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CSI Files

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Zuiker On 'CSI's' Birth

By Caillan
April 17, 2003 - 11:08 AM

Anthony Zuiker, creator of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, recently recalled the process of getting the show off the ground.

Initially, his vision for the series caught studio executives off guard because it was so unorthodox. "I didn't really watch TV," Zuiker told Rick Kushman at the Sacramento Bee. "I didn't know what the rules were. When people read the [pilot] script, they said this guy's doing flashbacks, this guy's doing re-creations, he's using fractured time. We don't do that in television."

The producer said he got lucky when he pitched his "fresher version of a cop show" to CBS. Unlike the majority of new series in the development stage, CSI was not constantly being retuned by the network. "The thing was, CSI was such a new thing at the time. It was such a new entity, nobody at CBS knew how to give notes on it. How do you give notes on science? So CBS stayed off our backs until we got the vision of the show and the voice of the show correct, and by the time they caught up, we were already a hit. So it's been a great partnership with CBS."

Zuiker, whose only previous screenwriting credit was 1999's The Runner, said the series wouldn't be what it is today without executive producers Ann Donahue and Carol Mendelsohn. "I was as green as Kermit when this started. Anthony Zuiker by himself never gets this past six episodes. Ann and Carol, those two veteran women with a list of accolades as long as my arm, they embraced the vision and matured it enough to give it legs."

Emmy-winner Donahue's credits ranged from Picket Fences to China Beach and Beverly Hills 90210, while Mendelsohn was previously executive producer of Melrose Place. Together they helped Zuiker define CSI. "All the credit has to go to those women," Zuiker said. "I was not mature enough or experienced enough. They could have said, 'Thanks for the idea, now goodbye', but they kept me on. I'm 10 times the writer I was because of them, and as a team we make interesting, dramatic television. If you want to be a success in Hollywood, the first thing you should do is learn from and work for women."

The full interview is available here at the Sacramento Bee, which also has a piece on CSI's special effects at this page. Thanks to Elyse's CSI Site for this!

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