‘CSI’ Adapts To Changing Times

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation executive producer Naren Shankar talks about cast changes and keeping the show fresh for ten years. (Spoilers after the jump.)

When CSI premiered, there was nothing else like it on television. With the series starting its tenth season tonight, times–and technology–have changed. “The actual technology has changed dramatically in the time this show has been on the air and, for that matter, the audience’s understanding of technology has changed dramatically,” Shankar explained. “In Season One you could do a whole scene about a fingerprint but you can’t do that anymore. You don’t get a whole montage out of pulling a fingerprint. That was a big deal when the show first came on the air but as the technology has improved and we’ve captured the new technology and put them in the show the audience has been educated along the way. Luckily, people are very, very inventive in new techniques and new instrumentation kind of comes up all the time so we try to use that as much as possible.”

Another thing that has changed is the CSI cast. “You always hope they’ll stick around forever,” Shankar said. “It’s great when you’re lucky enough to be on a show where you can have that core group of people that everyone gravitated to initially, that sort of magical chemistry that makes a show a hit. I think that television is about family. You’re inviting these people into your house every week so you kind of like when they are all there. All shows that are lucky enough to have long runs have to deal with it.”

Dealing with cast changes involves remembering what the series is all about, Shankar said. “You just have to manage it in a way that keeps the show true to its roots,” he explained. “I think what happens a lot of times on shows is that people change the things that made them what they are. If we suddenly said ‘Oh my God, you know what? We need to have really super young people’ or ‘It has to be sexy and people sleeping with each other’ that would make our show not what it is. We’re a forensics-driven mystery show and that’s sort of in our DNA so hopefully we won’t have to deal with any cast changes from here on out. You never know but I will say that we’re very aware what the show is fundamentally and that’s not going to change.”

The most recent major cast change on CSI came when William Petersen (Gil Grissom) left and Laurence Fishburne (Dr Ray Langston) joined the show. “We all worked with Billy for so long and working with Laurence has given us a whole new way to look at things, a whole new way to come into crimes and different attitudes so it’s great,” Shankar said. “The cast is getting along really, really well and we’re having a lot of fun with it.”

Former cast member Jorja Fox is reprising her role as Sara Sidle in several episodes this season, bringing a familiar face back to the show. “In a sense, she is stepping into her old role but it’s a little bit of a different Sara,” Shankar revealed. “The Sara who left was burnt out, was pretty messed up by the job and what happened to her but when she first came back there was a big question mark in her life which was the nature of her relationship with Grissom but that actually got resolved in a very happy way.”

“What’s really fun about having Jorja back is she lightens things up,” he added. “Sara comes in at a moment in our premiere when the team is a little bit fractured and things aren’t quite working very well. She’s able to help the guys and Catherine [Willows, Marg Helgenberger] in particular adjust to the new reality of the way things are now. It’s a nice way to bring Jorja back into the fold and we’re actually having a really good time with it.”

As CSI Files previously reported, all three members of the franchise will participate in a crossover during November sweeps. Fishburne’s character will be at the center of the storyline. “He’s going to be called to a case in Miami and then travels to New York and then ends up in Las Vegas,” Shankar said. The CSI: Miami episode starts things out on Monday, November 9. The plot then shifts to CSI: New York on Wednesday, November 11 and finishes out on CSI Thursday, November 12. Shankar added, “Logistically it’s really challenging but I think it’s going to be very cool.”

Source: The Futon Critic

Rachel Trongo

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Rachel Trongo

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