The increasing presence of motion picture producers and directors in television is turning prime time into an unwatchable mess of PG-13 and even R-style mini-movies. Prominent names such as Joel Silver (The Matrix, Lethal Weapon) and Kevin Williamson (Scream) have already brought their big-screen values to small-screen series. Now add Jerry Bruckheimer (Coyote Ugly, The Rock) to the list. He serves as executive producer for CBS’ grim CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the highest-rated new drama of the season and the only new show nominated for a Golden Globe “Best Series” Award. He also serves up some of television’s rawest images.
CSI’s stomach-churning shock value was best described by one of its stars, Jorja Fox. “I get nauseous just thinking about some of the things I’ve seen on the set,” she told TV Guide. “We recently did an episode in the woods where we come across a murder victim covered with bugs — real ones. Generally, I’m not very squeamish, but there were thousands of them, including the ones you don’t normally see, like maggots. It was intense. To be honest, in the beginning, I had to ask myself if I could handle working on this show every day because the content is kinda heavy. It gives you a whole new respect for real-life crime lab experts.”
Yes, CSI does give viewers an appreciation for those dedicated public servants who sift through police evidence. It has also spoken out against rape, drug abuse, domestic violence, incest and violent crime. But it creates an unintended quandary: Should families entertain themselves by ingesting graphic images of medical autopsies, brutalized bodies, blood-spattered sets and decomposing corpses?
Twenty years ago on Quincy, Jack Klugman described the murders he uncovered each week. CSI shows theirs. From every angle. Over and over again. A drug-crazed raver strangles his friend. A woman caves in a man’s skull with a rock. A man shoots himself in the head. A teenager stabs an entire family to death with a kitchen knife. The detectives are fond of saying that blood “talks.” It also flies, drips, runs and pools on the floor. CSI is ugly, exploitative, gross, disrespectful of the dead and, unfortunately, enormously popular among the living.