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Feature: CSI

Truth finders

Executive Producer and creator Anthony Zuiker reveals the gruesome inspiration behind the franchise that took the States by storm…

It’s arguably the most lucrative night of viewing in television history. When Las Vegas tram driver Anthony Zuiker switched on a Discovery Channel documentary about forensic scientists it gave him the idea that turned into the CSI franchise. “I was watching a show about crime scene investigators with my wife and it seemed like a good idea for a drama series.”

Five years on from the launch of the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the shows’ blend of detective work and science have made them the highest rated series on US TV, and hooked fans all over the world. As a third city, New York, gets the CSI treatment, Zuiker’s a rich man and his life has changed.

The work of bringing CSI to the screen began with practical experience, Zuiker explains. “I got to shadow some real Las Vegas CSIs, and one of the first jobs they took me on involved a guy who had been murdered in his motel room by a prostitute and her pimp. They’d got the pimp, but there was no sign of the prostitute. I was given the job of combing the carpet for clues. So I was down on my hands and knees crawling and as I got over by the bed I looked underneath and there was the prostitute hiding, and looking back at me. That was when I realized I was really on to something.”

TV executives agreed and they snapped up his idea. It became an instant hit and even did something generations of school teachers have failed to accomplish. It made science sexy. With his tram-driving days long behind him, Zuiker admits he has been stunned by the reaction to his series.

“When I created the show back in 2000 all I hoped was that it got on air and did well. But ultimately we’re educating America and the world about the process of Crime Scene Investigators, how they go into your homes or to a crime scene, scrutinize evidence, and then replicate what happened without being there at the time. We are demonstrating that they are giving peace of mind and closure to the survivors. When a CSI unit meets you on the worst day of your life, there’s somebody out there that’s on your side. I think that’s an important message to send the world, especially in these trying times.”

Las Vegas proved the perfect venue in which to start the show. In a night time party city where tourists come to let their hair down and the normal rules of behaviour don’t apply, there’s no shortage of weird and wacky ways to die. And all casino employees, from the bartenders to the man with the broom, are fingerprinted. So for erring locals, detection could be just one careless fingerprint away. Each new city that’s received the CSI treatment has its own personality that’s lent something new to the storylines. For CSI: Miami, the writers discovered there are so few crocodiles in Florida that there’s a DNA database holding a sample for each of them. It meant finding a croc’s tooth could lead straight to the culprit.

by Jenny Eden

Get the full interview and much, much more on the CSI series in
TV Zone Special #62

Image © Visual Imagination Ltd, CSI © CBS Television
Feature © Visual Imagination 2005. Not for reproduction

Taken from
TV Zone Special #62, see below for ordering options
TV Zone Special #62
CSI 2005
ships from Mar 24 2005
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