- The CSI franchise has had massive success with over 800 episodes and some of the highest ratings in police procedural history.
- CSI: Cyber suffered from poor writing and forgettable characters, leading to its cancellation after two seasons.
- CSI: Vegas has received praise for recapturing the magic of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation while innovating in clever ways.
Debuting in the year 2000, the CSI franchise has experienced massive success across multiple shows, but despite the series’ accomplishments, some entries are remembered more fondly than others. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation‘s success led to the introduction of four spin-off shows, each being noted for its unique feel, characters, and approaches to the police procedural TV genre. Additionally, CSI‘s crossover episodes have helped keep things feeling consistent and grounded while also expanding the series’ lore through memorable interactions between each show’s cast. However, this unique approach to the police procedural hasn’t prevented the CSI franchise from receiving its fair share of criticism.
After CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the franchise’s legacy was continued with the introduction of CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, CSI: Cyber, and most recently, CSI: Vegas, with each remembered for specific reasons. As a result, the franchise boasts over 800 episodes and some of the highest ratings in police procedural history, further cementing its legacy in television history. Across all five shows, the CSI franchise has won eight Primetime Emmy Awards, and a string of other award nominations. Whether for each respective show’s characters, acting, storylines, or even production values, some entries in the CSI franchise are viewed far more favorably than others.
The 12 Best Characters In The CSI Universe, Ranked
Over the course of its many seasons and spin-offs, The CSI franchise had delivered some of the best stories, and characters on television.
5 CSI: Cyber (2015 – 2016)
CSI: Cyber’s bland characters and poor writing are its weakest points
The shortest spin-off series in the CSI franchise, CSI: Cyber is the fourth installment in the series, and it sees Patricia Arquette as Special Agent Avery Ryan. She works as a cyberpsychologist to help the FBI solve major crimes. In addition to Arquette, CSI: Cyber includes James Van Der Beek, Shad Moss, Charley Koontz, and Hayley Kiyoko in supporting roles as members of Avery’s special unit. Despite the franchise’s popularity, the show’s decline in quality as a result of increasingly complicated storylines, and the introduction of a string of forgettable characters, contributed to CSI: Cyber‘s cancelation after just two seasons.
Even when producers brought CSI mainstay D.B. Russell, played by Ted Danson, back for Cyber season 2, audience response was still largely negative due to the show’s muddled writing. Furthermore, CSI: Cyber‘s failure was also partially the result of its previous spin-off shows’ popularity and greater reception with viewers. Irrespective of CSI: Cyber‘s shortcomings, the show has received credit for its setting and lead performance from Arquette. Nevertheless, while CSI: Cyber‘s more technologically-based setting was a fresh change of pace and its lead well-liked, it had the unfortunate task of following up the previous spin-off series, CSI: NY, itself noted for its well-written characters.
4 CSI: Miami (2002 – 2012)
CSI: Miami’s movie-quality production is one of the show’s highlights
- Release Date
- September 23, 2002
- David Caruso , Emily Procter
CSI: Miami follows the cases of the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Crime Scene Investigation unit as they work together to uncover the circumstances surrounding a series of mysterious deaths and crimes. CSI: Miami is the second spin-off series in the franchise, and it is perhaps best known for its protagonist, Horatio Caine, played by David Caruso, and for its use of songs by The Who that often helped establish the tone of a particular episode. Supporting Caruso were Emily Procter, Adam Rodriguez, Jonathan Togo, Khani Alexander, and Rex Linn. CSI: Miami is notable for helping the franchise maintain its momentum as it debuted during the original series run.
Running for ten years, CSI: Miami received acclaim for its high production value, with many of the episodes in the series not only looking like feature-length films but feeling like them in terms of their tone and story structure. However, despite CSI: Miami‘s successful ten-year run, it didn’t differentiate itself from the series too much as it merely added to aspects that CSI: Crime Scene Investigation already excelled in. Aside from its Miami, Florida setting, CSI: Miami is essentially the same as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, just sunnier and with a new cast. Nevertheless, CSI: Miami is still an important addition as it helped pave the way for more spin-offs.
3 CSI: NY (2004 – 2013)
CSI: NY’s characters are among the series’ best
CSI: NY sees a team of forensic scientists and investigators working for the New York Police Department, as they investigate a series of bizarre occurrences happening in and around New York City. Series lead Gary Sinise plays Detective Mac Taylor, the director of the NYPD crime lab, and is supported by strong performances from actors Melina Kanakaredes, Hill Harper, Carmine Giovinazzo, Vanessa Ferlito, and Donald Flack Jr. in what is arguably one of the most beloved casts in the CSI franchise. CSI: NY ran for nine years and contained over 200 episodes, many of which received praise from audiences for their well-written plots and engaging characters.
Unlike CSI: Cyber and CSI: Miami, CSI: NY is most notable for its well-written characters all across the board. CSI: Cyber‘s cast was largely forgotten save for its lead and CSI: Miami‘s compared to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. However, CSI: NY distinguishes itself from its sister series by focusing on the impact each character’s respective careers have on their personal lives. This, combined with the show’s overall grittier atmosphere and thought-provoking subjects explored, made for compelling television. However, despite the show’s efforts, CSI: NY also received criticism for retreading much of the same material CSI: Crime Scene Investigation covered.
2 CSI: Vegas (2021 – Present)
CSI: Vegas received praise for recapturing the magic of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
CSI: Vegas sees a string of familiar faces return in a story that centers around conspiracies and lies that could bring down the Crime Lab as they work to uncover who’s behind a series of gruesome murders and crimes in Las Vegas, Nevada. Starring franchise regular Paula Newsome as Maxine Roby, Newsome is supported by actors Mandeep Dhillon, Matt Lauria, Marg Helgenberger, Jorja Fox, and William Peterson, and it sees new and old faces unite to solve the series’ fresh batch of crimes. Particularly of note, the show has some of the best episodes in the CSI franchise, and it’s largely due to CSI: Vegas‘s masterful suspense.
Furthermore, CSI: Vegas‘s critical acclaim has stemmed from the show’s seamless ability to combine all the best aspects of the previous series while innovating in clever ways, all while disregarding many of the gimmicks that held previous installments back, like melodramatic cliffhangers and overly quirky characters. Furthermore, CSI: Vegas‘s lead performance helps keep the show feeling grounded even on the rare occasions it does deviate into unrealistic territory. As the newest addition to the CSI franchise, CSI: Vegas has had the best opportunity to learn from its predecessors’ mistakes and improve on them, but CSI: Vegas still comes up short of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
1 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000 – 2015)
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’s drama and characters are the most engaging
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
- Release Date
- October 6, 2000
- William Petersen , Marg Helgenberger , George Eads , Eric Szmanda , Elisabeth Shue , Laurence Fishburne , Paul Guilfoyle
- Story By
- Anthony E. Zuiker
- Anthony E. Zuiker
- Anthony E. Zuiker
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation ranks among its sister shows because it perfected the formula that has kept all five shows running, perfectly created a world that was unique from other police procedurals like Law & Order and Criminal Minds, and introduced audiences to some of the most unique characters in police procedurals. Additionally, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is one of the most influential police procedurals, as its fifteen-year run on television helped rewrite the book on how to craft compelling stories, write clever characters, and show subjects that are otherwise hard to stomach or grasp in a digestible way.
Although CSI: Crime Scene Investigation uses many of the same common tropes in police procedurals, it does it in a way that gives the show an added charm. Furthermore, the show’s excellent acting and directing have led to the show picking up six Primetime Emmys, thus further reinforcing that its strategy and formula were tantamount to its longevity. While each of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation‘s spin-off shows offers something unique to the franchise and the police procedural genre at large, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation laid the blueprint necessary to make it all possible. As such, its undeniable influence and quality make it the best CSI show.
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