Crime dramas have a history of doing well on television, but nothing has ever had the kind of success of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. When the show first came out, it was groundbreaking. It captured the attention of the American public and changed the face of American prime time crime dramas. Spawning two spin-offs, CSI: New York and CSI: Miami and several similar shows on various networks, the effect of CSI on prime time crime dramas is unmistakable.
CSI follows the mysterious (and sometimes wacky) cases of the Crime Scene Investigation unit in Las Vegas. The key aspects of CSI are the fascinating forensic and logical deduction techniques that the team uses to track down killers. It's the traditional whodunit concept, but with a high-tech twist.
Season nine opens with Warrick Brown's (Gary Dourdan) funeral. Sara (Jorja Fox) returns to the team, and she and Grissom (William Peterson) have several awkward moments before Sara realizes that she can not remain in Vegas. Over the next few episodes, Grissom's mood takes a depressive downturn — is it because of Sara's leaving, Warrick's death, or the change he finds in Lady Heather? Grissom eventually leaves to find Sara, leaving behind more questions than answers.
Enter Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Ray Langston.
The most polarizing occurrence in season nine is the departure of Grissom and the introduction of his replacement, Ray Langston. While Fishburne is still a great actor, it's nearly impossible to appease long-time fans of CSI with a Grissom replacement. Some fans accepted the change, while others thought Grissom's leaving should have signaled the end of the show's television run. While Fishburne's character Ray isn't bad, he just isn't as intriguing as Grissom. And, honestly, after Grissom's departure in episode 10, it became increasingly more difficult to watch the show. Soon after Grissom leaves and Ray comes in, the entire feel of CSI seems to change.
Gone are the strong ensemble cast stories that bring in all of the characters in engaging ways. Instead, we have a virtually entirely Ray-centric series that seems to drop all of the other characters. Greg's dialog seems to drop in every episode, Catherine becomes part of the scenery, Riley, a new CSI, adds very little to the series, and Nick feels like a shadow passing through each episode.
Aside from Grissom's departure, Sara is also written out of the show when she leaves Vegas. Online rumors point to Sara's return as a recurring or guest character in some episodes of season ten, but will she be able to save CSI? I wouldn't say that I am a big fan of her character, but it certainly couldn't hurt.
This DVD set includes all 24 episodes of CSI's ninth season on six discs. The bonus features include audio commentary on episode 16, "Turn, Turn, Turn," and episode 20, "A Space Oddity," along with deleted scenes, a feature on Grissom's departure, a feature celebrating CSI's 200th episode, and a pair of features going behind the scenes of the events in season nine of CSI.
It's difficult to say if William Peterson's departure will lead to the end of CSI. From what I've seen in season nine, post-Grissom CSI isn't off to the best start. Hopefully the writers can find a way to make fans fall in love with Ray next season, or it could lead to a serious slide in ratings and, possibly, the end of CSI.