Reviewed by David Williams (March 26, 2003)
Thank goodness for shows like CBS’ CSI and CSI: Miami (and Fox’s 24). In a sea of crap and “reality TV”, these shows stand out like a beautiful rose bud among weeds and thankfully, fans of good TV have noted that as well and rewarded these series with consistently high ratings.
The series at hand - CSI - was dreamed up by Anthony Zuiker; a tourist tram driver for the Mirage hotel and casino in Las Vegas after spending time with and interviewing some of the city’s criminalistics investigators. Zuiker thought it would make for interesting television for folks to see what happens to the crime scene after the police detectives have done their thing and the “nerd squad” comes in to mop up and look for miniscule and microscopic evidence to help in tracking down the bad guys. Well, it just so happens that Jerry Bruckheimer thought it would be a good idea too and he signed on to make the show a reality, as well as become an Executive Producer for the series.
CSI manages to remain popular because it’s entertaining, informative, and educational all at the same time. And while this might not make sense, CSI doesn’t insult the viewer’s intelligence by being too “dumbed down”, but at the same time, it doesn’t assume they know too much about the methods/technologies used either – it walks a fine line of viewer observation and show explanation. Crimes here aren’t solved by dumb luck or by cops simply being in the right place at the right time – they aren’t solved by overpowering or overwhelming force – they’re solved by pure intellect. The show promotes critical thinking, science, reason, and complete and total dedication by a group of people who want to see criminals brought to justice (although it doesn’t hurt that they’ve got the latest and greatest in technology at their fingertips either). The team is a tight-knit one and they all want the same result – solving the crime and making sure the right person pays the consequences. Advancing a sense of cooperation and solidarity, the team selflessly bounces ideas and theories off of each other to make sure no stone goes unturned and no fiber left unexamined.
The show also excels because it makes the characters real. This isn’t like The X-Files where you never saw Mulder and Scully outside of the office and they simply went from case to case to case. CSI is different. The group that composes the Las Vegas Criminalistics Unit have personal lives and sometimes those lives clash with their careers and the results aren’t always pretty. It becomes clear that these guys love what they do – and they excel at it – and unfortunately, personal problems often arise or are amplified because of things happening at work. This simply serves as another way to draw the viewer in because while we might not all have the same vocation or the same problems, we see that these folks aren’t crime solving “supermen” and that they succumb to the same types of things we do.
Before we go off on over 17 hours of crime-solving adventure with the “nerd squad” in question, let’s meet who were gonna be hanging out with for all this time. First we have Gil Grissom (William Peterson), the senior-ranking officer of the group and a seasoned pro with brilliant and keen insight into the criminal mind; then there’s Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger), a stripper turned criminologist – a dedicated worker and single-mother who’s torn by family demands with her young daughter; Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan) is a tough and determined investigator with a penchant for gambling and sports betting; Nick Stokes (George Eads) is a very eager investigator who has a keen and friendly rivalry with Warrick; Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox) is an investigator on the team who is quite abrasive and obsessed with her job; and Captain Jim Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) is the grumpy police captain formerly in charge of the team now finds himself working for homicide. Finishing off the team are Greg Sanders (Eric Szmanda), an odd and brilliant lab technician and Dr. David Robbins (Robert David Hall), a pathologist working in the ciminalistics lab.
Now that we’ve met the boys and girls of CSI, let’s check out the types of cases they took on during their inaugural season …
Pilot (Original Air Date: October 6, 2000)
We are introduced to members of the unit as leader, Gil Grissom, investigates the apparent suicide of a distraught man. Stokes is hot on the trail of a ring of hookers whose customers are found passed out and robbed. Catherine and Warrick investigate the shooting death of an intruder who was shot by a homeowner. In the meantime, Warrick is also given the task of supervising rookie criminalist Holly Gribbs (Chandra West) and under his watch, she is shot while working alone on the scene of a robbery/homicide.
Cool Change (Original Air Date: October 13, 2000)
Grissom takes charge of the CSI unit when Captain Brass is transferred to homicide. The group continues to work on the shooting case of one of their own - Holly Gribbs - while also trying to figure out why someone who just hit a $40 million dollar jackpot would leap to their death from the top of the casino. Catherine feels a sense of guilt for persuading Gribbs to stay on the job rather than quit and she is teamed up with newcomer Sara Sidle, an investigator and old friend of Grissom’s.
Crate N’ Burial (Original Air Date: October 20, 2000)
Time is of the essence as Grissom and Sara investigate the kidnapping of Laura Garris (Jolene Blalock), a millionaire’s wife who has been buried alive in the desert. Warrick and Catherine are investigating a hit-and-run accident in which a young girl dies and an old man claims that he was the driver – although the evidence says differently.
Pledging Mr. Johnson (Original Air Date: October 27, 2000)
When a severed leg surfaces in a lake, Grissom and Catherine find themselves putting the pieces together and it leads them to an adulterous conclusion. Also, Nick and Sara investigate the death of a college student who was found hanging in his room after failing to be asked to join a fraternity after completing the pledging process.
Friends and Lovers (Original Air Date: November 3, 2000)
Grissom and Warrick attend their first rave while investigating the death of a young man who was found naked in the desert. The body of a woman whose burial was a week earlier is found in the desert and Sara is sent to investigate. Catherine and Nick work an investigation where a college dean has been killed by a woman who claims it was all in self-defense.
Who Are You? (Original Air Date: November 10, 2000)
A plumbing problem causes the foundation of a house to be torn apart – and a female skeleton is found buried within. Grissom is assigned to figure out who she was, how she was murdered, and who did it – with nothing more than the skeletal remains to lead him. Catherine’s ex-husband (Timothy Carhart) is accused of raping an exotic dancer, while Warrick and Sara feel some heat when a cop with a history of complaints faces murder charges.
Blood Drops (Original Air Date: November 17, 2000)
Grissom and the entire team are called in when four members of the Collins family are brutally murdered in their suburban home. The father, mother, and two teenage sons have all been stabbed to death with a kitchen knife and the only survivors are two daughters who ran for help – teenaged Tina (Allison Lange) and her young sister, Brenda (Dakota Fanning). Catherine’s ex-husband pops-up again to cause her some problems – this time, accusing her of neglecting their young daughter.
Anonymous (Original Air Date: November 24, 2000)
Grissom assumes a serial killer is on the loose when he comes across a crime scene similar to the one discovered in Pilot. An apparent suicide victim is found in a bathtub with a tape recorder and the crime scene has been staged to look like a suicide. Nick and Warrick investigate a car crash that may or may not have been accidental – and place a wager on the outcome.
Unfriendly Skies (Original Air Date: December 8, 2000)
A disruptive first-class passenger dies aboard a Las Vegas bound plane and Grissom and the crew are sent to investigate. They find the other passengers a bit uncooperative and when stories start to contradict, the CSI crew starts to suspect murder.
Sex, Lies, and Larvae (Original Air Date: December 22, 2000)
Grissom and Sara investigate the shooting death of a young woman whose battered and bug-infested body is found on a nearby mountainside. Catherine and Warrick investigate the theft of a valuable painting, while Nick is assigned to tracking down a missing woman whose car was found abandoned with traces of blood in it. As a side job, Grissom gets Sara to check whether or not Warrick is gambling while on the job.
I-15 Murders (Original Air Date: January 12, 2001)
The disappearance of a woman from a supermarket sends Grissom and Catherine looking for a serial killer who’s leaving clues all up and down Interstate 15. Nick helps out a prostitute in trouble, while Warrick and Sara reluctantly work together in order to solve a robbery/homicide case. Warrick tries to explain why he was in a casino while in duty.
Fahrenheit 932 (Original Air Date: February 1, 2001)
Grissom receives a video from Frank Damon (Sterling Macer Jr.), a man awaiting trial for murdering his wife and child by burning down their home. He claims he’s innocent and asks Grissom to help him prove it. Grissom agrees to help, but it causes some problems between he and dayshift supervisor, Conrad Eckley (Marc Vann), the man who originally investigated the case. Catherine and Nick investigate the death of a teenager who worked as a “runner” placing bets.
Boom (Original Air Date: February 8, 2001)
When a bomb explodes inside the lobby of a Las Vegas business building killing one person, a security guard with profound knowledge of explosives becomes the prime suspect. Catherine helps Nick when he becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a prostitute. Seems he spent the night with her – for free – and she is found dead the following morning.
To Halve and to Hold (Original Air Date: February 15, 2001)
When a boy’s dog retrieves a human bone rather than a stick, Grissom and Catherine are sent in to find the rest of the skeleton (which has been cut up and scattered across a mountain), piece it together, and determine whether or not foul play was involved. Warrick and Sara investigate the death of a male stripper who was found dead in a hotel room shortly after performing at a bachelorette party.
Table Stakes (Original February 22, 2001)
During a fund raising party at the mansion of a retired and very wealthy showgirl, a woman is found dead floating in the pool. A husband and wife con team (Shawn Christian and Elizabeth Lackey), who claim they are house sitting for the dancer while she vacations in Europe, are the prime suspects. Also, Warrick investigates the case of a gambler found shot dead inside of a hotel elevator.
Too Tough to Die (Original Air Date: March 1, 2001)
Grissom, Nick, and Sara take on the case of a woman who was sexually assaulted, shot twice in the head, and left for dead. As she clings to life in a local hospital, Sara becomes a bit too personally and emotionally involved. Warrick and Catherine are investigating a fatal shooting between two arguing neighbors. The shooter claims self-defense and it’s up to Warrick and Catherine to find out the truth.
Face Lift (Original Air Date: March 8, 2001)
After a break-in at a pottery store, a robbery suspect is found dead and Grissom and Catherine are sent in to investigate. The ensuing investigation finds a link between the aforementioned case and the kidnapping of a young girl some 21 years earlier. Warrick and Sara investigate the death of a woman whose body burned to ashes while her husband slept next door. Human combustion or a simple fire?
$35K OBO (Original Air Date: March 29, 2001)
Catherine finds herself at odds with a district engineer when a building collapses and kills three elderly women. The team attempts to piece together evidence from a carjacking/homicide after a rainstorm washes away much of the evidence from the scene.
Gentle, Gentle (Original Air Date: April 12, 2001)
Grissom becomes emotionally involved while investigating the kidnapping of a young baby from a wealthy Las Vegas family (Brian McNamara and Lisa Darr) . As the case drags on, it looks as if the family may have been involved in some way.
Sounds of Silence (Original Air Date: April 19, 2001)
A vehicular-manslaughter case becomes a murder investigation after Grissom discovers that the deaf victim was already dead before being run over. Catherine and Nick are on the case of a shoot-out in a local coffee shop, where five people, including a local high roller, were killed. The shooting exhibits many signs of being a “professional” job.
Justice is Served (Original Air Date: April 26, 2001)
Grissom investigates the brutal death of a jogger who, at first blush, looks like he was killed by some sort of wild animal. However, the deceased is also missing his internal organs, so it raises quite a few doubts. Catherine becomes emotionally involved on a case she’s working when it starts to look like a 6-year-old girl’s death on an amusement park ride was no accident.
Evaluation Day (Original Air Date: May 10, 2001)
After a high-speed chase between police and a couple of drunk girls in skimpy bikinis, a severed head is found in the girl’s trunk – and around the same time, a headless, skinned corpse is found out in the desert. Initially, no one’s sure if the corpse is even human and CSI puts their heads together to find some sort of connection. Warrick attempts to help a young inmate falsely accused of killing a gang member at a juvenile prison. While doing so, he finds that the only witness to the crime is an inmate that he helped convict.
Strip Strangler (Original Air Date: May 17, 2001)
A serial killer is on the loose and is strangling young female victims. He’s hard to catch, as he cleans up and removes all genetic evidence that he’s been there and even leaves evidence to throw the cops off his trail. Grissom becomes agitated when he finds out that the local sheriff has called in the FBI to help out on the case. Things get worse when Grissom learns that they plan to use Sara as a decoy. A man is soon caught, but Grissom knows it’s the wrong guy.
Whew! What a great series and thank goodness that the combined forces of CBS and Paramount have gotten it to the home consumer so soon. If you consider yourself a fan of good television, please do yourself a favor and pick up CSI: Season One as soon as it streets. Do your part and reward CBS, Paramount, series creator Anthony Zuiker, executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and the cast and crew of CSI by speaking loudly with your checkbook when this series hits store shelves. The one way to let studios know we appreciate good sets is by buying them when they come out – do exactly that next week when you come across CSI: Season One.