The white hair that Ted Danson brought into CSI’s analysis lab on Wednesday night gave off a glow that shed some new light on what had been an increasingly gloomy, glum series. His new character, D.B. Russell, with his laid-back rhythms, addresses the main problem with CSI in recent years: Its plot formula has been overrun by the lugubrious problems of its cast. A stark contrast to the melancholy man Laurence Fishburne was asked to portray, Danson enters a crime scene with a vigor verging on jauntiness.
At this point, you either become engaged by the case-work the CSI team performs or you’re tired of it. (For me, the percentage is about 50/50, and gone are the days when the show could surprise us with the oddness of what-stays-in-Vegas behavior.) What we’re left with to enjoy (or not) are the interactions of the team.
Here is where Danson became an immediate help. His D.B. may, as he put it, “like to think of myself as an easy-going guy,” but it was also clear from his sharp exchange with George Eads’ Nick about work habits that D.B. has his standards… and maybe an agenda: That ominous line, “I like Nick – I’d hate to lose him,” hung in the air.
The hour also prepared us for the upcoming departure of Marg Helgenberger’s Catherine. Bitter about being “demoted,” she was trying to convince those around her, and us, that no amount of Danson/D.B. charm is going to make her stay. (The dissatisfaction of the character so closely coincided with the slide into tedium of the Ray Langston era, it made me wonder: Did Helgenberger tell the producers she was leaving before Danson was cast, and might she have some regrets about that decision now?)
You could say that CSI has never really recovered from William Petersen’s exit, and you’d probably be right. But now, I’m going to keep tuning in to see how D.B. Russell messes with the CSI chemistry. Will you?