"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" celebrates its 300th episode Wednesday night. Ted Danson, who took over the lead role as Las Vegas crime lab Night Shift Supervisor D. B. Russell in the series' twelfth season, showed up at "CBS This Morning" Monday (Oct. 21) to talk about the milestone. When asked why he thought the show, now in its fourteenth season, was still so popular in the U. S. and around the world, the man who made Sam Malone and John Becker household names was quick to chalk the "CSI" success story up to consistency and good writing.
When Danson noted that the show was number one or number two in the world, Charlie Rose asked, "Why is that?"
"Because they do what they set out to do so well," he replied. "They do a forensic mystery that you get engaged in every year. It's stylishly shot. It has that Jerry Bruckheimer 'look' that he [Bruckheimer] wanted in the very beginning." (For those not in the know, "CSI" was one of the early television success stories of movie mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who is responsible for bringing such films to the big screen as "Coyote Ugly," "Armageddon," "Con Air," "Bad Boys," "Beverly Hills Cop," "Top Gun," "Dangerous Minds," and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, among others.) "And it has the core group still there. There are four or five actors: George, Jorja, Eric, Paul, David, that have been there from day one."
Co-host Gayle King offered that Ted Danson's role had been described as a "Sherlock Holmes type of character who looks at every crime scene as if it was a story waiting to be told. A scientist but not a nerd. So you read that part," she asked, "and said, 'This is for me?'"
"No," he joked. "I'm just listening to that, going 'Gosh, I better play that. I better start playing that. That sounds good. I wanna do that."
Noting his association with three hit shows ("Cheers," "Becker," and "CSI"), "This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell asked what the secret of a hit drama or show was.
"Writing," Danson said simply. "Writing. You know that." He said you get the actors and the good directors, "but it starts in the writing. It's the story."
And so it was with "Cheers," where barkeep and womanizer Sam Malone was first introduced to America with his quirky wait staff and the bar regulars. After eleven years, the cast voluntarily said good-bye and their last episode garnered over 80 million viewers, one of the most watched television events in history.
Ted Danson would then move on to "Becker," a sitcom about an irritable, chain-smoking curmudgeon of doctor with possibly the worst bedside manner of any doctor ever on television (save perhaps Dr. Gregory House of "House M. D."). But he made that character work for another six seasons.
And it was all done on the back of good writing and Danson's innate ability to add nuance to the characters he portrays.
Like that of D. B. Russell on "CSI." Take, for instance, the "CSI" 300th episode. Not only does it have the usual cast (which includes Elisabeth Shue and Elisabeth Harnois, who both joined in Season 12 as well), but Marg Helgenberger, a former "core" member who left the show in Season 12, shortly after Danson's arrival, will make a guest appearance. She'll be on hand to reprise her role as Catherine Willows and to help the team try to solve a cold case that goes back 14 years -- about the time the "CSI" gang all got together under the direction of the original Night Supervisor, Gil Grissom (played by the inestimable William Petersen, who is still connected to the show as a producer and director). Nothing like familiar faces and a bit of memory lane to keep the fans happy. That, and a well-written murder mystery being solved through the teamwork of the Las Vegas crime lab.
The "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" 300th episode, "Frame By Frame," airs Wednesday night at 10 p.m. (EST) on CBS Television.