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How Nostalgia and True-Crime Craze Led to ‘CSI’ Revival

Crime-solving technology “has advanced leaps and bounds since the show went off the air,” CBS entertainment chief Kelly Kahl told TheWrap

Before CBS had “NCIS” and its never-ending amount of spinoffs, it was “CSI” that provided the network with the blueprint for creating a franchise out of crime procedurals. While “NCIS” is chugging along into its 19th season, with a new Hawaii spinoff on the way, CBS is returning back to the Crime Scene Lab in Las Vegas.

CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl said the decision to bring back “CSI” for a sequel was partly due to nostalgia as well as the wave of true-crime series on streaming services.

“Not just on broadcast but I mean if you look at even documentaries on a lot of streaming services, crime is just very interesting to people and people have an insatiable appetite for it,” Kahl told TheWrap. “The producers behind ‘CSI’ came to us and said, we have a lot more we can do now, we have a lot more we can look at. The mechanics and technology of crime solving using these techniques has advanced leaps and bounds since the show went off the air. So there’s a lot more toys, a lot more roads to explore. They came to us and said, ‘we think the time is right,’ and we agreed.”

“CSI” first premiered in October 2000 and was CBS’ longest-running TV franchise until “NCIS” surpassed it a few years ago. It ran for 15 seasons, airing a special two-hour finale movie in 2015. It also spawned three spinoffs: “CSI: Miami” which starred David Caruso, the Gary Sinease-led “CSI: NY” and the short-lived “CSI: Cyber,” which featured Patricia Arquette.

The revival, titled “CSI: Vegas” sees original castmembers William Peterson, Jorja Fox and Wallace Langham return alongside a new Crime Lab team led by Paula Newsome. It will air on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. this fall.

Here is the logline for the show: Facing an existential threat that could bring down the entire Crime Lab and release thousands of convicted killers back onto the neon-lit streets of Vegas, a brilliant new team of investigators led by Maxine Roby (Newsome) must enlist the help of old friends, Gil Grissom (Petersen), Sara Sidle (Fox) and David Hodges (Langham).

Kahl lauded “CSI” as one of those network TV series that changed its genre. It’s first seven seasons averaged more than 20 million viewers and it was among the top 10 most-viewed primetime series over its first nine.

“You’ve got your ‘St. Elsewhere,’ ‘ER’ ‘LA Law,’ ‘Hill Street Blues’ and if you go to crime shows, ‘CSI,’ everybody had a coroner afterward. Everybody had following clues and doing DNA evidence,” Kahl said. “No crime show ever looked the same after ‘CSI.'”