After just two and a half seasons of replacing William Petersen, film star Laurence Fishburne announced he would be calling it quits on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - leaving fans to speculate about who would fill the void left in his wake. Now comes word that Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Ted Danson will be joining the crew in Las Vegas.
It has been a spectacularly tumultuous few months for the aging police procedural. First came the announcement that CBS had shifted its timeslot (from Thursday to Wednesday), then news that Fishburne would depart - and it seemed as though things were deteriorating rapidly on the show.
Now, however, in a clever piece of casting (that may just be the spark needed to get over the absence of a particular cast member), CSI has chosen to bring television veteran Ted Danson to the scene of the crime.
Reportedly, the network initially sought another movie star for the role, but thought better of the idea and began to look at seasoned television actors who could embody the specific character the writers and producers had cooked up to replace Fishburne.
Danson’s role will be more akin to Peterson’s Gil Grissom, and less that of Fishburne’s darker Ray Langston character. According to the network’s announcement, "He comes to the team as they are still grappling with the professional and personal fallout from last season's take-down of serial killer, Nate Haskell."
Of course, the series’ producers are thrilled at landing such well-known and celebrated television star.
According to Carol Mendelsohn, executive producer on the show, “You can create a new character on the page, but until the perfect actor comes along and breathes life into it, it’s just words. We’re very excited Ted Danson came along.”
Executive producer Don McGill had this to say about Danson’s casting:
"From the moment we all started talking about the role, it was clear he couldn't be more perfect. Intelligence, wit, warmth, depth of character and emotion, he brings it all. And now he'll have to bring latex gloves, too."
Danson is best remembered for his Emmy winning role on the long-running NBC sitcom Cheers. In fact, Danson was nominated 11 years in a row for his portrayal of former major-league-pitcher-turned-bar-owner Sam Malone (he won twice).
After Cheers, Danson worked at CBS on the sitcom Becker, then the short-lived sitcom Ink. The actor briefly jumped to ABC for Help Me Help You, but like Ink, the show didn’t go anywhere. Recently, Danson won acclaim (and yet another Emmy nomination) for his role in the former FX series Damages. As of late, however, he’s been hanging with the HBO crowd – in appearances on Curb Your Enthusiasm and sharing the screen with Jason Schwartzman and Zach Galifianakis on Bored to Death.
Though he’s recently completed filming season three of Bored to Death, fans will be happy to hear that Danson’s deal with the network allows him to continue his work on the quirky HBO comedy – in addition to his new CSI duties.
Though it was once the mightiest show in the CBS arsenal – having spawned two spin-offs in the process – CSI has seen a significant dip in the ratings. Perhaps it is because of the exit made by CSI mainstay Gil Grissom (William Petersen) in 2008 – despite a brief return this season. Another cause may be that the show is simply beginning to show its age.
Whatever the case may be, the fact remains that CSI is the most watched show in the world. That alone bolsters the belief held by both CBS and the show’s producers that there is enough left in the tank for a few more laps around the track.
Ted Danson will join the cast of CSI on Wednesday, September 21 @10pm.