About Me

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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why I Love CSI

Here's the blog I warned you about: the CSI one. So, if you don't give a rip about CSI, or TV in general, you can skip this one. Though, from a purely self-centered perspective, I hope you don't. And of course, I'd love your comments.

For the few of you who live under a rock (or don't own a TV or never read anything about it), CSI is, in the lingo of TV these days, a "scripted procedural." When it first debuted, in 2000, it was a new kind of program -- rather than being simply about crime or police officers or lawyers (standards of TV for a L-O-N-G time), it is about HOW crimes get solved, and all of its main characters are criminalists.

For me at least, it is a totally refreshing break from the ga-zillions of reality TV shows out there. Do I really need to know how one guy would fare with somebody else's wife? Or how much weight somebody lost last week? If I am going to park my ass on the couch in front of the TV for an entire hour, I want to be entertained and learn something, not watch somebody step on a scale, do a rotten job cooking the scallops, or fail to get their kids under control. I can see all those things in my own house anyway.

I didn't start watching CSI until somewhere in its 4th season, after my husband and my in-laws convinced me to give it a try. (They were -- and are -- avid fans as well.) Initially, the concept -- a show about gory crimes and lab work, full of autopsy scenes and realistic-looking corpses -- didn't appeal to me.

The truth is, not only do I generally not watch a whole lot of TV (or movies), the few shows and movies I do see are virtually never scary, depressing or terribly realistic. I love comedy. I love escapist plots. I love happy endings. I don't even mind predictable storylines. I do have space in my head for documentaries and historical dramas, but I never go for frightening, depressing, bloody stuff. So WHY, on God's green earth as my mother would say, would I EVER end up claiming that CSI is my favorite show?

WRITING. That's the answer. Not to minimize the actors' talents, but frankly, can even a great actor really do much with a bad script? I doubt it. The writing is fast, SMART, full of scientific trivia and double entendre. Fans know enough about each character to be attached to them, yet the focus is always on the case, and only rarely on a particular character. (Predictably, if you read fansites, you discover that fans of one actor argue with fans of another over who has been slighted or neglected in the writing and who has had "too much" air time. I don't take sides in that battle, and think that the evidence is pretty solid that the writers consistently focus on cases more than on characters. The CASE is the main character and that, in and of itself, makes the show unique, week after week.)

If you don't listen closely to the show, you'll miss something important. It's a fascinating take on a world (forensic science) that I knew nothing about prior to watching this show. The episodes also appear to be incredibly well-researched. It's not stupid TV. (I totally fantasize about being a researcher on the show. Maybe my next lifetime.)

And, as it turns out, there IS comedy in this show, though it would hardly be termed one. My favorite episodes, in fact, are the ones where the writers were quite intentionally comedic with their plots -- "Rashomama," "Lab Rats," abd "Fur and Loathing" come to mind. Particular scenes or lines, even in episodes that aren't funny at all, often make me laugh. From last week: "If the bullet is in his ass, then his ass is evidence." Or, a scene where a self-conscious, single, grey-haired lab tech is caught putting black marker in his hair. Realistic enough to be believable, funny enough to make me laugh out loud.

In case you're wondering, no, I don't know the titles of episodes from other TV shows. I don't remember lines from other shows. I've never liked a show enough to care. I surprise myself with the amount of CSI trivia currently in my brain.

The camera work and the special effects on this show are impressive too (shots of bullets making their way through bodies; slow-motion work of necks being snapped; blood spray on walls; corpses with removeable body parts, etc.). However, to be totally honest, I'm a fan who often spends a good part of every show with her face behind her hands, asing her husband, "Can I look yet?" I love Robert David Hall (who plays coroner Al Robbins), but I have to admit, I rarely watch his scenes. But I do listen to them.


The two most recent arguments, among CSI fans, are whether the return of Jorja Fox (who plays the super-intelligent,troubled, former foster child-turned-CSI Sara Sidle) and the addition of Laurence Fishburne (professor-turned-CSI Ray Langston) are overshadowing the cast members who have been there since the beginning. In addition, William Petersen's decision to leave the show and return to Chicago theater has left fans obsessively mourning the loss of his quirky, brilliant, socially awkward, Shakespeare-quoting forensic entomologist Gil Grissom. I've never seen another character ANYWHERE that is as original as Gil Grissom, and I bet it'll be a long time before I do. Emmy people -- Billy Petersen deserves one!! Get on the ball already.

The other actors -- notably, Marg Helgenberger (single mother, former drug addict and exotic dancer-turned-CSI Catherine Willows who also managed to survive a date rape attempt, rescue her child from a sinking car AND later from a kidnapping), George Eads (Texan, all-around good guy, former athlete, son of a judge, peanut butter-hating, almost buried alive Nick Stokes), Eric Szmanda (the rock-loving, Vegas history buff, sometimes kid-like CSI Greg Sanders), Marc Vann (the despicable but perfectly played lab head Conrad Ecklie), and Paul Guilfoyle (lovable, scruffy, divorced Dad with a drug-addicted daughter, police detective Jim Brass) -- hold their own on the show, week after week. I absolutely love every character -- even the ones I haven't mentioned. There simply is not a weak link in this cast. Frankly, I'd give 'em all an Emmy. But not before I gave the writers some of those statues first.

I intentionally gave you all just enough info about the main characters for you to be asking me, "Oh, come on! A former foster child becomes a CSI? And an exotic dancer as well?" Yes, I'm well aware of how statistically unlikely it is that, in real life, foster children and exotic dancers would end up pursuing enough education to end up as CSIs. It's a testament to the writing that I am consistently able to suspend disbelief while I watch the show.

I could go on and on...but I've said enough. If you haven't watched this show, you really should give it a try. It's worth your time; you might learn something, and you'll probably laugh as well.


  1. This is a potent recommendation. If I try a new show, it will be CSI! I wonder what you'd think of Dexter? I share the same kind of "I can't look" ... "Did he really just do that?" ... feeling when the "lovable" serial killer goes into action. It's got a very intense creepy, comedic factor going. Definitely for adults only!

  2. As much as I love shows about crime and the law, I have never watch a single episode of CSI nor have I seen Law and Order.

  3. Hey Elaine -- do you know (but I am sure you do) that there is a "CSI Experience" in Las Vegas? Does that qualify for a field trip?

    g in hp, nj

  4. Yes "G in HP NJ" I do know. I would love to go!! How are all of you? Avoiding H1N1 I hope!


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