As every CSI fan will attest, there is no replacing William Petersen. Laurence Fishburne did an admirable job keeping the Las Vegas team intact for the last two years with his portrayal of Raymond Langston, but the CBS drama never recovered in the ratings once Gil Grissom rode into the sunset. As a result, the show finished the season with a 3.3 rating among adults 18-49 (each ratings point equals 1.3 million viewers). It was ranked No. 30.
Three weeks ago, before news broke that Fishburne will not be returning to CSI, CBS announced it was moving the 11-year-old series from Thursdays to a more protected slot on Wednesdays, where it will compete against the now-hobbled Law & Order: SVU (we miss you already, Chris Meloni!). But that hardly means the network has thrown in the towel on the mothership: Given that the fading CSI: New York could fall off the schedule after next year (it finished its seventh season with a 2.1 rating), followed by CSI: Miami (the nine-year-old drama is at a 2.9) in 2013, there’s a real chance that CSI could be counted on for another two, possibly three years — which is why there are plans to fill the void left by Fishburne.
But who should it be? Adding another high-profile (see: expensive) star may seem risky, especially if the actor doesn’t deliver. And George Eads, who fans love as Nick Stokes, seems primed and ready to be the lead gent on the show. But the drama still needs another household name to bring in new fans. Enough with the film stars, though! No offense to Fishburne, but a tried and true TV star is usually the best person to turn a franchise around.
So here, in my never-to-be-humble opinion, are some suggestions for possible replacements:
Jimmy Smits: The CBS brass seemed to love him in Cane, even though the drama tanked quickly. And just because his NBC drama Outlaw fizzled out after one season, doesn’t mean Smits is any less of a TV star. Downside: He’ll command something north of $100k per episode. But hey, bonafide TV stars don’t come cheap.
Chris Meloni: How delicious would it be if, after failing to carve out a new deal on SVU, Meloni jumped to the timeslot competitor to kick serious crime-fighting butt? Downside: He won’t come cheap, either, and he probably wants a break from primetime TV.
Michael Chiklis: One, he was born to play a cop. Two, he’s immensely popular. Three… do I seriously need to provide more reasons? Downside: He does his best work as a bad guy.
Ethan Hawke: He definitely seems a little more cerebral than the other men, and this guy is ready to make a serious run in primetime. (His Fox actioner Exit Strategy was passed over for fall.) Downside: I’m not sure he can take on the role of a team leader.
Terry O’Quinn: I may be crawling out on a limb here, but I’m fairly certain that everyone at EW, including Doc Jensen, would start watching CSI if John Locke worked inside the yellow tape. Downside: A procedural might not mesh with O’Quinn’s eccentric (and sometimes menacing) persona. But a girl can dream.
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Laurence Fishburne exits CSI