31 Pilots in 31 Days: CSI: Crime Scene Investigators

When it was originally on: 2000-2015

Original network: CBS

Where you can stream it now: Hulu or Paramount+, though for some reason Paramount+ only has 3 seasons while Hulu has the full run.

Had I seen it before: No.

What IMDb says: Series following an elite team of police forensic evidence investigation experts as they work their cases in Las Vegas.

Why I picked it: CSI is a strange case in that it’s so relevant… it’s almost irrelevant. It’s simultaneously a show that ran for 15 years, has enough spinoffs I’ve lost track, and plenty of other 21st century police procedurals get at least a little of their DNA from CSI (pun fully intended.) Yet… I don’t really hear people talk about CSI. Anecdotally, it is neither the punching bag that NCIS seems to be, nor is it quite on ER‘s level of resurgence or reclamation. It’s a show that exists in the backdrop of pop culture, neither exceptionally loved nor exceptionally hated, but nevertheless there, with an undeniable influence on other crime procedurals to come.

What I liked: I am of the opinion that if you’re going to do a pilot for a procedural, that pilot should feature, well… the procedure. CSI passes that test with flying colors. Its number one priority here is interesting mysteries and having characters solve them, and it’s great evidence (pun fully intended. again.) that a lot of the heavy-handed exposition done by so many pilots isn’t as necessary as we think is, especially for a procedural.

They’re juggling a few plot lines here, and they all hit their marks from a structural standpoint, with just the right amount of twists unfolding at just the right moments. One of the interesting things here is that with one of their main plots, they clue the audience in pretty early as to what actually happened. An investigator notices that one shoe on a victim’s foot is tied differently than the other one, and that the person who called the crime in has a broken toenail. They’re basically telling us what happened, yet they’re still able to create effective drama around watching CSI prove it. There’s the drama around whether or not a judge will sign off on a warrant in time; there’s drama after one investigator is taken off the case; there’s drama around whether or not the new investigator can find clipped toenails or whether or not the perp got rid of all of them.

I also commend them for pulling off a real surprise at the end by killing off one of the new investigators; a character they had effectively duped me into believing this would be one of our leads for the series moving forward. It’s a great cliffhanger to leave us on, and I think it also leaves a great opportunity for more character work as we watch the investigators react to losing one of their own after being fairly jaded, business-as-usual about all the death and depravity in this episode.

What I didn’t like: I was under the impression Ted Danson would be in this show, and apparently he is not in the pilot, so that’s a bummer.

Do I want to watch Ep. 2: I kind of do want to watch at least one more episode so to see how they deal with the character death. As for the rest of the series, I simply do not have time for a 15-season commitment right now.


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