Most Unethical TV Series Episode of the Year: “C.S.I.” (Premiere)

In next week’s episode, D.B. dreams that he owns a bar in Boston….

I like “C.S.I.”, especially since Ted Danson took over the show as family man D.B. Russell. I won’t be watching the show for long, however, if it continues to cheat its audience as it did tonight, in the much heralded premiere to the new season.

The plot involved the kidnapping of Russell’s granddaughter in an extortion plot engineered by an imprisoned Vegas mobster. In fact, there wasn’t much to the story: they tracked down the little girl, and she was alive. The show was padded out by an obnoxious and unprecedented gimmick for “C.S.I”, showing scenes of great tragedy, violence or drama that turned out to be nothing but dark forebodings in Ted Danson’s stressed-out head. We see him viewing the body of his daughter in the coroner’s lab; she has a bullet hole in her temple. Surprise! It’s not really happening! Ted is just dreading it, because he’s so worried. D.B. gets a gun, goes in to a holding cell to talk to the mobster, loses his cool and shoots him dead. Oops! That didn’t happen either! D.B. is just thinking about how much he’d like to do that, you see. After the child is found unharmed, after real events that would have taken up about a 30 minute episode, D.B./Danson comes home to find his beloved wife leaving him! Oh, no, not that! D.B. loves his…Dang! They got me again!  That was just another day dream!

I have seen this device used effectively—like, say, in “Wayne’s World,” or “Ally McBeal”—but here it was just a cheap way of programming artificial jolts into a tame and rather unremarkable episode. It’s dishonest story telling, manipulative, and a betrayal of the trust of regular viewers who should be able to depend on the series not to change the rules after 12 years. I’d be surprised if a large percentage of “C.S.I.’s” regular audience didn’t resent it as much as I did. So from now on, under these new rules, when anything shocking or dramatic happens are we supposed to wait a beat to find out whether its just another fake-out? Or will this only happen when they need a little more action and the real story is lacking?

If so, tune me out.

6 thoughts on “Most Unethical TV Series Episode of the Year: “C.S.I.” (Premiere)

  1. I like TD too, but imo CSI jumped the shark about three years ago and is simply milking the network/advertisers/viewers until one (or more) of them wises up and checks their expired “best by” date, then pulls their plug. That may not happen for several years, if the experience of CSI-Miami is any indication. It’s shark hurdling took place in early 2003, but nobody caught on until this spring. So maybe Danson still has another decade.

  2. An entire season of the TV show Dallas in the 80s was revealed to be a dream. And some (like me) might argue that all six seasons of Lost led people on in a similar way.

    • Lost is its own category of deceit, but it wasn’t a cheap gimmick. Daydreams have their place in storytelling, but 3 in the same episode, when they don’t occur in previous episodes? Cheap.

  3. If it’s competition we’re anything but crappy reality TV or single season network throwaways CSI would have died long ago. There’s very little reason to watch TV these days. If it weren’t for Burn Notice and Suits my TV would never get turned on.

    • I agree with your sentiments about reality TV as well as a lot of other programming. But, have you tried AMC, between Breaking Bad, Hell on Wheels, The Walking Dead, and Mad Men they have quite a compelling group of shows. In depth, multi-stranded plots, and lots of good character development. HBO still has some good series as well.

  4. Anyone see TNT perception with Eric McCormack? He hallucinates scenes & ppl two to three X’s an epi. The show was renewed. One of the main characters of the show is a figment of dr. Pierces imagination.
    Anyone think a beautiful mind was hard to follow? What about midnight in Paris? I love that movie so . . .

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