is doesn't make him a punk. I think this doesn't reinforce perspective but rather throws it out the window. There's more to someone than you can judge by looking at them.

      --Dan
  • It's Marg not Marge. (What is this, the Simpsons? Hey, now that I think about it, I think the cast of CSI should come on the Simpsons for a 'murder investigation' that happens at the Simpsons home. Much hilarity will ensue.)

    No, unlike X-Files, if a room is dark and has a light switch, CSI will flip it on instead of getting out the flashlights. I haven't noticed any penchant for filming in unusually dark places to enhance the mood. (Other than when they've got the purple light out looking for semen.)
  • Sure many of you posting are slamming for details on this or that. Or that a weekly script written of all ages to enjoy isn't the level of classic novel, who cares. Its good entertainment, that happens to bring some science to people who wouldn't be reading Scientic American. I would bet a lot of the people complaining just don't like TV in general. Fine, but for those who of us who been bit-banging for twelve hours a day and just want to veg' a bit, CSi is good entertainment.
  • I guess I really shouldn't be surprised that Katz loves this show. Katz, like most of the rest of the US, seems incapable of using logic in any meaningful way.

    Now, by way of introduction...

    My name is Zandr, and I'm an HDaholic. At a recent event at our local PBS affiliate, I pointed out that if they put their HD camera on the roof, we'd probably watch the feed.

    And CSI is beautifully shot and produced. I keep an episode around just for the interstitial flyovers of the Strip.

    That's why it pains me to say that I simply can't watch CSI. I actually find forensics fascinating. I don't have a terribly strong stomach when it comes to things organic, so I think I'll stick to my current career, but my TiVo is usually madly collecting all the forensics specials off Discovery, et al. You can almost measure the production cycle of CSI by watching Discovery, and then seeing how long it takes before the same technique gets used on CSI. (I get about 8 weeks by this method.)

    The problem is that CSI makes these incredible leaps of logic. One that comes to mind: They found peanut shells on a pair of shoes, and immediately concluded that the owner worked a concession stand. I'm sorry, have these people never been to a proper bar, where there's an inch of peanut shells on the floor at all times?

    And then there's the downright bad science. There's one episode where they figure out where a boat drifted by setting up a washtub and a fan in the lab. Give me a break; throwing dice would be more accurate. Or "you look left when you're remembering, you look right when you're making it up." Polygraphs are pretty flakey devices, but now that we can just watch your eyes we're all set.

    My wife watches it, but it's only really watchable with a PVR, since she has to pause the show every three minutes to ask why I just recoiled at the last leap of logic or horrible science.
    • I'm curious as to why anyone would classify a bar where people make a horrid mess of the place a 'proper bar'.

      That aside, I didn't see the peanut episode, so I can't comment on it. The look-left/look-right thing, however, -is- true (unless someone is deliberately screwing with you). I've seen it dozens of times. It's hardly admissible in court, but it does give them a clue as to what's going on.

      Is this 'fake science'? Not at all. Police all over the place use this as a hint. I've heard several cases of police questioning witnesses/suspects/whatever, and then deciding to investigate further because of which way the person looked.

      That said, if you don't like the show, and you're going to ruin your wife's watching it, just don't watch it with her. No one's chaining you down (well, ok, your wife might be, but if you're that whipped you have other problems :P).

      --Dan
      • The look-left/look-right thing, however, -is- true (unless someone is deliberately screwing with you). I've seen it dozens of times. It's hardly admissible in court, but it does give them a clue as to what's going on.
        I'm presuming if this is the case then it's based on the bilateral nature of the brain or somesuch; if so, maybe you better also check whether the suspect is left or right handed...
  • The three-part series dealing with the middle aged men showing up dead in bathtubs of apparent suicide was great. I won't spoil the ending but it was perfect, the twists along the way were truly shocking, and the good guys did not entirely win.

    We may debate the validness of some of the science on the show (I take issue with many of their unpossible audio tricks) but story lines and twists like this trump some of the best we've seen on The X-Files.
  • by Kirkoff (143587) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @02:49PM (#3101841)
    I hate to say this with all the people trashing the quality of the Science of the show, but I love it. Usually the errors aren't so blatant that they distract me too much. I really enjoy it though. Katz OTOH, I doubt has really watched it. His write-up sounds an awful lot like the one I read in TV Guide at the Convienant store. I think that he then added in his "notes" from the last show that was on. Yes, Warric is a recovering gambling addict, and in that epasode, he did take a fancy to a dancer in a casino. That was it, the plot ended there. She is no longer in the show. It's a lot like watching the show from last season where the man died in Grissom's hands, and the blood was litterly on his hands. A priest had talked to him ealier in the show. As he now looking at returning to Catholicism? No, he isn't.

    Oh well, another Katz flame. At least it's my first!

    --Josh
    • He mentions a guy who was into SPORTS falling in love with a hooker not with the SINGER. The white guy who was into sports DID fall for a hooker. He even did forensic tests on her blouse in order to prove that the guy spit on her. I believe it was an assualt case and she was being charged (missed the beginning) for attacking the security guy. Turns out the security guy provoked her by spitting on her etc..

      Anyway, he ends up looking like he's fallen for her but ends up not getting involved at the very end. She kisses him and off he goes on his merry way. Katz refers to more than just this last episode :-P
  • not quite (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday March 03, 2002 @02:51PM (#3101848) Homepage
    Like X-Files, the show has a dark view of science.

    The X-Files has very little to do with real science. Vampires? Weird implants? Alien conspiracies? Pseudoscience doesn't equal science.

    The CSI criminalists work in a depressing world where they nonetheless seek the raw truth, and believe in the ability of science to uncover it. Grissom is an older David Duchovny.

    I hope you meant Agent Mulder. David Duchovny is an actor.
  • Lack of sex? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quarters (18322) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @02:53PM (#3101856)
    >>and its near total absence of traditional
    >>TV fare like sex

    I guess Katz must be a eunic. It's the only explanation for his comment. How many times in one show can they show Marg Helgenberger in a low cut, tight shirt, bend over, exposing the majority of her 'hidden-assets' to the camera?

    Please don't take my statement as a critique of the show---it's not. I like the show, just the way it is!
  • My Grandma watches is. . . .

    Heck when I visit her I watch it with her, along with Law and Order (whatever version may be on) and Quincy.

    (I happen to like Quincy)

    I always categorized it in the same category as all of the other various murder mystery shows, just a bit more gruesome and with a bit more technical accuracy here and there.

    Of course I also like Murder She Wrote, so. . . .

    (And I loved Father Dowling Mysteries. . . . hmmm. For a Science Fiction fan I have some odd tastes in TV. :) )
  • Sex it up (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Corvus9 (300802)
    ... and its near total absence of traditional TV fare like sex
    I was about to go into a long rant about why C.S.I. is about as scientifically accurate as McGyver, but the statement above made me realize Katz has no clue what he's talking about.

    Every episode of C.S.I. I have seen is just as titillating as any other American TV program. In one episode, prostitutes are killing clients by poisoning their nipples, which is shown over and over in SI swimsuit-style soft core. The hero can't just tell the cops this; no, he has to "investigate" this personally and in "private". Another episode has the hot chick investigating a semen stain and having to find a "matching sample"....

    For that matter, why does everyone on this program, even the skid row prostitutes, look like a fashion model?

    • What about the episode that actually nudity (via corpse)? While I wouldn't call that SEX (ewwww ...), it certainly pushed the boundaries a bit.
  • It's fitting that TV's most intelligent drama follows one of its shlockiest programs -- Survivor.

    Just because the Survivor producers rejected your application is no reason to take pot shots at it.

    And if you find the show so schlocky and unbearable, why do you watch it every week?
  • In the vein of there being nothing new under the sun. Both the X-Files and CSI appear to me like skewered retakes on Holmes and Watson. No matter the garnish I prefer the original.
  • is that people like my mom and sister watch this show and think it's a complete duplicate of real science. In fact, I've had conversations about forensic science and heard the quote "well, you know, on CSI they <insert bullshit dramatic device passing for science here>."

    I am very weary of shows like this because they seem to dupe 99.9% of the american public into actually believing half of this shit is real scientific technique. The /. crowd may be a bit more savvy than all that, but your average american isn't.
  • by kubrick (27291)
    Did anyone else read the headline and think this might be about the Church of Scientology, Inc.?

    Maybe after all the legal kerfuffle where Rob pulled that document they just don't want to offend them again, but I must say Scientology stories have been thin on the ground since then.

    It's a shame -- I like a good conspiracy theory, I do, and when you're talking about the Scientologists, *nothing* that anyone says about them can be dismissed out of hand. Billion-year contracts? Aliens executed by leaving them on exploding volcanoes? Sure, whatever....

    Besides, the more people who can be warned away from them, the better... it's worse than Amway, even! :)
  • Homicide anyone? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by corrosiv (116029)
    Speaking of intelligent police shows...

    It is truly shameful that the brilliant and inspired Homicide: Life on the Street never got the acclaim it deserved while it was around. Even more tragic is how memories of the show are fading. If it isn't in syndication where you are, REQUEST IT!

  • Considering its setting -- Las Vegas -- and its subject matter - decomposing pigs, corpse-sucking larvae, transgender serial killers, serial killer make-up artists, murderous and skate-wielding hockey fiends -- and its near total absence of traditional TV fare like sex or shoot-em-ups, this show shatters conventional wisdom about what people want to see on TV.

    How exactly does this "shatter conventional wisdom about what people want to see on TV?"

    This is exactly what TLC has become: sensationalistic, dumbed-down crap, more of a cross between the X files seasons of late and Jerry Springer than actual writing.
  • I got the impression that Katz doesn't like the work of Bruckheimer too much (which is totaly OK). But CSI is from JB. Now why doesn't Katz mention Bruckheimer in his review, is it because he'd rather not mention him because he likes the show and is in denial about JB's involvment, or because he simply doesn't know?

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