In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, CBS
In the UK: Five then everywhere. No airdate yet
Most people who watched the last season of CSI will have to admit it was a bit of a mess. While the quality of the writing was still strong and there were some very good episodes, it was hard to care about the show. New girl Riley still hadn't evolved a personality; Warrick was gone, Sara was gone, Grissom went; Laurence Fishburne turned up and while he was great, he didn't quite gel with the team.
The producers appear to have noticed that and are doing their best to rectify the situation with some tinkering to the cast and characters, something that made up the bulk of the season opener. The rest: a really quite awesome homage to The Matrix, appropriately enough. I hope they haven't spent the whole CGI budget for the year on it.
A season opener has a big job to do: it's got to convince the viewers that they should spend at least 21 hours of their time watching the rest of the series. For its tenth year, CSI's producers have just about managed to do that.
Riley, whom no one really liked, probably because she never had much of a chance, is off - she doesn't even get a leaving scene, only snarky comments left in her exit interview. Ironically, since she was supposed to replace Sara, she's been replaced by Sara, although since Sara's only a "Special Guest Star" rather than in the main titles, she's presumably not going to be around forever.
Meanwhile, the root of the problem has suddenly turned out to be Catherine's leadership (or lack of) - not something really intimated at last season. This makes the sudden bickering between everyone in this season opener something of a bolt from the blue that feels like it's been grafted on as a creative explanation for the character problems, rather than something planned.
So now the problem has been stated, let's hope this is the solution. So much of the episode is taken up with this format-fixing, it's hard to see what the rest of the season will be like when it's business as usual again. It's nice to Sara and Nick and Catherine interacting, but Laurence Fishburne's character still feels like he's in another show altogether - almost like Yoda has turned up in the middle of NYPD Blue. He doesn't really interact with anyone, he's not nerdy like the others and he's not especially warm. He needs to bond better for the audience to like him rather than respect him.
The rest of the episode is a typical CSI case, in which a movie star gets killed in a car accident and the CSIs have to work out whodunnit. For some reason, that involves a Matrix homage of extreme awesomeness, but it's not exactly the most realistic of scenarios, given the plot of the story, and once again feels like an add-on. But at least we get to see Morpheus do kung fu again.
I'm hoping that the show is on the mend now, although if logic is sacrificed to spectacle like it was here, it's possibly the beginning of the end for the show. Fingers crossed Sara will stay around for longer, that Fishburne's character gets to party down with the others and the scripts will hold up, because CSI is still one of the smartest shows in town.
- September 29, 2009: CSI meets The Matrix's bullet time
The bullet time scene at the start of this season's opener of CSI