Sunday 4 December 2016

CSI ends after 15 years tonight - here's why we'll miss it

Published 02/12/2015 | 14:34

Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shuh in CSI
Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shuh in CSI

CSI is ending tonight. Did you know that? I didn’t, until I happened to glance at the RTE Guide listings a few days ago, and I guess that tells its own story.

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All good things come to an end, and while CSI dominated ratings worldwide in an unprecedented way for more than a decade, the network has now pulled the plug on the Vegas-based original after fifteen years.

Tonight’s double-bill, starting on RTE2 at 9pm, will see the show sign off in suitably epic style with a movie-length special. The current crop of forensic wizards – Ted Danson, Elisabeth Shue et al – is joined by CSI legends William Petersen and Marg Helgenberger, as bombs hit the Vegas casinos.

I haven’t watched CSI in a good while, but I’ll be tuning in for this. It was, over the course of its run, one of the best cop shows ever made.

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These are some random personal memories of CSI Vegas, the original and the best:

It pioneered a new genre of cop procedural, where the appliance of science, technology and intellectual rigour was more important than busting heads or screeching down the street in hot pursuit. Without CSI we wouldn’t, in all likelihood, have had NCIS, Criminal Minds, Bones, Without a Trace, Cold Case, Numb3rs…not to mention the several CSI spin-offs.

The show also pioneered a certain way of filming – glossy, stylish, a sort of heightened sheen over everything, with unusual camera angles e.g. showing us a bullet wound from the bullet’s point-of-view – which was hugely influential on other dramas, and more importantly, was relatively fresh to the medium back at the turn of the millennium. It’s since been lampooned by, among others, The Simpsons (Chief Wiggum declares, “Give it the whole CSI treatment – lots of flash and no meaning.”) There’s a bit of truth to that. But it still looks cool, admit it.

In Gil Grissom, Petersen (and the producers, of course) created one of the most memorable characters in telly history. The supporting cast were just as good, but Petersen delivered something very special over his ten seasons with the show. Fully-rounded, always believable, charming and compelling, Grissom also rescued the excellent Petersen from what could have been a wholly undeserved career limbo.

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Season 10 of CSI delivered one of the greatest season opening scenes ever, with a truly amazing one-shot which was up there with the best of Hollywood in terms of technical proficiency. We were landed straight into an extended (almost three minutes) Matrix-style flo-mo single shot: it was audacious and spectacular, and must have been a hell of a thing to make. We saw a “paused” moment of violent mayhem in what looks like the CSI labs: trajectories of bullets, people crashing through the air, glass smashing, what seems to be an explosion in a test-tube. What a way to start a new season, and what a way for CSI to reaffirm its credentials as the slickest cop-show out there.

The death of Warrick Brown (played by Gary Dourdain), in Season 9, was one of the most touching moments I can recall in mainstream TV. Shot by a dirty cop while doing his job, Warrick’s murder was shocking – especially so, because you don’t expect the good guys to die in network television – and provided Petersen with one of his best scenes, delivering a heartfelt eulogy to a fallen comrade.

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