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'CSI' Speaks A 'Visual Language'

By Rachel
April 2, 2009 - 7:16 AM

See Also: 'Mascara' Episode Guide

Executive producers Naren Shankar and Carol Mendelsohn say the methods used on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation have changed the way viewers watch TV.

CSI is preparing to air its 200th episode, "Mascara", this week. During the course of the show's nine seasons on the air, CSI has developed it's own "visual language". According to Shankar, that visual language has altered viewers' expectations. "Go back and watch a detective movie or a crime movie that was made in the 70s or in the 80s," he told Mediaweek. "I guarantee you, if the detective is looking at something and making an observation, you're going to be sitting there going, 'Snap zoom to it, get in there, show it to us.' And it won't come, and you'll feel like something is missing." That, Shankar said, is "a testament to what the visual language" of CSI has done. Because of CSI, viewers "expect to be taken to places where the human eye cannot go, to be shown the way things work at an intricate, even sometimes on a molecular level," he explained.

Mendelsohn said CSI's visual language has served the show well. "We had many imitators," she explained, and that pushed the crime drama to keep trying new and different things. "I think that ability of the show to keep moving and evolving and changing," she said, "is really one of the reasons that we're here talking to you."

Another reason that CSI has lasted for nine seasons is the show's content. "People have a morbid fascination with death," Mendelsohn said. "You die on our show, we cut you open. You become a canoe, and we take out your organs and stuff 'em in plastic bags and then stuff the whole thing back inside you. So, I think there is something about an audience being able to see that. You don't need a word of dialogue to understand that that canoed body is no longer Mr Sam Jones."

"We do shows that are blackly comedic and overtly comedic, and just by changing it up that way, sometimes you can turn a fact of life, which is death, into something that's something to laugh at and not be scared by," Shankar explained. "That's a great way to do it because the extremely dramatic true crime, truly moving stories about loss, that's sort of our bread and butter."

The video is from Mediaweek and can be seen below:

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