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Law and Order, CSI and Criminal Minds: The power of a TV show franchise

Compare and contrast the varying successes of a TV franchise using Law and Order, CSI and Criminal Minds. Why have some succeeded, such as CSI Miami and others failed, such as Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. Take a look at how the actors have succeeded in other shows such as Shemar Moore in SWAT. Not only has the franchise done well but the actors have moved on to other shows with enduring popularity over decades.

  • CSI used to be one of my guilty pleasures - I don't know why I feel guilty, I can't be watching subtitled black and white films about the awfulness of it all every day! If you have never seen the series - a difficult feat as the CBS franchise (CSI: Las Vegas, CSI: Miami, CSI:NY) is repeated frequently - it concerns a group of criminal investigators who use forensic science as the main tool of detection in solving graphically depicted murders. Allegedly the most watched show in the world, the franchise is now crumbling with CSI: Miami and CSI:NY being dropped from the schedules. The success of the programme, with its focus on science based methods of crime detection, has led to what is known as the ‘CSI Effect’, namely the unrealistically high public expectations of forensic crime detection as well as a multitude of people (now probably unemployed) enrolling in forensic science courses. Silke Panse in, ‘The Bullets Confirm the Story Told by the Potato,’ (yes, I had to read that twice and it is indeed a direct quote from the Grissom character) discusses the faux-scientific approach of CSI and its ability to visualise that which is normally concealed and (apparently) raise the dead. Indeed, CSI makes direct communication with the dead seem almost commonplace. For a period of time I was totally hooked on CSI and OD'd on endless editions of the show. Of course having watched so many episodes and become thoroughly immersed in the ‘CSI Effect’ I knew I hadn’t really overdosed as my breathing, heart rate and pulse were normal, my pupils had not reduced to pinpoint and my lips and nails hadn’t turned blue. However, after viewing twenty episodes or so, I was finding it difficult to keep my eyes open and stop my jaw going slack. I may even have dribbled a bit. Using my newly acquired bogus skills of forensic detection, I came to a typically swift diagnosis - which I leave to the reader to identify. The series has been the subject of considerable research with lecturers, researchers, television critics, media executives and scientists all aiming to consider the reasons for the huge success of, ‘such a strictly formulaic, endlessly repeated, modular drama,’ and seek to understand and analyse its popular appeal using theoretical frameworks including, ‘notions of Derridean trace, Lacanian lack and Mulveyian to-be-looked-at-ness.’ In his book, ‘So Many Different Ways to Tell It,’ Michael Allen sets CSI within its historical and contemporary context both as a police investigation show and a long running, lucrative franchise. Allen argues that CSI was successful due to a combination of factors, the most notable being timing, star actors and location.The show came along when a post 9/11 America was at its most anxious and vulnerable offering an image of scientific certainty and committed professionalism. CSI differed from other TV programmes within the genre by shrewdly casting actors, ‘with notable, if occasionally checkered, Hollywood careers’. These include William Petersen, David Caruso and Gary Sinese. As Allen points out, star names alone are no guarantee of success and that oddly enough, the, ‘ lack of character development, formulaic repetition, etc...little narrative or character continuity,’ actually attracted viewers who could watch episodes out of sequence as well as allowing schedulers/buyers to fill in gaps in weekly schedules. The major city locations, Miami, New York and Las Vegas also lent themselves to a kind of dramatic schadenfreude, whereby the audience could enjoy the sight of the veneer of the glittering American dream being torn away to graphically expose its often repulsive and rotting underbelly. Although emerging from the same franchise stable, the three shows strongly emphasise their distinctive locations in terms of composition, actors, costumes, sets, props, sound and lighting - and of course there is also the famous, ‘CSI Shot’, the method of showing animated CGI reconstructions of, for example, the trajectory of a bullet through a body or the effect of a toxin on brain cells. Sadly, since my mega-binge on CSI, I have now fully purged my curiosity and have not watched another episode for about five years. However my lust for faux-science is still strong and has now been sated by, 'The Big Bang Theory.' – BlueStocking 3 months ago
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