Channel 5, around 9.56pm GMT was a sad place to be yesterday evening. It was the day when C.S.I’s Gill Grissom left for good at end the conclusion of an excellent two-part episode in this superb series.
Looking back over the eight (nine?) years of the show’s run (and counting, by the way, a new man will step into Grissom’s shoes, if not his role directly – more on that in a short while), I can safely say that C.S.I (aka Crime Scene Investigation) has been one of the most consistent shows on TV during its esteemed tenure.
There’s a lot to be said for the original often being the best and in my opinion C.S.I does not buck that trend, it merely reinforces it. Resisting the urge in the face of its lesser spawnings, C.S.I Miami and C.S.I New York, to re-label itself C.S.I Vegas, the show that’s set in the city of vice has gone on from strength to strength.
It was always a danger to introduce two new spin-offs; the chance that they might dilute the purity of a show that has gone on, in its way, to define and focus American crime drama for a new generation, was always possible but after some initial interest the latter shows eventually waned, establishing the original C.S.I as the daddy.
It’s true, the story lines set in Vegas had to up the ante beyond the remit of the casino glitz and corrupt mob bosses that started to become overly prevalent in the mid-seasons. The writers achieved this spectacularly with the Miniature Killer, a bizarre and disturbing serial murderer case in which the aforementioned killer made miniature crime scenes depicting precisely and in exacting detail the position of the victim in their surrounding and their cause of death, that strung itself out wonderfully over an entire glorious season that culminated in one of the best TV cliffhangers of all time when fellow C.S.I Sarah Sidle was left injured and trapped underneath an overturned car in the desert, the capricious rains of Nevada falling and flooding the ground ominously. Couple this with the anguish of the nascent relationship between Gill and Sarah, and this was emotional drama at its height.
There are dozens of other highlights that preceded and followed, even if the Miniature Killer season (number seven and well worth watching, if you haven’t already done so)was a defining mark in the C.S.I chronology (even better than the double episode where Nick Stokes gets captured and buried alive -dangerous work this crime scene investigation lark). Who could forget the dramatic and heart-wrenching death of Warwick Brown, one of the most emotionally invested characters in the show. His murder at the hands of the then under sheriff sent shockwaves throughout the team and the series that had already seen Sarah Sidle burned out and forced to hang up her luminol – it was inevitable, given the clever aftermath, that Gill would follow. Even if, as fans, we wanted to deny it.
Denial is said to be one of the stages of grief, and it feels a little like grief (albeit TV loss) as I wake up to a grey day and the rain-soaked tarmac outside my door. Of course, the world that Grissom once walked in, its cracks papered over with gaudy glitz and ephemeral glamour of Elvis’s ‘bright light city’, is far from light and airy. It was brooding and dark and vicious, and it took its toll on a man who’d found something worth living for beside the evidence and his esteemed collection of bugs.
I will miss Grissom dearly, with his quirky manner, ferocious intelligence and fatherly mien. He’s one of those characters that will be remembered and huge props must go out to the excellent William Peterson who played him so well for almost a decade. Who’d have thought he’d return to his criminalist roots (fictionally speaking) after playing the lead in Manhunter?
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Presaged in the double episode was a guest star destined to be Peterson’s (and Grissom’s) replacement. Step in Laurence Fishburne, who provided a quiet intensity the studious air that allowed him to fit right in with the rest of the team. It’s unknown yet how Fishburne (playing Dr Raymond Langston) will fare and what kind of C.S.I he’ll be (the character has a background of being a medical doctor and university professor specialising in serial killers – good credentials methinks…) – I look forward to finding out. I feel it’s a good choice and while Fishburne’s turns in the Matrix trilogy might not filter through into the show (no bullet-time, please), the charged performance he gave in the excellent Event Horizon probably will.
But this day and C.S.I, for now at least, belongs to Grissom. I’m heartily pleased he got the happy ending he deserved – it has been a long and oft trying road for him. You made C.S.I great and helped usher in an era of crime drama that has thrilled and disturbed me for almost ten years. Gil Grissom, I salute you; you’ll be sorely missed.
Viva Las Vegas.