Murder, and its tale-telling aftermath, is the compelling subject of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
. Since it premiered on CBS on October 6, 2000, CSI
was a ratings triumph, spawning a spinoff (CSI: Miami
) and positioning itself for long-term success. As the first season demonstrates, creator Anthony Zuiker's foolproof formula was established early on, bolstered by a fine ensemble cast and requiring minimal tweaking as the season progressed; its Las Vegas-based "criminalists" eventually became "CSI" steeped in the scientific minutiae of forensic investigation, but the series arrived essentially intact, with an irresistible (and seemingly inexhaustible) supply of corpses and the mysteries that surround them. Influenced by the graphic precedent of movies like Seven
and Kiss the Girls
matches morbidity with dispassionate methodology; viewers are so fascinated by the investigative process that they're unfazed by intimate autopsies and internal (i.e., digitally animated) views of traumatized flesh, bone, and sinew.
While keeping abreast of cutting-edge technologies, CSI combines the ingenuity (and fallibility) of villains with the appealing humanity of its heroes. CSI director and entomologist Gil Grissom (played by series coproducer William Petersen) is introverted but ethically intense; he's both mentor and moral compass for his night-shift team, including a former stripper-turned-CSI (Marg Helgenberger); a recovering gambler (Gary Dourdan); an eager ace (George Eads) with room for improvement; a workaholic (Jorja Fox) who can't always remain emotionally detached from her cases; and a chief detective (Paul Guilfoyle) who's a necessary link to police procedure. Like The X-Files, CSI supports its characters with feature-film production values, employing a Rashomon structure that turns murder into a progressively accurate study of cause and effect. Script quality is consistently high ("Blood Drops" and "Unfriendly Skies" are exceptional), direction is slick and sophisticated, and the mysteries are complex enough to invite multiple viewings. Despite a regrettable shortage of DVD features, CSI's inaugural season remains addictively worthy of its lofty reputation. --Jeff Shannon
Previously Enjoyed & Fully Guaranteed