A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this popular crime show features strong doses of graphic violence, as well as lots of blood, drug content, and sexual situations. Although the series' focus is on solving crimes and seeking justice, the violence is sometimes gratuitous, including a notable emphasis on murdered women. Character development is much less important than depicting the crimes; as a consequence, the show lacks a certain emotional resonance. Plots focusing on unusual lifestyles are treated with respect.
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What's the story?
Set against the flashy backdrop of Las Vegas, CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION follows a smart, good-looking crime lab crew as they use science and technology to solve the city's most gruesome crimes. Most episodes begin shortly before a victim is found dead, giving viewers a hint of what happened before the crime lab gets involved. Then the steel-stomached investigators arrive: Brainy, bug-obsessed Gil Grissom (William Petersen) is the original head of the team; former exotic dancer and single mother Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) began the series as a supervisor and took over as boss when Grissom retired; and Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan), Nick Stokes (George Eads), and Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox), Greg Sanders (Eric Szmanda) round out the rest of the cast. Rubber gloves, cotton swabs, fingerprint lifters, and keen senses play key roles in the initial evidence collection. Back at the lab, the crew tries to reconstruct the crime scene, testing theories against the evidence until the truth is revealed.
Is it any good?
Regularly staking out the top spot in the Nielsen ratings, CSI has had a broader affect on the real world. Universities across the country have seen an increase in enrollment in forensic science programs, and lawyers are finding that jurors are more familiar with DNA evidence and other forensic processes. This documented phenomenon is called "the CSI effect." People love the show because of its voyeuristic appeal; plus, no matter how bizarre the crime, the CSI team can always solve it, offering a satisfying conclusion each week.
The show's success has resulted in two CBS offshoots to date (as well as numerous imitators on other networks): CSI: Miami and CSI: NY. While both of these shows have strong followings, neither rises to the level of the original in casting, characterization, or complexity.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why the show repeatedly focuses on abuse against vulnerable people. Is this a reflection of reality?
How do kids feel when they see gory images, even in the context of scientific discovery?
What fascinates kids about the methods the investigators use to solve the crimes? Do you think the show's use of technology is realistic?