Big changes are afoot at CBS as the network makes an aggressive push to usher in younger viewers. Part of that sweeping change is the end of long-running “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” which will conclude with a two-hour movie next year after 15 seasons on the air.
What does this mean for the future of the franchise? It means the pressure is on “CSI: Cyber.”
“Cyber” seemed to have all the right stuff: a cool and timely concept, a younger supporting cast lead by Patricia Arquette fresh off her Oscar win for “Boyhood” and that “CSI” stamp with its millions of die-hard fans.
But so far, it hasn’t lived up to its promise. Since it debuted in March, ratings for the series have been lackluster at best. Its recent finale scored a modest 1.2 rating in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic and tied for a season low with the previous week’s performance.
It never quite managed to appeal to millennials, as the network had hoped. Instead of a hip, modern take on cyber crime some viewers on Twitter mocked that it was more like a grandfather helplessly trying to program his DVR.
On Thursday, Wired magazine called the show “one of the most magnificently absurd police procedurals being aired by a major television.” The piece titled “Let’s Call Out ‘CSI: Cyber’s’ Hilariously Absurd Technobabble,” claimed the characters on the show “often don’t seem know what they’re talking about, even while they are still talking.”
Casting older actors for the leads may have contributed to the problem. While some of the actors are within the hacking age group, others … not so much.
Arquette is 47, Peter MacNicol, who played Arquette’s boss, is 61 and his Season 2 replacement,
In its heyday as the consistent No. 1 show on broadcast television, it wasn’t uncommon for “CSI” to draw an 8.0 rating with more than 26 million people tuning in.
By 2009, the show had reached a global audience of more than 73 million viewers. By 2012, it had been the most watched show in the world five times.
It also spawned several successful spinoffs.
Both “CSI: Miami” and “CSI: NY” were big international hits. “Miami” was named the most poplar drama in the world twice. “NY” ran for nine seasons before getting the ax in 2013.
CBS was hoping “Cyber” would do the same, but so far, no cigar.
The show’s saving grace could be the traditional international reach of the “CSI” franchise. If it proves as popular overseas as its predecessors, soft domestic ratings could keep in on the air, especially considering CBS Production has a stake in the series.
Either way, CBS is not exactly in panic mode. Its other mega franchise, “NCIS” is still going strong. In June, its flagship show became the No. 1 drama in the U.S. for five consecutive seasons, and the most-watched drama in the world. “NCIS: New Orleans'” Season 1 finale on May 12 saw a 6 percent increase from the week before, while “NCIS: Los Angeles,” starring Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J, is still CBS’ fifth highest-rated drama series, despite a recent significant dip in ratings.
The network announced it’s renewing “Cyber” for a second season on Monday. But it’s a safe bet that if the show doesn’t reverse its ratings trend, it may very well be the last.