CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (referred to as CSI, also known as CSI: Las Vegas) is an American crime drama television series that premiered on CBS on October 6, 2000. The show was created by Anthony E. Zuiker and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. It is filmed primarily at Universal Studios in Universal City, California.
The series follows Las Vegas criminalists (identified as "Crime Scene Investigators") working for the Las Vegas Police Department (LVPD) (instead of real-life "Crime Scene Analysts" and "Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department" (LVMPD)) as they use physical evidence to solve murders. The series mixes deduction, gritty subject matter, and character-driven drama. The network later added spin-offs CSI: Miami and CSI: NY, both of which were canceled after ten and nine seasons respectively. On February 18, 2014, CBS also announced plans to launch another spin-off, this time based in Quantico, Virginia, called CSI: Cyber. The pilot aired on April 30, 2014, as an episode of CSI, called "Kitty".
CSI has been recognized as the most popular dramatic series internationally by the Festival de Télévision de Monte-Carlo, which has awarded it the "International Television Audience Award (Best Television Drama Series)" three times. Its worldwide audience was estimated to be over 73.8 million viewers in 2009. In 2012, the show was named the most watched show in the world for the fifth time. CSI has been nominated multiple times for industry awards and has won nine awards during its history. The program has spawned several media projects including an exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, a series of books, several video games, and three additional TV shows. It has reached milestone episodes, such as the 100th, "Ch-Ch-Changes", the 150th, "Living Legend", which starred Roger Daltrey from The Who, performers of the show's theme song, the 200th, "Mascara" (aired on April 2, 2009), the 250th, "Cello and Goodbye" (on May 5, 2011), and the 300th, "Frame by Frame" (on October 23, 2013).
CSI has aired 15 seasons with the final season premiering on September 28, 2014, in its new Sunday night at 10 PM time slot. It is the seventh longest-running scripted U.S. primetime TV series overall. CBS confirmed the series would not return for another season, but will conclude with a two-hour TV movie which will air on September 27, 2015, and will feature the return of original cast members William Petersen and Marg Helgenberger; and Ted Danson will join the cast of CSI: Cyber.
The series has been heavily criticized, almost since its debut, by police and district attorneys who feel CSI portrays an inaccurate image of how police solve crimes, and by the Parents Television Council, who note the level and gratuitousness of graphic violence, images and sexual content seen on the show. Nevertheless, CSI became the second most-watched show on American television by 2002. The success of the show encouraged CBS to produce a franchise, starting in May 2002 with the spin-off CSI: Miami, in 2004 with CSI: NY, and CSI: Cyber in 2015.
During the 1990s, Anthony Zuiker caught producer Jerry Bruckheimer's attention after writing his first movie script; he was convinced that there was a series in the concept. Bruckheimer agreed and arranged a meeting with the head of Touchstone Pictures. The studio's head at the time liked the spec script and presented it to ABC, NBC and Fox executives, who decided to pass. The head of drama development at CBS saw potential in the script, and the network had a pay or play contract with actor William Petersen, who said he wanted to do the CSI pilot. The network's executives liked the pilot so much that they decided to include it in their 2000 schedule immediately, airing on Fridays after The Fugitive. Initially it was thought that CSI would benefit from The Fugitive (a remake of the 1960s series), which was expected to be a hit, but by the end of the year 2000, CSI had a much larger audience.
CSI has frequent comedic moments, which helps relieve the often harrowing content, sometimes descending into black comedy, as in the episode "Appendicitement".
From the start, CSI's theme song has been "Who Are You", written by Pete Townshend with vocals by lead singer Roger Daltrey of The Who. Daltrey made a special appearance in the Season 7 episode "Living Legend", which also contained many musical references such as the words "Who's next" on a dry erase board in the episode's opening sequence. In certain countries, to avoid music licensing fees, a unique theme was used instead.
Throughout the series, music has played an important role; artists like The Wallflowers, John Mayer, and Akon (with Obie Trice) have performed onscreen in the episodes "The Accused Is Entitled", "Built To Kill, Part 1", and "Poppin' Tags", respectively. The Wallflowers' "Everybody out of the Water" can be found on the CSI soundtrack CD. Mogwai is often heard during scenes showing forensic tests in progress, as are Radiohead and Cocteau Twins, but several other artists have lent their music to CSI, including Rammstein and Linkin Park—used heavily in Lady Heather's story arc. Sigur Rós can be heard playing in the background in the episode "Slaves of Las Vegas", The Turtles in "Grave Danger", and Marilyn Manson in "Suckers". A cover of the Tears for Fears song "Mad World", arranged by Michael Andrews and featuring vocals by Gary Jules, was used in the pilot episode and during three episodes of season six ("Room Service", "Killer", and "Way to Go"). Industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails has also been featured multiple times throughout the three series. One episode started with The Velvet Underground's excited rendition of "Sweet Jane" and ended with the downbeat version of Cowboy Junkies' revision of the song. Ozzy Osbourne was featured, along with the music of Black Sabbath, in the thirteenth-season finale, entitled "Skin in the Game".
In Las Vegas, forensic investigators are trained to solve crimes by examining the evidence. They are on the case 24/7, scouring the scene, collecting the evidence, and finding the missing pieces that will solve the mystery. Originally led by Gil Grissom, CSI Supervisor for the grave shift, and a forensic entomologist. He departs the team in order to further his researching career. His second-in-command, Catherine Willows, is a single mother with a cop's instinct. Born and raised in Vegas, Catherine was a stripper before being recruited into law enforcement. She is, for a short time, supervisor following Grissom's departure, before a demotion for mismanagement, and a subsequent promotion and transfer to the FBI. Replacing her is D.B. Russell, who has come to the team after heading the Seattle Crime Lab. His number two is Julie Finlay, a CSI III and a blood pattern expert who previously worked with Russell in Seattle. She replaces Willows. Like Catherine, she is a blood-spatter expert, with extensive knowledge of criminal psychology. Finlay supervises a team that includes Sara Sidle, a former foster-child who met Grissom at a conference in San Francisco. The team's longest serving CSI, Sara often assists Greg Sanders in his investigations. He was once an off-beat tech analyst and is now an experienced and intuitive crime solver. Greg is partners with Morgan Brody, a former Los Angeles criminalist. Assisting the team are Tech David Hodges, his long suffering colleague and rival Henry Andrews, who jointly works in the lab as both a toxicologist and DNA technician, Dr. Albert Robbins, the ever-professional medical examiner; his wise-cracking assistant, David Phillips. Previous team members include Nick Stokes, who was recruited by Grissom, and worked as a CSI for 15 years before a promotion to Lab Director in San Diego; Dr. Raymond Langston, a former lecturer with killer genetics, who is a skilled CSI before killing a suspect and forcing IA to end his career and reshuffle the Las Vegas Crime Lab; Warrick Brown, a recovering gambling addict responsible for the death of a Rookie CSI; Jim Brass, an LVPD Detective Captain who ultimately departs to look after his daughter; his supervisor, CSI turned Detective Sofia Curtis, a skilled forensic investigator who is promoted to LVPD Deputy Chief following a short stint as Grissom's number two; and Wendy Simms, a DNA tech who leaves the team to pursue her dream of becoming a CSI.
Diebenkorn "D.B." Russell (Ted Danson) replaced Catherine Willows as night shift supervisor. Russell previously worked as a CSI in Washington State. He is married and has four children: a son named Charlie Russell (Brandon Jones), a daughter named Maya Russell (Brooke Nevin) who has a daughter, Katie.
Julie "Finn" Finlay (Elisabeth Shue) is the newest CSI on the team, following an anger management course. Russell fired her when she worked for him in Seattle, after she ignored evidentiary procedures and obtained DNA from a suspected serial killer using questionable methods. She got a second shot at the suspected serial killer in the season 13 episode "CSI on Fire". As of the end of season fifteen, she is in a coma due to the events leading to the capture of serial killer Paul Winthrop.
Nicholas "Nick" Stokes (George Eads) is a level 3 CSI. On leaving Texas A&M University, Nick joined the police department and took a job with the Dallas Crime Lab, specializing in hair and fiber analysis. Finally, he joined the Las Vegas Crime Lab. Nick has become emotional with certain cases and thought of committing suicide. In the season ten finale, Nick was shot but survived and killed his attacker. He became assistant night supervisor under Catherine Willows when Gil Grissom left, but was demoted after the events ending season eleven. At the end of season fifteen, Stokes accepts an offer to head the San Diego PD Crime Lab.
Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox) is a materials and element analyst. She majored in physics at Harvard University and previously worked for the San Francisco coroner and crime lab. She replaces Holly Gribbs after helping investigate Holly's death. She is devoted to her job and will go to almost any lengths to make sure that justice is served. She finds dealing with child-abuse cases difficult because she was abused. Despite the age difference, Sara quietly pursues Grissom; and they become engaged in "The Case of the Cross-Dressing Carp." A few episodes later, in "Goodbye and Good Luck," Sara leaves the team following a difficult case. She makes guest appearances in season nine; and Grissom joins her in the Costa Rican jungle in episode 10, "One to Go." In season ten, Sara returns to the crime lab as a CSI and it is revealed in "Family Affair" that Grissom and Sara are now married. However, in season thirteen's "Forget Me Not", it is revealed that Grissom and Sara are separated.
Gregory "Greg" Sanders (Eric Szmanda) was educated in a private school for gifted students and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University. After a stint with the San Francisco Police Department, Greg joined the Las Vegas Crime Lab as a DNA technician and was soon yearning to find a place beyond the lab conducting fieldwork with the CSI team. Greg also wrote a book about the history of Las Vegas, and often becomes intrigued with cases that date back to "old Las Vegas" when it was run by the mob. Greg entered field training in the episode "Who Shot Sherlock?", and he became a full-fledged CSI. Greg is promoted to CSI level 3 in the episode "19 Down". On the episode "A Kiss Before Frying", Greg is smitten with a mysterious woman, who describes herself as a fourth grade science teacher, during a tour of the crime lab. He has feelings for Morgan Brody.
Morgan Brody (Elisabeth Harnois) is a former member of Los Angeles Police Department Scientific Investigation Division, and joins the Las Vegas PD CSI unit in season eleven. She is the daughter of the Sheriff Conrad Ecklie. She has feelings for Greg Sanders.
Dr. Albert "Al" Robbins (Robert David Hall) is the head county coroner of the LVPD. Robbins's first appearance was in the episode, "Who Are You?", and he became a series regular in season three. He is married and has three children. Robbins was close friends with series' lead character Gil Grissom. Since Grissom's departure, Robbins was developing a similar sort of friendship with new CSI, Ray Langston, and he is also close friends with David Phillips, the assistant coroner. He has prosthetic legs, and it has been implied that he lost them in an accident while trying to dig up a floor at a crime scene; this disability is drawn from the actor playing Robbins, who lost his legs in a road traffic accident.
David Hodges (Wallace Langham) is a lab technician with a B.A. from Williams College; he previously worked in the Los Angeles County crime lab, where his superiors felt he had an attitude problem. Hodges's appearances provide some comic relief, though most of the team finds him obnoxious and irritating. Hodges's first appearance was in the episode, "Recipe for Murder", and he became a regular cast member in the episode, "Dead Doll". He once got all the other lab techs to collaborate to try to solve The Miniature Killer case, and they discovered a key clue. In the episode "You Kill Me", Hodges invented a board game and enlisted the help of his colleagues to help him. It is also noted that Hodges has an uncanny sense of smell, and is able to identify many key chemical compounds by their scent alone. Hodges is a "momma's boy" who lives with his mother (up until the end of season 11), and invents stories to meet her expectations. In season 12's "Malice in Wonderland" Hodges and his mother are taken hostage and he finally stands up to her.
Dr. David Phillips (David Berman) (nicknamed "Super Dave") is the assistant coroner to Chief Medical Examiner Al Robbins. He received his self-styled nickname after saving the life of a victim during an autopsy. Though early in the series, his co-workers tease him about his supposed lack of social experience.
Henry Andrews (Jon Wellner) is the toxicology specialist of the Las Vegas Forensics Laboratory, who mainly deals with identifying toxic substances which have undergone human consumption. He has an impressive knowledge of lethal substances, including, but not limited to: illegal drugs, alcoholic beverages, poisons, and hazardous gases (such as carbon dioxide). He constantly exhibits a thorough understanding of the toxins' properties and effects. Andrews also tends to be present (to his discomfort) when his colleagues David Hodges and Wendy Simms have a "moment". In "Room Service" he tells Greg Sanders how much he admires him for leaving the lab behind and even asks where he gets his hair cut. In "Lab Rats" it was revealed that Henry used to live in Pennsylvania.
Captain James "Jim" Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) (305 episodes, 2000-2014) is a former Marine who served in Vietnam. He was formerly a homicide detective with the Newark Police Department, is with the LVPD Homicide Division, and works with the CSI team. Brass had Grissom's job; but, after CSI Holly Gribbs was murdered on her first day, he was replaced by Grissom. Brass was then made a homicide detective. He usually serves as the legal muscle for the CSI team and is the one who does most of the arresting and interrogating of suspects. Brass has never been accused of being a "soft cop" but has shown regard for the rules throughout the years. Brass does not like it when the CSIs try to take dangerous matters into their own hands. In the episode "Who and What", after FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jack Malone slams a suspect's head on the table, Brass rushes in and pulls him off, saying: "in Las Vegas, we play by the rules." In the episode "You Kill Me", a lab tech creates a fictional story in which Brass uses his night stick on a suspect and another tech comments that Captain Brass is not that type of cop. His estranged daughter Ellie Rebecca Brass (Nicki Aycox) is a drug addict and prostitute in Los Angeles. It was discovered in the episode, "Ellie", that he is not Ellie's biological father; but she does not know. In "Bang Bang", Brass was shot twice by Willy Cutler (Currie Graham). At the end of "Built To Kill, Part 1", Brass is seen in a tattoo parlor, having the date of his shooting (May 11, 2006) tattooed just below the bullet scar.
Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) (258 episodes, 2000–12, 2013) was the assistant night shift supervisor to Grissom, until becoming supervisor of the CSI unit upon his departure. Born in Bozeman, Montana, Catherine Willows was raised by her single mother, a cocktail waitress and showgirl. Catherine failed to excel to her full potential in school, despite her intelligence and sharp mind. Catherine left school and began work as an exotic dancer to support her boyfriend's career. She became interested in crime-solving when a regular at the dance club encouraged her to return to school. She graduated from West Las Vegas University with a degree in Medical Science. Catherine joined the CSI team as a lab technician and worked her way up to supervisor under Gil Grissom until taking over his role when he chose to leave CSI. Catherine has one daughter, Lindsey Willows (Kay Panabaker), and had a stormy relationship with late ex-husband Eddie Willows (Timothy Carhart); he was murdered in the episode "Lady Heather's Box". Her relationship with her father, Sam Braun (Scott Wilson), also occasionally created conflicts in cases. In the episode "Built to Kill," Braun is shot and dies in Catherine's arms. After the events of season eleven, she was demoted back to asst. night shift supervisor under D.B. Russell (Ted Danson), later quitting CSI to join the FBI in season twelve.
Dr. Gilbert "Gil" Grissom (William Petersen) (191 episodes, 2000–2009, 2011, 2012, 2013) is the CSI unit night shift supervisor and a highly respected forensic entomologist with a degree in biology from University of California, Los Angeles. He is proficient in American Sign Language (ASL) because his mother (Phyllis Frelich) is deaf. He became a CSI in about 1985 and became supervisor for the Las Vegas CSI unit night shift in season one, episode two. Grissom is regarded as a well-educated methodical scientist but somewhat unusual in his approach toward his work and his social life, as well as a bit of a quirky introvert. Some of his comments and actions can be seen to dumbfound his co-workers and superiors. He is portrayed as being a father figure to his team. It is revealed in the episode, "Way To Go", that he has been in a relationship with fellow CSI, Sara Sidle. He proposes to her in "The Case of the Cross-Dressing Carp". In season nine, Grissom announced his retirement and in his final scene as a series regular in "One to Go", he is shown meeting his fiancée, Sara Sidle, in the rain forest of Costa Rica. It is revealed in "Family Affair" that Grissom and Sara are now married. The Grissom character is loosely based on real life criminalist Daniel Holstein. (Actor William Petersen was originally reported to have renewed his contract for the entire season nine, but the Associated Press reported that Petersen was leaving the show as a regular in episode 10 to pursue more stage-acting opportunities.)
Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan) (178 episodes, 2000–08) is an audio-video analyst. As a native of Las Vegas with a major in chemistry from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, a major facet of Warrick's character is that he is a recovering gambling addict, his recovery hindered by the fact that he works in Las Vegas. New CSI Holly Gribbs is killed at a scene in season one, episode one, while Warrick was out gambling; and he was nearly fired. Grissom's friendship and support has helped him a great deal in overcoming his addiction, but his compulsion is one of the reasons used by Conrad Ecklie to investigate and then split up the team in season five. Warrick is married in season six and divorced by season eight. The character was killed off in the season nine premiere (reportedly because the actor and the network could not agree on a contract).
Wendy Simms (Liz Vassey) (75 episodes, 2005–10) worked in San Francisco, California, before moving to Las Vegas to take the DNA tech position in "Secrets and Flies". In the episode "Lab Rats", she helps David Hodges investigate the case of The Miniature Killer. The two characters have an ongoing rivalry which obscures a strong mutual attraction. Hodges complains that Simms tries to take over everything and that she thinks she's "too cool" for the lab. Simms insults Hodges by calling him "freakboy" and "loser" but appreciates his investigative thoroughness. Hodges feels the mutual attraction to her as well but fears the effect on his work that a relationship would produce, since he finds her distracting enough as it is. Wendy decided to join a CSI team in Portland and work in the field. She said goodbye to the team, including Hodges. Her final appearance is in "Pool Shark".
Dr. Raymond "Ray" Langston (Laurence Fishburne) (60 episodes, 2008–11) comes into contact with the CSI team in the course of a murder investigation and joins the Las Vegas Crime Lab as a level 1 CSI. Langston is a medical doctor who used to work in a hospital. A co-worker murdered 27 patients, and all the evidence showed up before him, but he never put the evidence together. Ray had trouble for the most part of his first season. His first day on the job was most troubling for him, he was held hostage in the aftermath of a shootout in a neighborhood, one of Ray's former students was murdered, and Ray once had to shoot and kill a murderer in self-defense. Ray was promoted to CSI level 2 in the season ten opener and it was explained that he spent his time off taking every class and seminar he could to really become the CSI that Gil Grissom saw in him. Ray also revealed that he was raised in Korea and that his father was a veteran of the Korean War, who frequently got into brawls. Also, Ray traveled to Miami and New York, involving a case that crosses over into all the three CSI shows for the first time. In the season-ten cliffhanger, the Dick-and-Jane Killer stabbed Ray, but it is revealed in the season eleven premiere that Ray survives. He moves away to help console his ex-wife after she had been kidnapped, raped, and tortured by the Dick-and-Jane Killer.
Sofia Curtis (Louise Lombard) (49 episodes, 2004–11) is a CSI who became part of Grissom's team after the mid–Season 5 split, decided by Conrad Ecklie. She soon considers resignation, upset at the fact that she has been demoted from Acting Day-Shift Supervisor. In season six, Sofia makes a career shift from CSI to detective. Actress Louise Lombard made her last appearance in the episode "Dead Doll" as a special guest star. She returned in the episode "Father of the Bride" (season 11), by which time she had been promoted to deputy chief; she helped the CSIs hunt for escaped serial killer Nate Haskell (Bill Irwin).
Riley Adams (Lauren Lee Smith) (22 episodes, 2008–09) is a former St. Louis police officer. She makes her debut in "Art Imitates Life" as a CSI level 2 a few weeks after the death of Warrick Brown. Adams was a non-conformist who joined law enforcement to rebel against her parents, who are psychiatrists. The character was on the show for only one season; (Executive Producer Naren Shankar said that the decision to let Smith and her character go was "an issue of how we were feeling the ensemble was working".) In the season 10 opener, Catherine finds a report from Riley, written before her departure, criticizing Catherine's leadership skills.