CSI series 15, Ted Danson, Elisabeth Shue, George Eads PREVIEW


Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue in CSI. Pics:C5

★★★ It’s gory and implausible, but why is CSI so popular? JG Ballard thought it was all about our innermost fears…

Channel 5: starts Saturday, 24 January, 10.15pm

WHAT A WEIRD and unsettling series CSI is. A house of horrors for the TV age, delving into nightmares of mortality with detachment and a throbbing rock beat.

Watching the opening episode of the 15th series, I was reminded of a typically provocative feature that JG Ballard wrote about the series 10 years ago in The Guardian. He became hooked on it and stated: ‘The series was original, slick and deeply disturbing, though I wasn’t too keen to find out why.’

But then he goes right ahead and dissects the drama anyway (excuse the pun). As a former medical student with experience in the exploration of corpses before he went on to write unsettling masterpieces such as Crash, The Unlimited Dream Company and High-Rise, his insights were intriguing.

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NCIS season 12, Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette PREVIEW

NCIS 12 with Mark Harmon, Sean Murray, Emily Wickersham and Michael Weatherly
Mark Harmon, Sean Murray, Emily Wickersham and Michael Weatherly in NCIS. Pics: Fox

Rating: ★★

Fox UK: starts Friday, 9 January, 9pm 

Story: Gibbs and McGee travel to Russia to safely escort home an NCIS computer engineer connected to classified intel, but their mission is compromised and they are forced to go off the grid while hunted by a Russian mercenary group. 

NCIS IS THE most watched drama in the world – official.

Last summer it picked up an International Audience Award in Monte Carlo for that achievement, with an estimated 57million viewers worldwide in 2013.

In the States the CBS show averaged 18.5million viewers and is the highest rating show there for five years now. Phenomenal figures, which allowed Mark Harmon, NCIS‘s star and executive producer, to proclaim it the ‘No.1 drama in the world’.

Which is pushing it a bit. Most watched does not mean best by any means. The show is formulaic and bland. It has never won an Emmy, but it’s thrived despite being dumped on by critics.

NCIS is a world-conquering TV franchise

The team in D.C. frantically uses every asset and inter-agency contact they have in an attempt to locate their missing team members, on the 12th season premiere of NCIS, on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Pauley Perrette
Pauley Perrette as Abby

It’s cited in the US as a surviving vestige of traditional TV’s remaining power. Despite the onslaught of HBO, Netflix and brilliant subscription series such as True Detective and The Sopranos, CBS with its ageing viewer profile – averaging 58 years old – has a thriving and revenue-generating franchise.

These older viewers spend the most time in front of the TV. NCIS is inoffensive and slick, with each episode a self-contained adventure, so there’s no need to wade through the whole 24-part story arc. Similar dynamics in the UK keep afloat such unfashionable dramas as Midsomer Murders, Lewis and New Tricks. Such shows may not create the buzz of Orange Is the New Black, but older viewers like them and they are easy to syndicate around the world.

NCIS launched in 2003, following an odd crew of agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service as they solve crimes and international conspiracies in 40-odd minutes, with some cheesy humour along the way. As with CIS, NCIS spawned spin-offs – NCIS: Los Angeles and New Orleans.

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Elementary starring Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu PREVIEW

Joan Watson and Sherlock Holmes
Helluva backdrop for the new Holmes – Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller. Pics: BSkyB

Rating: ★★★★ 

Sky Living: starts Tuesday, 23 October, 9pm

Story: An unhappy episode in London and a stint in drug rehabilitation pitches consulting detective Sherlock Holmes into a spell of recuperation in New York. At the insistence of his father, Sherlock is forced to take on a ‘sober companion’, Dr Joan Watson, who is to monitor his recovery.

After the kerfuffle over this US update supposedly ripping-off the BBC’s Sherlock – complete with the latter’s creator Steven Moffat ‘annoyed’ by the cheek of it – here at last is Holmes in modern New York. Let battle commence.

Jonny Lee Miller is, of course, the consulting detective in this new version from CBS, the twist being that he is recovering from his drug addiction in New York at the insistence of his father, who also lands him with a ‘sober companion’, Dr Joan Watson, to keep him on the straight and narrow.

Sherlock’s ‘helper monkey’
Watson being a woman may have the purists round Baker Street spluttering in their tea, but Lucy Liu has many good moments with Miller in the opening episode. She is, of course, bemused by his deducing all her secrets – that she dislikes her job because she has two alarm clocks and hates getting up for it, that she is a surgeon who killed a patient, etc – and he calls her his ‘addict sitter’ and ‘helper monkey’.

But Watson sticks up for herself, and by the end she’s making deductions about Holmes – for instance, sniffing out that he went off the rails in London because of a broken romance.

Aidan Quinn as Toby Gregson
They are swiftly pulled into investigating the murder of a woman at her home. Holmes can just walk into the murder scene because Aidan Quinn is the senior detective involved, and he’s encountered Sherlock while on secondment in London.

The New York forensics guy wants who the cocky Brit is that’s making all the brilliant deductions about the murder scene, but naturally Holmes is quickly accepted as a brilliant case closer. He works out that her body has been put in a hidden panic room, and that the perpetrator was not an intruder but someone who knew her.

Elementary v the BBC’s Sherlock
It’s an intriguing, but not particularly believable case (how many Sherlock escapades are?), but the fun of it is rightly centred on the tension and bonding between Holmes and Watson. This works well, thanks to the lead actors.

So how does Sky Living‘s new import compare to Sherlock? Steven Moffat has nothing to fear. Elementary is entertaining and shot superbly round New York, but it doesn’t have the relish and verve of the Beeb’s drama.

Most portrayed character on screen in the world
Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes is politer and nicer than Benedict Cumberbatch’s near autistic version. And the atmosphere of almost supernatural foreboding is missing, though that may come in later mysteries.

With Sherlock Holmes being easily the world’s most portrayed fictional character on screen, there is certainly room for this sharp and witty newcomer.

Cast: Jonny Lee Miller Sherlock Holmes, Lucy Liu Dr Joan Watson, Aidan Quinn Toby Gregson, Jon Michael Hill Marcus Bell

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