The recent cancellation of "CSI: Miami" signaled not only an open spot in the CBS fall lineup, but the end of an era. David Caruso's Horatio Caine could be polarizing to casual viewers of the show, but those classic verbal zingers that took audiences to the show's opening credits had a charm all its own.
"CSI: Miami" premiered in 2002 and found a similar success to its progenitor (huge ratings). The show had a distinctive flavor separate from "CSI" (which premiered in 2000), due mostly to its sunny locale. Capitalizing on the success of these shows, another spin-off launched in 2004, "CSI: New York." "CSI: New York" had some growing pains in the beginning, but has now found its core audience. Both "CSI" and "CSI: New York" have been renewed and will return in the fall.
Ten years might be considered a good run, but what can other crime shows as old as "CSI: Miami," learn from its demise?
Surveying the television landscape, particularly as it relates to the two great crime franchises ("CSI" and "Law & Order" respectively) might be in order.
"Law & Order" - Yes, it's no longer on the air (it ended in 2010), but there's still a lot that can be learned from a show that launched all the way back in 1990. Thanks to the longevity of the brand, and the overall quality of the writing and acting, the "Law & Order" franchise is still a force to be reckoned with on network television. In fact, its UK version, aptly titled, "Law & Order: UK," has been pretty successful. Even "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (2005-2006), though short-lived, had an engaging premise (crime from a jury's perspective). You could say that the "CSI" shows are mostly about location, whereas the "Law & Order" shows dealt in skewed subjects and intense subject matter.
"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" - NBC canceled "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" last year, and it likely had the same issue as "CSI: Miami": with little room for reinvention (not even the addition of Jeff Goldblum could save it), it simply ran out of steam. "Criminal Intent" premiered in 2001, and helped to dominate network TV by using the "Law & Order" brand name. But, at a certain point, these shows invariably tread water and end up rehashing similar plots and situations. Lower ratings and viewer fatigue can shove even a well-seasoned series out the door.
What "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" did best was occasionally bring in Hollywood actors and surprise guest stars. Robin Williams's guest appearance (Season 9, episode 17) was a standout. They'll need more of these to keep the old viewers happy and attract new ones.
"CSI" and "CSI: New York" - It was unclear whether "CSI: Miami" or "CSI: New York" would get the ax, but now that the dust has cleared, it's easy to see why "CSI: Miami" didn't survive. "CSI: New York" is still relatively new (for a "CSI" show anyway), and "CSI: Miami" was starting to show its age, and in some cases, fall into a sort of parody of its younger self. But "CSI" and "CSI: New York" may still have some problems this time next year if the ratings don't stay strong enough. Both a curse and a blessing, the "CSI" formula is really past the wow factor. "CSI" lost the great William Petersen, but then brought on Lawrence Fishburne, and now, Ted Danson. These cast shakeups have actually worked in the show's favor (if the season finale is any indication).
It could be time for a riskier change.
Is CBS content with just two "CSI" shows on the air, or is there something new, just beyond that yellow "Crime Scene" tape, on the horizon?