CSI has been reinventing the crime drama for 20-plus years.
By Nate Millado
CSI comes full circle this fall, returning to the city where it all started (Las Vegas) with some familiar faces, Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle. The procedural was a massive hit right out the gate and reinvigorated the crime drama with its cinematic look, fully fleshed-out ensemble, and impressive (for the time) effects. It's no wonder, then, that the mothership has spawned four spinoffs, including the highly anticipated CSI: Vegas. Here's a look back at two decades of CSI.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000-2015)
Marg Helgenberger and William Petersen in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
Photo: Andrew MacPherson/CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images
Original cast: William Petersen as Gil Grissom, Marg Helgenberger as Catherine Willows, Gary Dourdan as Warrick Brown, George Eads as Nick Stokes, Jorja Fox as Sara Sidle, and Paul Guilfoyle as Jim Brass
What it was about: The Las Vegas PD Criminalistics Division is the #2 crime lab in the U.S—and for good reason! The night-shift team, led by CSI director and entomologist Gil Grissom (Petersen), uses forensic techniques and cutting-edge technology to crack cases that have baffled just about every other crime lab. The rest of the CSI team includes ex-stripper-turned-CSI Catherine Willows (Helgenberger), Vegas native and recovering gambler Warrick Brown (Dourdan), workaholic Sara Sidle (Fox), and empathetic Texan Nick Stokes (Eads).
CSI: Miami (2002-2012)
David Caruso starred as Horatio Caine in CSI: Miami, inspired by CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images
Original cast: David Caruso as Horatio Caine, Kim Delaney as Megan Donner, Emily Procter as Calleigh Duquesne, Adam Rodriguez as Eric Delko, Rory Cochrane as Tim "Speed" Speedle, and Khandi Alexander as Alexx Woods
What it was about: We shift from the neon lights of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation to the sun, sand, and swamp of CSI: Miami. The Dade County crew still uses forensic science to catch their criminals, but they also happen to be cops with the power to arrest!
Spun off from: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. In Season 2, Episode 22 ("Cross Jurisdictions"), a lead on a kidnapped girl in Vegas sends Willows and Brown to Florida, where they meet their Miami counterpart, Horatio Caine (Caruso).
CSI: NY (2004-2013)
Gary Sinise and Melina Kanakaredes starred as Detectives Mac Taylor and Stella Bonasera in CSI: NY.
Photo: Art Streiber/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images
Original cast: Gary Sinise as Mac Taylor, Melina Kanakaredes as Stella Bonasera, Carmine Giovinazzo as Danny Messer, Vanessa Ferlito as Aiden Burn, Hill Harper as Sheldon Hawkes, and Eddie Cahill as Don Flack
What it was about: This gritty installment of the franchise was set on the mean streets of New York. The NYC crime lab team was led by Detective Mac Taylor (Sinise), a former Marine and NYPD veteran who lost his wife on 9/11. Kanakaredes played his partner, Stella Bonasera, a savvy investigator who—being a true New Yorker—often speaks before she thinks.
Spun off from: CSI: Miami. In Season 2, Episode 23 ("MIA/NYC Nonstop"), Caine heads to the Big Apple to fulfill a promise to 16-year-old Laura Spellman, who discovered the bodies of her slain parents. The sunglass-toting CSI from Miami vows to find their killer and joins forces with Taylor (Sinise) and the CSI: NY team, who are investigating a murder that might be related.
CSI: Cyber (2015-2016)
Emmy and Oscar winner Patricia Arquette headlined CSI: Cyber.
Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS.
Original cast: Patricia Arquette as Avery Ryan, James Van Der Beek as Elijah Mundo, Peter MacNicol as Simon Sifter, Shad Moss as Brody Nelson, Charley Koontz as Daniel Krumitz, and Hayley Kiyoko as Raven Ramirez (Ted Danson reprised his CSI character of D.B. Russell in Season 2.)
What it was about: While previous agents in the CSI franchise tracked down criminals in dark alleyways, CSI: Cyber searched the dark web for anonymous criminals plotting illegal activities behind their keyboards. Inspired by real-life cyber psychologist Mary Aiken, Special Agent Avery Ryan (Patricia Arquette) heads the Cyber Crime Division of the FBI.
Spun off from: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. In Season 14, Episode 21 ("Kitty"), the CSIs enlist the help of Avery Ryan from Washington, DC, to investigate the cyber-related murder of a prominent casino owner's wife.
CSI: Vegas (2021)
Paula Newsome as Maxine Roby and Jorja Fox as Sara Sidle on CSI: Vegas.
Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS
Cast: William Peterson as Gil Grissom, Jorja Fox as Sara Sidle, Paula Newsome as Maxine Roby, Matt Lauria as Josh Folsom, Mandeep Dhillon as Allie Rajan, and Mel Rodriguez as Hugo Ramirez
What it's about: CSI opens a new chapter in the city where it all began—Las Vegas. Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle return to the crime lab to investigate a new threat that could potentially release thousands of convicted killers back onto the neon-lit streets of Sin City. They'll enlist a brilliant new team of investigators led by Maxine Roby to follow the evidence in order to preserve and serve justice, deploying the latest forensic techniques.
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