Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

CSI: A Retrospective September 26, 2015

Filed under: Memories — Emily @ 5:53 pm
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Fifteen years ago, I was a first year graduate student at the University of Alabama. It was my first time living on my own (all my family and friends lived 5+ hours away), and when I moved to Tuscaloosa, I only knew one person there. That first year, I was attending school on a fellowship, which meant that I was given a monthly stipend to live on while I was working on my Masters in English.

Since I barely knew anyone in town, and since I didn’t have a job, I spent a lot of time alone in my little apartment those first few months. I used my free AOL dial-up to connect to the Internet and chat with friends on ICQ, or download music on Napster. But my constant companion during the fall of 2000 was television. Every night, I would sit down with my bowl of cereal or bagged spinach salad or Lipton noodles, and see what my favorite characters were up to. While I was firmly entrenched in the WB at that time (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Roswell, and Dawson’s Creek were all appointment tv), there was one new show that intrigued me.

CSI

The original cast of CSI. These were my people!

What I remember about the pilot episode is a lot of blue lighting and an unusual amount of screen time for a pair of shoes. I was skeptical of this show about unusually attractive crime scene investigators because it was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who, at the time, I only associated with over the top explosions, dramatic electric guitar background music, and slow motion shots of groups of people walking forward (think Con Air and Armageddon). Despite my reservations, I just couldn’t seem to look away when the case of the week was revealed in the opening segment. And so began my on-again, off-again relationship with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Over the next few seasons, I enjoyed getting to know the characters just as much as trying to solve the crime. Would Warrick ever overcome his gambling addiction? Would Catherine ever get the respect she deserved? How was Nick such a nice guy when so many bad things happened to him? What made Grissom see the world so differently than everyone else? During that first solitary year of graduate school, and especially during the uncertain, dark days after 9/11, I took comfort in escaping into these characters’ lives and the fictional cases they investigated.

Fast forward a few years, and I was introduced to the wonders of Tivo! No longer confined to the limitations of live tv and one VCR, I expanded my list of shows. Somehow, when compared to Lost, Alias, 24, and Veronica Mars, Grissom and company were no longer appointment tv. And so, for a few years, I parted ways with this band of crafty crime solvers.

Fast forward to 2008. My life had changed a lot since the days of eating meager dinners in front of the tv in my 400 sq. ft. apartment in Tuscaloosa. I’d gotten married, finished graduate school, moved to Dallas, started teaching college writing courses, bought a house… And on March 1, 2008, Brad and I became parents!

One day as I sat in the living room nursing newborn Benjamin and flipping channels, I stumbled across an old episode of CSI on Spike TV. I was quickly drawn back into that world, and I wanted to catch up on what I’d been missing the last few seasons. Much to my delight, I discovered that Spike TV had nothing better to do than air several episodes of CSI everyday. Anyone who has experienced the challenges of breastfeeding knows that it’s not unusual to spend hours a day (or night) confined to a chair while feeding your baby. And so, in a different stage of life than my grad school days, CSI had resumed its place as my companion in a time of solitude. For the next few months, I became reacquainted with Grissom, Catherine, Nick, and the whole gang. I watched multiple episodes a day, and before I knew it, I was all caught up. I have vivid memories of watching episodes in the middle of the night, when our house was totally quiet and it was just me, the baby, and my pals in the crime lab. (I wouldn’t join Facebook until later that year, so I didn’t yet have my NewsFeed as a source of round the clock community.)

I guess now I could dub my marathon viewing of the first eight seasons “the great CSI binge watch of 2008.” Binge watching is easy these days, with a Netflix or Hulu subscription and some time to spare, but I had to get creative to record all the episodes, even with Tivo’s help. There were highs and lows in this batch of episodes: I was fascinated by the miniature killer story arc, and I was devastated by Warrick’s untimely death. Eventually, my rekindled fascination with the show waned, when I decided that the more gruesome or tragic episodes were too much for my newfound maternal feelings to handle.

While I was intrigued by Laurence Fishburne’s addition to the cast, his presence wasn’t enough to carry the show after William Petersen’s departure. My last exposure to CSI was probably in 2010. I’ve only heard bits and pieces about Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue being on the show, and that never seemed right to me. I still think of him as a bartender on Cheers and of her as Daniel’s girlfriend in The Karate Kid. Why are they now the leads on a crime drama? I hadn’t really thought about CSI at all for a few years until I saw a headline this morning about its series finale, which will air as a tv movie tomorrow night. When I read that Grissom, Catherine, and many of the other former characters would be returning, I knew that I had to watch it. It will be nice to revisit these old “friends” who I spent time with off and on over the last decade and a half of my life. Not even Jerry Bruckheimer and his cliched production values could ruin this highly stylized, clever, engaging show. While it might have gone on a few seasons too long, and while I could do without the comical number of spin-offs it has led to, CSI has earned its place in television history as a crime procedural with likable characters and clever execution. Thanks for the memories!

 

Retro Weekend: Best TV Show Theme Songs (with Lyrics) July 25, 2009

To wrap up my look back at the best tv show theme songs, I’ll list the ten best theme songs with lyrics. Again, I am limiting myself to the post-1980 tv world, but this time I managed to fit all the sitcoms and dramas into one list, unlike the instrumental theme songs. I hope you enjoy listening to and reminiscing about these songs as much as I did!

  • The Dukes of Hazzard – I mostly associate this show with the house of a lady who babysat me in the early 80s. It was an old, creepy (to a kid, at least), isolated house, with lots of mysterious steps and closed doors. The main living room is the only place that I and my siblings were allowed to go, and the one constant about the room is that, at least in my memory, The Dukes of Hazzard was always on the television! Maybe my parents happened to drop us off there on the same weeknight every time, or maybe there was some channel that always showed Bo and Luke joy riding in their General Lee, but whatever the case, this theme song’s laid back, country tone was an appropriate soundtrack for that house. “Just two good ole’ boys, never meanin’ no harm…” As for the song making this list, it is a classic tune that was perfectly suited for the show. Too bad that the show itself hasn’t held up well over time. I tried to stomach an episode awhile ago, and it was just awful – pure campiness, horrible acting, and very little plot.
  • Diff’rent Strokes – I have a vague memory of using this theme song as my answering machine greeting my freshman year of college. That’s about the time I bought a couple of “TV’s Greatest Hits” CDs and started reminiscing about the best theme songs. I love the end of the bridge with the harmonized “and together we’ll be fine.” This song has a funky beat and catchy lyrics. Fun times.
  • Growing Pains – “Show me that smile again, don’t waste another minute on your cryin’.” I love the sentimental, heartfelt lyrics of this song, and it is so singalongable. Whether it was the original version or the later version with the barbershop quartet singing, this may be my favorite tv theme song. It helps that I had a crush on Kirk Cameron in the ’80s.
  • The Golden Girls – Um, I just claimed that Growing Pains was my favorite theme song. Scratch that. Golden Girls takes that title hands down. What other theme song do I still spontaneously sing at random times – something I’ve done for almost 20 years now! What a wonderfully nostalgic song about lasting friendship. Sing it with me now: “Thank you for being a friend. Traveled down the road and back again. Your heart is true you’re a pal and a confidant. And if you through a party, and invited everyone you ever knew, you would see the biggest gift would be from me, and the card attached would say thank you for being a friend.”


  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air“Now this is a story, all about how, my life got flipped – turned upside down…” Back in the day, kids at school (myself included!) would pride themselves on being able to recite this tv theme rap from beginning to end. It really is fun, and was certainly an appropriate style for star Will Smith. His career as a rapper sure seems like a distant memory now that he’s a full-fledged movie star. I’ve seen reruns of this show from time to time, and it is quite dated, super cheesy, but still fun to watch.
  • Gilmore Girls – This theme song took some time to grow on me. At first it was too cutesy, sappy, and sweet, but after I had made my way through the first season or two of this mother-daughter dynamic duo show, I was singing right along with Carole King and her daughter Louise Goffin, as they sing about being there for each other – “all you have to do is call my name, and I’ll be there on the next train.” The song really is perfect for the show’s quirky tone and themes of sisterhood, family, and friendship.
  • CSI – From the opening chords to the dramatic closing chorus of “you, you, you, you…,” this song is very memorable. The song, “Who Are You” by the Who, may have been around long before this show began, but the crime show was my introduction to it, and so I will always associate it with those opening credit images of Warrick examining a shoe string, Grissom smashing a fake human head with a sledgehammer, and the other CSIs doing similar things looking equally attractive and stylish. The spin-offs, Miami and New York, are cheap imitations of the original, and though their theme songs are also by The Who, they lack the punch of “Who Are You.”
  • Smallville “Somebody SAVE me!” With that emotionally charged opening line, Remy Zero introduced us to the trials and adventures of a teen Clark Kent and his band of unsuspecting classmates. This show has lost a lot of its quality over the years, but the first couple of seasons were outstanding and fascinating. I still love the song, and it fit the show perfectly. The fairly recent trend of using pop songs as tv themes doesn’t bother me. If the song is well suited for the show, then why not use it? Another show and song that almost made this list are Dawson’s Creek’s “I Don’t Want to Wait” by Paula Cole. I guess you could say that the WB perfected the art of choosing pop songs to represent tv shows.
  • FireflyWe move now from a couple of pop song themes, to one that is entirely original. Joss Whedon wrote the theme song, and Sonny Rhodes performed it, and it is about as close to theme song and musical perfection as you can get. It has a Western sound, and a mysterious melody, perfect for a sci fi space western, and its lyrics are very poetic and closely related to the show’s themes:

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care, I’m still free
You can’t take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain’t comin’ back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can’t take the sky from me
There’s no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can’t take the sky from me…

  • Veronica Mars – “A long time ago, we used to be friends, but I haven’t thought of you lately at all.” I’ll close out the list with one more pop song, the Dandy Warhols’ “We Used to Be Friends.” This edgy, unusual song perfectly represents this edgy, unusual show and its edgy, unusual heroine, teen PI Veronica Mars. As the show began, we learned that Veronica had once been popular but was now at the bottom of the totem pole, so the “used to be friends” lyrics are appropriate. Here is a character who channels her anger and sadness over what has happened into solving crimes and righting wrongs, all while trying to keep herself and her dad afloat in the social waters of Neptune. Can you tell that I was a big fan of this show? I didn’t even mind the new version of the theme song for season three. The slower, jazzier style seemed appropriate for Veronica’s new life in college, as she faced a slightly more grown up set of concerns and problems.

This wraps up my series of posts about the best tv show theme songs, unless I get around to making a list of the best “classic” (read: old) tv show theme songs. So which of your favorites did I leave off?

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