When the original “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” hit the airwaves in 2000, it felt different from the other cop dramas on network television. Not just because it was gory. Not just because of the cast. “CSI” was different because it focused on the lab, and the workers there. It allowed us to follow along as the, often decomposing, bodies told us their story. My how things have changed.
The first few seasons of the hit crime lab drama focused almost solely on the inner workings of the Las Vegas crime lab during the night shift. The setting was perfectly creepy. Now it seems our Crime Scene Investigators work 24/7, barely getting a break for sleep. It’s easier to see the scene in daylight, I admit, but they seem gorier than ever. The show was always bloody, but now it often tries to just gross us out.
The original cast of “CSI” is relatively intact. One notable character was killed off when Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan) was killed by the Undersheriff (Conor O’Farrell). That was about the time all the CSIs started wearing guns. The loss of the character dealt the only big blow to the still successful TV show. Grissom left shortly after and the big changes started.
Gil Grissom (William Petersen) leaving was a major loss for the show. He still makes cameos and is talked to and about during many episodes. The writers have eased us into the change by promoting his replacement from within the cast. It’s not the same though. Grissom is the man that made bugs fun. Maybe not fun, but at least interesting. With Grissom in the LVPD crime lab we knew we would find out the truth.
Detective Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) was always in charge of interrogations in the beginning. Gil Grissom would accompany him on some. The lead CSI was there more as someone who could explain to the allegedly screwed perp how bad things were for them than as an intimidation factor. Now a CSI accompanies every interrogation, or does it alone, and aggressively questions subjects. It was so subtle before.
For the first several seasons the characters did not even carry weapons. They went in after the police had cleared a crime scene and started their work. As the show evolved, with two spin-offs that were far more violent, so did the characters. Getting more personally involved in cases to the point where they all are now armed and assist the police with captures or shootouts.
The story lines on the original “CSI” have changed too. We used to tune in weekly to see the weirdest or most bizarre crimes that could really only happen in Vegas. Now we get more of a “ripped from the headlines” feel, akin to the “Law & Order” dynasty. Thankfully the writers have stuck to the script on the dry wit we’ve learned to expect. Though Grissom was best at doling it out, there’s always at least a few good lines to quote.
I still watch “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” but I recommend going back to the beginning seasons for the really good story lines.