What is it about CSI that has made it so universally popular?

What is it about CSI that has made it so universally popular?

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What is it about CSI that has made it so universally popular?

Even if they haven’t got round to seeing it themselves, most people have at least heard of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, more commonly known as just CSI. This American crime drama TV series, which has been running since 2000, has been named the most watched show in the world a remarkable five times.

While NCIS currently tops the list at this present time – winning the award at the 54th Monte-Carlo TV Festival – there is no doubting that CSI still draws in some huge figures. With an impressive 73.8 million global viewers in 2009, there must be something about the series that ensures its continued widespread appeal.

The Las Vegas-based show has now spawned a number of spin-offs, namely CSI: Miami and CSI: NY, and although the settings may have changed, the basic premise is still the same: to solve crimes by examining the physical evidence collected from the scene. This is achieved by mixing gritty subject matter with a dose of deduction and character-driven drama.

In order to attempt to understand reasons for the popularity of the show, it is necessary to consider the common plot devices and narrative structure. You will find that the trained forensic investigators work all hours of the day (and night), scouring scenes and collecting evidence in a bid to find the missing pieces that allow them to solve the puzzle. Each of the characters likes to work in their own way to solve the crime, with how the team interacts with one another a key component of the show.

CSI has been criticised for its explicit images and level of graphic violence for such a primetime network TV show. It may not be suitable for family viewing, but those who do watch it obviously enjoy its unflinching nature. Despite the often harrowing content shown on CSI, it still manages to have its comedic moments.

The role of the forensic investigator is depicted on the show as one that is exciting and varied. This is obviously a job that many people find interesting, accounting for its substantial worldwide audience. However, it is this portrayal that has been condemned for its lack of realism. Like in British drama series, Silent Witness, characters not only process the crime scene, they also test any evidence found. In reality, this would be entirely inappropriate.

We’ll be going through this aspect in more depth in a future post on uncovering the truth behind the role of a forensic scientist, but suffice to say, those who decide to pursue a career in this area will find many of their day-to-day tasks do not really correlate with what they have seen the forensic investigators doing on CSI.

Even though the show may glorify and exaggerate the role of a forensic scientist, forensics is still a fascinating (highly-scientific) subject and a field that would suit someone with a keen interest in crime scene investigation and how a crime is solved.

Learn how to become a Crime Scene Investigator with our step by step guide

Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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