It's not an exaggeration when I say I was one of the most avid CSI fans out there. I watched from the Pilot and never looked back. I think seasons 2-7 of this show were empirically good television. Good, tight writing. Nuance. Subtext within the cases. The character development, while measured, was nicely done. I liked seeing the characters grow and evolve within the profession and I grew particularly fond of the show's longest arc: the fascinating push/pull relationship between Grissom and Sara Sidle.
Actors get to a point when they want to move on, so Grissom leaving the show--while a bit of a blow--was okay because it was handled very well. His reunion with Sara in Costa Rica was absolutely gorgeous. Definitely the stuff that creates a bit of a legacy for both his character and hers. I think the transition to the Ray Langston character was a bit of a dropped baton. Laurence Fishburne is a very good actor, but the powers that be did a disservice by structuring the show around a new character who was installed as a newbie to the profession. It was a misstep and put the show off-balance.
I think Ted Danson is much better in all respects. I'm not particularly fond of the characters of Morgan and Finn. Morgan's entrance was handled just fine, but in the case of Finn, I feel like they're trying to force a square peg into a round hole because it's Elisabeth Shue and she's just so likeable. But in this role? She's really not. She comes off as grating and flippant and a bit obtuse when it comes to the people around her. There was a scene early in the season where they processed a graphic scene with multiple victims, and she seemed glib and smirked throughout. Consistently bad choices are made when it comes to her portrayal and characterization. She did start to grow on me as the season progressed, but it just seems like the other characters are losing screentime at her expense. George Eads and Jorja Fox seem marginalized, except when they're not.
That's my problem with season 13. Gone is the subtlety and nuance. The characters are shaping the cases, not the other way around like it used to be. We don't see how the case affects them. We see that the case is because of them. How many times can we have direct personal involvement? CSI was born and established quickly as a procedural. I don't think procedural is a dirty word. They did procedural very well. Compelling cases with a sprinkle of lovely character moments. But in S13, that is completely turned on its ear. It seems to be more of a 50/50 split and science is no longer the priority. The drama drives the science, and not always to a good place. Gone are carefully constructed plots. The CSIs have become more like cops, running into unsecured scenes guns-ablazing, processing their own evidence, and in one case, eating a meal in the trace lab. It's a bit surreal. But you want to focus on the characters now? Fine. Just do it well. Don't kill a 13 year-arc (the Grissom and Sara romance and resulting marriage) based on two references to missed phone calls. All the effort the writers before them put into that long-form, subtle arc just wiped out in one very odd scene that seemed placed there for shock value. To destroy a storyline that's popular with fans for a sweeps stunt was the dagger for this season for me.
Jorja Fox, 13 years later, is still excellent. Ted Danson is refreshing and very likable. They're the two bright spots on an otherwise mediocre TV show. It pains me to use that word in conjunction for what was such a fantastic show, but most of the characters are either forced or have evolved past the point of plausibility. The science has become marginalized. I hope they return to their roots in season 14, because right now I'm fairly certain this is going to be a DVR show for me if they don't start rectifying some of these issues.
Bright spots despite previous issues: Code Blue Plate Special, Fallen Angels, Dead Air, and Forget Me Not. Forget Me Not is a cornucopia of tropes and contrivances, but it's incredibly well acted. It's just a shame they went where they did in that episode from a characterization standpoint.