TV review: CSI Season 15, Channel 5 (3 stars)

TV review: CSI Season 15, Channel 5

Classic cop procedural and TV giant CSI returns for its season 15

Once the biggest TV show on the planet CSI is a classic police procedural focussing on the investigations of the Las Vegas forensics lab. The vast majority of episodes are self-contained making it the perfect fodder for casual crime junkies. And they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and its mega success spawned a raft of imitators from Bones to NCIS.

While still massively popular it's not the ratings giant it once was, spin-off series CSI: Miami and CSI: New York are now defunct (although the latest off shoot CSI: Cyber is coming soon). It's slick, glossy and kinda trashy but the original Vegas version always seemed to have a self-aware sense of humour.

In the world of CSI the gorier and weirder the better. The more bizarre the crime, the more entertaining the episode. The opener to season 15 is pleasingly Saw-esque setting up what looks like this season's big bad, The Gig Harbor Killer, a serial killer who processes his own crime scenes with a personal vendetta against DB Russell (Ted Danson). It kicks off with an action thriller staple as one of the newest recruits to the team, Julie Finlay (Elisabeth Shue), finds herself sitting on top of a ticking time bomb, instantly raising the stakes before we snap back to three days earlier to set the scene and introduce the show's latest maniacal mass murderer.

CSI is such an institution they're not going to start messing with a winning formula now. What it lacks in innovation it makes up for with reliably entertaining, enjoyably complex cases shot with obtrusively flashy editing. Old hands like George Eads (Nick Stokes), Eric Szmanda (Greg Sanders) and Jorja Fox (Sara Sidle) sometimes appear to be on autopilot although Wallace Langham (Hodges) adds a nice line in quirky humour. With such a strong background in comedy Danson makes a surprisingly competent lead in this crime thriller.

Wisely they have avoided the slump of last season as CSI's greatest weakness is dolloping on spoonfuls of over sentimental saccharine goo. Let's hope this season continues to play to its strengths, ie: solving ridiculously complicated crimes via impossibly advanced technology and curiously convenient coincidences.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Season 15 starts on Channel 5, Sat 24 Jan.

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