April 8, 2010

An Open Letter To The Producers Of CSI

Dear Powers-That-Be,

I must start by saying bravo. I do enjoy CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. I've watched every episode, right from the start, and while some decry the show as 'just a procedural' or wittily claim it jumped the shark a few years back, I disagree. It's always been entertaining and, you know, educational as well. Where else would I have learned about how much toothpaste it takes to kill a person or the life cycle of the cicada? (Right, a book, sure, but I meant more along the lines of 'Where else on TV?')

So, I'm a fan. It's as a fan that I compose this letter. See, things are changing over there at CSI and not necessarily for the better. I get it - ten years is a damn long time. I mean I was relatively young when the thing started and now, well, I'm still young but a lot has happened. New guy, new country, more jobs and apartments than I can count, etc. In ten years things are bound to change. Change is difficult but it's also good to shake things up and keep it all fresh. I get it. I was with you when Greg got promoted. Full marks for that. I was cool with Ecklie. He was an amusing foil. I really liked Sophia, actually, and kind of wish she was still around. I held out hope you wouldn't abandon Nick to his garden grave and you delivered. Hell, I even stuck by you when Warrick was killed. I liked Warrick, too, but every so often tragedy can bring a show together. I get it. But then... you know... Grissom left. Fair enough, William Petersen has a life to lead. I miss Grissom but I stuck it out. See, my favorite character is Catherine and with Grissom off to marry Sara and collect Amazon bugs (or whatever the hell it is he left to do) I figured Catherine would get her due promotion to supervisor and Marg Helgenberger would bump up to head of the class credits-wise. Given that, you know, she and William Petersen were essentially the leads in an otherwise ensemble piece. But instead you brought in an outside 'star' to bolster the cast and, presumably, ratings. Lawrence Fishburne.

Here's where things get dicey for me. I have nothing against Lawrence Fishburne per se. Event Horizon scared the shit out of me. The Matrix was awesome. He's a good actor. And the way you introduced Langston was careful and clever. Having Grissom bring him in and offer him the job, having him start off as a CSI Level One so as not to mess with Catherine's promotion. Full marks! Well done. I had hope it would be handled delicately after that promising start. You know, that he'd just blend into the cast and everyone would still get their rightful due. Sadly, no. Most shows since have felt more or less like 'Langston and His Buddies Solve Crime'. Oh I get it, he's probably not cheap. You've got to get your money's worth! And if he's going to be the show's other lead, you have to invest some time into establishing him. You want your new star to shine as brightly as possible. But that's, I think, where our thinking takes divergent paths. In an established TV show the only stars long-time fans care about are the ones playing characters we've essentially grown up with. Let me put it another way: fans care more about Greg, Nicky, Sara, and Catherine than anybody new you bring in. I thought you would have learned that after the lukewarm reception Riley received. I care markedly more about Wendy, Archie, Doc Robbins, and even Hodges than I do about Langston. And yet he gets most of the screen time and in one short season (mid 9 to mid 10) has managed to get himself up to a CSI Level Two with the ability to solo. Here's the other thing - and admittedly it's petty but it still annoys me - Lawrence Fishburne comes ahead of Marg Helgenberger in the opening credits. How is that possible when Marg has been with the show for ten years, all of which had her billed as the lead opposite William Petersen? How is that possible when Catherine is the boss? See, I get the impression that you think you landed shimmering A List talent for your show in it's tenth season and you're paying a lot for him and you want to throw his name around and you're so excited to have OMG LAWRENCE FISHBURNE on your show but in reality he hasn't really been A List since The Matrix. The first one. And even if he was, let's say, George Clooney, I'd only care peripherally. As in, I'd care how well CSI Clooney fit in with the rest of the team and deferred to Catherine's sassy leadership style. You see what I'm saying?

There's still time to rectify this, of course, though probably not enough time to prevent Marg Helgenberger from moving on to arguably greener pastures. I hear her contract is up at the end of this tenth season. There have been rumblings that she won't renew. Which means you'll be running a show with only a guest-starring Jorja Fox, no Gary Dourdan, no William Petersen(!), and now possibly no Marg Helgenberger. Listen, I like George Eads and Eric Szmanda a lot but if Marg leaves I'm done with CSI. No Grissom and no Catherine is, to me, the end. So either you shift some of your priorities in lavishing all your attention on Langston and his obsession with Dr. Jekyll and re-assess Marg Helgenberger's innate value to the show or I fear for the future of CSI. I do.

That said, Season Ten has had some great episodes. I applaud you for always keeping the crime and forensics slick and forefront. It's never devolved into a soapy interpersonal mess and for that I give you the highest possible marks. It's a good show and it always has been. All I'm asking is for that to be preserved. For the actors who made it such a good show for a decade running to be shown a little respect. That's all.

Sincerely,
Gabrielle