44. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Air Dates: October 6, 2000 – present
Stars: William Petersen, Marg Helgenberger, Jorja Fox, Gary Dourdan, George Eads, Paul Guilfoyle, Eriz Szmanda, Robert David Hall, Louise Lombard, Wallace Langham, Lauren Lee Smith, Laurence Fishburne, Ted Danson, Liz Vassey, Elisabeth Shue
Before it became the beast that swallowed CBS, CSI was a grisly procedural invested in character. The Jerry Bruckheimer-backed cop show followed the members of the night shift in the Las Vegas Police Department crime lab. For the first nine seasons, Gil Grissom (William Petersen, who also played an FBI profiler in Michael Mann's Manhunter) led the team of crime scene investigators with a cool logic and charismatic air of mystery.
Grissom was a Sherlock Holmes figure, and provided the show with its anchor—when the show was good, you watched to see how Grissom would put all the pieces together, not to see what someone's head looked like when it connected with a golf club.
And plenty of people watched. In fact, the show has been named the most watched TV program in the world five times since it premiered in 2000. Because of its success, CSI has spawned two regional spinoffs (CSI: Miami and CSI: New York). But it was the original that captivated fans best. And it was the original that landed Quentin Tarantino as a guest director (""Grave Danger", the finale of the fifth season). —Ross Scarano