CSI

Believe Care Invest: CSI

Why Gil might be hard to identify with: 
  • We’re used to seeing the heroic cops meet with the science guy in just one scene per episode. We like heroes with the agency necessary to see a case through from beginning to end, which CSIs don’t have.
  • He’s kind of cruel to the new hire. He takes Holly’s blood just to have fun with, then tricks her into eating a grasshopper. But after that period of hazing, he softens to her.
Believe
  • He’s got lots of mottos, such as “Forget about the husband, Warrick, forget about the assumptions, forget about your promotion, these things will only fool you, think about what cannot lie, the evidence.”
  • At the first act one, when Holly gets scared by a room full of corpses, he comforts her and then yells “You assholes” at the corpses.
Care
  • He’s disrespected by his cop colleagues “Here comes the nerd squad.”
  • He’s embarrassed when a co-worker reminds him they went on a date that fizzled.
Invest
  • He’s got good eyes. He’s got lots of expertise. Right away, he finds a maggot on a corpse that tells him a lot, even things his fellow CSI can’t see.
Five Es
  • Eat: He eats a grasshopper.
  • Exercise: No.
  • Economic Activity: His job seems to be his life.
  • Enjoy: He works with a sly smile on his face.
  • Emulate: He acts like a real cop.
Rise above
  • Never.
Kind
  • Unlike some other science-minded heroes to come, he’s genuinely empathetic to the families of the victims.
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Rulebook Casefile: The Disposable POV Character on “CSI”

I’ve mentioned this trick a few times in the past, but it’s never gotten its own post and deserves to get one here!
Here are three of the most important questions you must answer before writing a pilot story:
  • Will this show be about a new situation or an ongoing situation?
  • And if it’s ongoing, will the audience just get caught up on the fly, or will there be a new POV character who needs to get to know everybody and everything?
  • And if there is a POV character, will he or she then become the lead character, or just a junior member of the ensemble?
If the POV character becomes the hero, then that’s problematic, because we’re then expected to put our trust in the least experienced member of the ensemble (this is the problem with all those “rookie cop” shows) …but if the character then joins the ensemble, it can be kind of weird (on both versions of “The Office”, the new intern was the POV character in the pilot, but the show had trouble coming up with storylines for that character once he became a minor member of the ensemble.)
“CSI” did a very neat job of cutting this Gordian knot (by shooting it). The pilot is told from the POV of the newest member of the squad, Holly Gribbs, who gets to know everyone and the world of the show …but this is a show about hot-shot experts, and they didn’t actually want a non-expert newbie hanging around after she had done the job of letting us into the world of the show, so they killed her off at the end of the pilot!

(This also let them establish that, though our team would mostly be in lab, they could still face physical jeopardy—Gribbs is killed while at a crime scene by a criminal who has come back to retrieve the evidence he left behind.)
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Rulebook Casefile: Dramatic Questions on CSI

How many storylines should a pilot have? Usually, they have fewer storylines than an average episode. Because we have to get to know all of the characters and the world of the show, there’s less time for plot. But another way that the “CSI” pilot is remarkable is that the creators go the other direction: there are five cases in this episode.

This is another way in which the show was unusually realistic and still very unrealistic at the same time:
  • On the one hand, we’re seeing them contribute to some cases and then hand the work off to others, and accepting that we may never hear about this case again. This allows them to spotlight the quotidian reality of police work, and just show “a night in the life of a forensic lab”, instead of pretending that police only pursue one case at a time, as one might guess from “Law and Order”
  • But they know that we’ll demand closure to at least some of the cases, meaning that they have to create two cases that unrealistically get reported and closed all within that one night’s span, including instantaneous test results that actually would have taken weeks.
So what does all of this do to the “dramatic question”? The opening teaser of the show begins with Grissom showing up on the scene of a supposed suicide and determining that it was murder, and of course we keep cutting back to the progress of his investigation over the night…but in the end, the crime remains unsolved and temporarily abandoned.

And here’s the remarkable thing: the audience barely notices. Looking back, there is a moment where Grissom tells the victim, “We’ll keep trying, something will turn up eventually, it always does,” but you hear that on cop shows all the time, and I for one never noticed that the case is never mentioned again in this episode. (It would indeed be solved eventually when new evidence appeared twenty episodes later.)

Normally, it’s very unsatisfying in any story if the original dramatic question is simply abandoned, but this is another remarkable achievement of this show: they get us to admire the team’s successes and failures, and they discourage us from differentiating between the two. This is part of the show’s celebration of the scientific method: the purity of the process is more valuable than the attainment of a desired result. The fact that, by the end of the pilot, we’ve already learned to admire Grissom despite his lack of results is a testament to how successful they have been in quickly rewriting our expectations.
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Straying from the Party Line: Undifferentiated Philosophies on “CSI”

In the Ultimate Pilot Story Checklist, I say that the team as a whole should have a group-philosophy of how they do things (often contrasted with a competing force pursuing the same goal), but the ensemble should also have philosophical differences with each other. The pilot of “CSI” does a great job with the former and a poor job with the latter.

In the pilot, every hero has the same philosophy, total empiricism, and they each boast about it. There are six statements of philosophy in the pilot, and they’re mostly interchangeable. Here’s the most prominent one:
  • Willows: The cops? Forget it, they wouldn’t know fingerprints from paw prints. The detectives? They just chase the lie. WE solve. We restore peace of mind, and when you’re a victim, that’s everything.
But even the new hire, who is learning about this world for the first time and not entirely happy about being there, complains about her situation by citing this same philosophy:
  • Brass: You're the fifth person I’ve been forced to hire. We’re the number two crime lab in the country. We solve crimes most labs render unsolvable. Now what makes you think you belong here?
  • Gribbs: Sir, with all due respect I thought the key to being a lucid crime scene investigator was to reserve judgment until the evidence vindicates or eliminates assumption. You’re prejudging me.
As we discussed last time this show has a lot of work to do to reset traditional cop-show expectations and prove to the audience that CSIs are valuable and interesting. One way it does so is to hit this philosophy over and over: this is why we’re following the “nerd squad” instead of the manly detective whom you might naturally put your trust in. But ultimately, the pilot focused too much on defining its cast in contrast to outside forces, and not enough time defining them in contrast to each other.

So let’s combine this with the problem from yesterday (the CSIs had to hand off the audience-satisfying arrests to non-characters) and look at how the show paired off these two problems and solved them at the same time.

As you may have noticed in the above quote, Jim Brass, the character played by Paul Guilfoyle, was the boss of the CSI team in this pilot. After the pilot was picked up, however, they quickly realized that it could not sustain a series with these two problems hanging over its head, so they came up with a simple solution: After Gribbs is killed, Brass is fired from the squad and made a homicide detective instead.

This turn of events is hard to buy, and it becomes even odder when Brass promptly forgets all of his scientific knowledge from that point on, but it’s an elegant solution to the problems of the pilot:
  • Now they have a member of the cast who can actually make the arrests, so that they don’t have to hand that task off to faceless characters.
  • Now that Brass is just a science-ignorant detective, they have someone to whom they can explain what they’re doing.
  • Now they have a member of the team who represents an opposing philosophy: Brass tries interrogation and brute force, while the others rely on evidence.
  • And now the show’s leading man, Grissom, could take Brass’s place as boss, placing him more naturally at the center of the show by putting the final decisions on his shoulders.
Instead of competing generically against “the cop point-of-view”, the CSIs are now competing specifically against Brass’s (newfound) distrust of their methods, and specifics are always better than generics.
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Straying from the Party Line: The Lack of Decision Making Power on “CSI”

“CSI”, when it first debuted, was a mix of the ultra-realistic with the ultra-unrealistic. On the one hand, it would be the first show to actually take the time to explain the workaday science of forensics to Americans, showing the what, how and why of each test, and stressing the capabilities and limitations of each.

On the other hand, in order to turn these scientists into the primary heroes of their cases, it had to massively falsify many realities of the job. Why? Because heroes (and especially TV heroes) must have (or seem to have) decision making power: audiences don’t want to watch the activities of a hero who is merely a cog in a larger machine, making contributions every week to decisions that will ultimately be made by other people off screen.

As I discussed before, this is why Aaron Sorkin had to reluctantly make the president a character (and ultimately the main character) on “The West Wing”, and why Jack gradually became the co-hero of “30 Rock”. Ultimately the weight of every story falls on the shoulders of the decider, not the contributor.

So how do you make a story about CSIs? Let’s look at all the things they can’t and/or don’t do:
  • They don’t have guns or badges.
  • They can’t interrogate the criminals.
  • They can’t declare that it’s time to make an arrest or make the arrest themselves.
In short, the show can’t deliver many of the traditional pleasure of a cop show. So how do they deal with this? In some ways, they proudly own up to these differences:
  • We begin with Neanderthal detectives showing up at the crime scene, staking out their territory but not noticing anything important. They then roll their eyes and scoff when the CSIs show up, saying, “Here comes the nerd squad.” But Grissom smirks right back and blows past them dismissively. He then spots all of the clues they missed: the nerd squad are the real heroes.
  • Grissom brags about not doing interrogations: “Why ask the criminals? They’ll just lie. The evidence never does.”
  • When the CSIs refer to the actual arrests, they talk as if that’s mere mopping-up after the real work is done.
But the show also loses the courage of those convictions rather quickly, and begins cheating right away in the pilot to create the impression that our heroes do have those powers:
  • They create a rare situation in which they can use guns: One is called in to help another secure a crime scene from an uncooperative victim who pulls a gun, so she brings a gun to force the victim to stand down.
  • They allow the CSIs to do interrogations at the crime scene as they’re doing their DNA swabs, and then later, they simply have the CSIs show up at interrogations and ask the detective in charge if they can jump in and ask a few questions. (To which the detectives always shrug and step away, letting the CSI take over from then on.)
  • They have the CSIs unrealistically show up for the arrest, standing on the sidelines looking smug and/or righteous as the faceless detectives lead the suspects out in handcuffs. 
The creators of “CSI” discovered a huge treasure trove of untapped drama: the hard work, neat gadgets, and brilliant deductions of the forensics squad, but in order to tap it, they had to find ways to deal with the fact that this squad was in many ways not an ideal subject for a satisfying police drama. Sometimes they did so by openly defying those expectations and other times they did so by distorting reality to match those expectations. This combination worked well, and soon viewers learned to reset their expectations and embrace the sort of drama that only this unique setting could create.

Next we’ll look at another way the show learned to satisfy those expectations.
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The Ultimate Pilot Story Checklist: CSI

POV character Holly Gribbs (who will die before the end of the pilot) joins the night shift of the Crime Scene Investigation unit of the Las Vegas Police Department: Morbidly-funny bug-expert Gil Grissom, crusading single mom Catherine Willows, affable jock Nick Stokes, hot-headed gambler Warrick Brown, and gruff boss Jim Brass (who will be re-conceived in the next episode as a non-scientist detective, allowing Grissom to become boss.) The pilot has four storylines: a fake-suicide, a trick-rolling prostitute, a molestation, and a dubious claim of home-invasion self-defense.
Part 1: Is this a strong concept for an ongoing series? (19/20)      
The Pitch: Does this concept excite everyone who hears about it?
Does the concept satisfy the urges that get people to love and recommend this type of series?
Yes and no. The pilot keeps cheating to give us familiar pleasures, but only long enough to get us to watch and enjoy a brand-new type of show that’s more about the thrill of the science than the police work or the criminals.
Does the series establish its own unique point of view on its setting?
Very much so, literally and figuratively: they invent a whole vocabulary of microscopic jump cuts and over-exposed mind’s-eye-view flashbacks.
Is there a central relationship we haven’t seen in a series before?
Yes, but it’s not visible enough in the pilot. In the next episode, Brass becomes a detective and it becomes set: cop vs. scientist.
Does the ongoing concept of the series contain a fundamental (and possibly fun) ironic contradiction?
Yes, the “nerd squad” is tougher on crooks than the bruiser cops.
Does the concept meet the content expectations of one particular intended network, venue, or audience?
No, CBS was displeased and dumped it in the Friday death slot, but it quickly rewrote the network’s whole methodology when it took off.
Even if the setting is unpleasant, is there something about this premise that is inherently appealing? (Something that will make the audience say, “Yes, I will be able to root for some aspect of this situation to recur episode after episode.”)
Grissom seems like a goofy guy in the pilot.  He’s more like his loose cannon character in To Live and Die in LA here, and the appeal of living in the macabre world of this late-night kook is a big part of the pilot. They quickly abandoned that aspect for a grimmer show and a grimmer Grissom, but that worked, too. 
Series Fundamentals: Will this concept generate a strong ongoing series?
Is there one character (or sometimes two, in separate storylines) that the audience will choose to be their primary hero (although these heroes should probably be surrounded by an ensemble that can more than hold their own)?
Grissom, with Willows as a co-hero to a certain extent (she gets a separate intro and personal story, and handles different cases.)
If this is a TV series, is the hero role strong enough to get an actor to abandon a movie career, come to work in TV for the first time, and sign a five-year contract before shooting the pilot? (And even if not for TV, is the hero role still that strong, simply for narrative purposes?)
Yes, exactly that happened (though Peterson’s movie career had petered out a while ago.)
Is the show set in an unsafe space?
Grissom demands a pint of blood from Gribbs for his own experiments immediately upon entering. She then gets trapped in a morgue with the corpses. 
Is this a setting that will bring (or has brought) different economic classes together?
We don’t find out any backstories yet, but we can already guess that this is the case, just from their accents.
Will trouble walk in the door on a regular basis?
Very much so.  They handle four cases in the pilot!
Will the heroes be forced to engage in both physical and cerebral activity on a regular basis?
Again, the pilot cheats a lot to give them physical stuff to do, but part of the genius of the show is the way it makes the science seem action-y. 
Are there big stakes that will persist episode after episode?
One of the CSIs gets shot at the end, so the stakes are high.
Will the ongoing situation produce goals or mini-goals that can be satisfactorily resolved on a regular basis?
Arrests every week, and some continuing cases.
The Pilot: Will this pilot episode be marketable and generate word of mouth?
Does the pilot contain all of the entertainment value inherent in the premise (rather than just setting everything up and promising that the fun will start next week)?
Very much so.
Does pilot feature an image we haven’t seen before (that can be used to promote the show)?
Smashing the dummy head filled with blood (still in the opening credits 14 years later), the blacklight.
Is there something bold, weird, and never-before-seen about this concept and/or pilot? 
Lots of stuff.
Is there a “HOLY CRAP!” scene somewhere along the way in the pilot (to create word of mouth)?
Gribbs getting killed.  Taking her blood.
Does the pilot build up potential energy that will power future episodes (secrets that will come out, potential romances, etc.)?
A scene establishing a secret affair between Willows and Stokes was cut, and Grissom’s would-be office romance creates few sparks, but Warrick’s gambling problem will clearly provide some energy.
Even if this is episodic, is there a major twist or escalation at the end (though sometimes this twist will only be new to, or only revealed to, the audience) that will kick future episodes up a notch?
Gribbs getting killed.
Part 2: Is this a compelling hero? (I could examine both Grissom and Willows here, but I’ll just stick to Grissom, because we don’t get to any of Willows’s flaws yet in the pilot) (16/16)
Believe: Do we recognize the hero (or co-heroes) as human?
Does the hero have a moment of humanity early on? (A funny, or kind, or oddball, or out-of-character, or comically vain, or unique-but-universal “I thought I was the only one who did that!” moment?)
First Grissom freaks Gribbs out (demanding her blood, offering her a chocolate-covered grasshopper), then he assuages her (and us) by comforting her when she gets locked in a morgue full of corpses and yells “You assholes!” at the corpses.  Only then do they cut to the first commercial, knowing that this is the moment they had us.
Does the hero have a well-defined public identity?
The creepy, kooky nightshift guy.
Does that ironically contrast with a hidden interior self?
The steely crusader.
Does the hero have three rules he or she lives by (either stated or implied)?
 Forget about the husband, Warrick, forget about the assumptions, forget about your promotion, these things will only fool you, think about what cannot lie, the evidence.”
Does the hero have a consistent metaphor family (drawn from his or her job, background, or developmental state)?
Pop culture: cites the Exorcist, talks about Pink Floyd, while testing he says “Nope: loser, give me the next item up for bid.”, also childlike: “Pretty neat, huh?”
Does the hero have a default personality trait?
Blithe, creepy, intense, plain-spoken.
Does the hero have a default argument tactic?
Preaches empiricism and brooks no opposition.
Care: Do we feel for the hero (or co-heroes)?
Does the hero have a great flaw that is the flip side of his great strength?
He’s somewhat callous and insensitive to his employees (but not to the victims), he’s tone-deaf at romance.
Does the hero feel that this flaw cannot be resolved until it’s time to abandon the world of the show?
Pretty much.  As someone who handles a lot of dead bodies and works the night shift, he feels that normal human relationships and dating are somewhat denied to him.
Does the flaw resonate with the theme and/or setting of the show?
Yes, his belief that you shouldn’t listen to people because they lie helps him with his job and hurts his personal life.
Invest: Can we trust the hero (or co-heroes) to tackle this challenge?
Does the hero have a great strength that is the flip side of his great flaw?
He’s brilliantly observant, curious, and knowledgeable about science.
Is the hero good at his or her job (or family role, if that’s his or her primary role)?
Yes, very much so.
Is the hero surrounded by people who sorely lack his or her most valuable quality?
Yes, the rest of his team lack his cool detachment.
Is the hero curious?
Very much so.
Is the hero generally resourceful?
In the cold open, he figures out how long the body has been dead by pulling at pupa off of it.  From that point on, we’re his.
Does the hero use unique skills to solve problems (rather than doing what anybody else on the show would do)?
Yes, only he is a bug expert, for example.
Part 3: Is this a strong ensemble (beyond the hero or co-heroes)?  (11/13)
Powerful: Is each member of the ensemble able to hold his or her own?
If this is a network TV series, are there at least two more roles that are strong enough to get TV veterans to sign their own five-year contracts? (And even if not for TV, are the characters still that strong, simply for narrative purposes?)
Yes, Helgenberger was a TV vet, as was Jorja Fox, who replaces Gribbs in the next episode.
Are all of the other regular roles strong enough on the page in this first episode to attract great actors? (ditto)
All are strong enough, except for the POV character, Gribbs. The actress they got, Chandra West, tested badly, causing them to tack on a new ending in which she’s killed off.  They replaced Gribbs with a stronger and more likeable character in the next episode, which attracted Fox, a much stronger actress, to the role.
Does each member of the ensemble have a distinct and defensible point of view?
Not really, they all have the same empirical philosophy, and when they stray from it, they’re proven wrong and apologize.  This will be addressed somewhat when Brass becomes a cop and gets to give a stronger voice to the alternate “cop” point of view.
Is each character defined primarily by actions and attitudes, not by his or her backstory?
We get no backstories at all in the pilot, which works just fine.
Do all of the characters consciously and unconsciously prioritize their own wants, rather than the wants of others? (Good characters don’t serve good, evil characters don’t serve evil.)
Grissom gets her blood for his own use. Stokes and Warrick are each chasing a promotion, Willows convinces Gribbs to stay because of her own power trip, without listening to her concerns, Brass enjoys cutting Warrick off. 
Do most of the main characters have some form of decision-making power? (And is the characters’ boss or bosses also part of the cast, so that major decisions will not be made by non-regulars?)
Yes and no. Real life CSIs have very little power, and the pilot cheats to get around that, but by the end of the pilot the showrunners realized that it would be too unsatisfactory not to have a real cop in the cast, so in the next episode Brass leaves the squad and becomes a detective. (A detective who knows nothing about science and has to have everything explained to him…despite the fact that he used to run the squad??  Basically, they retconned his role in this episode out of existence.)
Balanced: Do the members of the ensemble balance each other out?
Whether this is a premise or episodic pilot, is there one point-of-view who needs this world explained (who may or may not be the hero)?
Gribbs.
Does it take some effort for the POV character to extract other characters’ backstories?
She doesn’t really push.
Are the non-3-dimensional characters impartially polarized into head, heart and gut (or various forms of 2-way or 4-way polarization)?
Classic 5-way polarization: Grissom is head, Willows is heart, Stokes is gut, Brass is spleen, Warrick is cocky. 
Does each member of the ensemble have a distinct metaphor family (different from the hero’s, even if they’re in the same profession)?
Stokes: frat (“Thanks, brother!”), Warrick: gambler, street, Brass: cop, Willows: not really
Does each member of the ensemble have a different default personality trait?
Stokes: affable, Warrick: gambler, hot-headed, Brass: gruff, Willows: caring
Does each member of the ensemble have a different default argument tactic? 
Stokes: cajoles, Warrick: gets in your face, Brass: belittles, Willows: forms a bond
Is there at least one prickly character who creates sparks whenever he or she appears?
Somewhat with Brass, but we would soon meet more prickly lab techs who would create more sparks.
Part 4: Is the pilot episode a strong stand-alone story and good template for the ongoing series? (20/22)                                                                                        
Template: Does this match and/or establish the standard format of this type of series
Does the pilot have (or establish) the average length for its format?
It’s forty-two minutes
If this is intended for a form of commercial media, does the pilot have the right number of commercial breaks for its intended venue?
Four breaks: a teaser and then four acts.
If this is intended for commercial TV, does every act end on a cliffhanger or escalation, especially the middle one (and, if not intended for commercial TV, does it still have escalations happening in roughly the same places, simply for narrative purposes)?
Pretty much.  Interestingly, the first one ends on a character beat when Grissom says “You assholes!” to the corpses. The other three are plot escalations, though.
Does the pilot establish the general time frame for most upcoming episodes of this series?
It’s a little confusing, but all this seems to take place in one night, which makes no sense, but that’s a TV convention.
Do all of the pilot’s storylines intercut believably within that time frame?
Pretty much, as long as you accept the TV convention that all lab tests are instantaneous.
If this is a premise pilot, is the basic premise established by the midpoint, leaving time for a foreshortened typical episode story in the second half?
It’s an episodic pilot for all except the POV character, so the premise is established by halfway through the first act.
Pilot Story Fundamentals: Does the pilot episode have a strong story?
Does the pilot provide at least one satisfactory stand-alone story (even if that story is just the accomplishment of a mini-goal)?
Yes, there are 5 cases (!), and the main one remains unresolved, but two other major cases wrap up satisfactorily.
Is this episode’s plot simple enough to spend more time on character than plot?
Yes.
Is the pilot’s challenge something that is not just hard for the hero to do (an obstacle) but hard for the hero to want to do (a conflict)?
Not for the hero: there’s not going to be a lot of inner turmoil on this show, but yes for the POV character, who is horrified by the job and wants to quit.
First Half: Is the problem established in a way that reflects human nature?
Does the hero start out with a short-term goal for this episode?
As investigator, no, he’s already on the big case. As team leader, yes, he just wants to razz Gribbs instead of mentor her.
Does a troubling situation (episodic pilot) or major change in the status quo (premise pilot) develop near the beginning of the episode?
As investigator, yes, he’s brought in to look at the body. As team leader, he’s put in charge of a rookie.
Does the hero eventually commit to dealing with this situation personally?
As investigator, yes, he smirks as he blows past the cops to claim the crime scene, then insists it was murder.  As team leader, yes, when Gribbs runs out, he determines to cheer her up. 
Do the hero’s efforts quickly lead to an unforeseen conflict with another person?
As investigator, somewhat: Brass is unconvinced at first. As team leader, yes, Gribbs is inclined to leave.
Does the hero try the easy way throughout the second quarter?
As investigator, yes, follows the finger prints. As team leader, yes, sends her out untrained.
Does this culminate in a major midpoint setback or escalation of the problem (whether or not there’s a commercial break)?
As investigator, yes, he realizes the prints were planted. As team leader, yes, Gribbs is held at gunpoint by store owner.
Second Half: Is the mini-goal resolved as the ongoing trouble escalates?
Does the hero try the hard way from this point on?
As investigator, yes, Grissom tracks down fake hand. As team leader, yes, has Willows talk with Gribbs.
By halfway through, are character decisions driving the plot, rather than external plot complications?
No. This is a very external show.
Are the stakes increased as the pace increases and the motivation escalates?
No.  This is a low-intensity show.  Slow and steady wins the race.
Does a further setback force the hero to adopt a wider view of the problem?
Not in either of these storylines, but yes in the two cases that are successfully solved by Warrick and Stokes.
After that setback, does the hero finally commit to pursuing a corrected goal?
Ditto.
Before the final quarter of the story begins, (if not long before) has the hero switched to being proactive, instead of reactive?
Pretty proactive right from the start.
After the climax, does either the hero, the point of view character or a guest star have a personal revelation and/or life change, possibly revealed through reversible behavior?
The POV character has a life (ending) change.
Part 5: Is each scene the best it can be? (18/23) (Interestingly, almost all of the scenes in this pilot are very short. With few good options, I chose the brief scene where Warrick asks Grissom for advice about his case. When he enters Grissom is whacking a head and making blood splatter.)
The Set-Up: Does this scene begin with the essential elements it needs?
Were tense and/or hopeful (and usually false) expectations for this interaction established beforehand?
No.
                                     
Does the scene eliminate small talk and repeated beats by cutting out the beginning (or possibly even the middle)?
No, it begins early.
Is this an intimidating setting that keeps characters active?
Yes, Grissom is doing something violent and bloody when Warrick comes in.
Is one of the scene partners not planning to have this conversation (and quite possibly has something better to do)?
Grissom was busy, but he’s prepared to drop everything and talk.
Is there at least one non-plot element complicating the scene?
The brief mention of some country club case that Grissom’s working on.
Does the scene establish its own mini-ticking-clock (if only through subconscious anticipation)?
No.  This show isn’t much for ticking clocks.  It’s all about being careful.
The Conflict: Do the conflicts play out in a lively manner?
Does this scene both advance the plot and reveal character?
Yes, Warrick has a plot and personal breakthrough.
Are one or more characters in the scene emotionally affected by this interaction or action as the scene progresses?
But only slightly. Warrick feels less frustrated afterwards (and a little embarrassed that Grissom called him on thinking about his promotion).
Does the audience have (or develop) a rooting interest in this scene (which may sometimes shift)?
We’re a little creeped out to find out that Grissom took blood from Gribbs under false pretenses, but we still trust him.
Are two agendas genuinely clashing (rather than merely two personalities)?
Only slightly.  They both share the same agenda, solving the case.  The only difference is that Warrick wants to solve it tonight to beat Stokes, while Grissom wants him to take his time. (Oh, and Warrick refuses to give any blood to Grissom’s experiments.)
Does the scene have both a surface conflict and a suppressed conflict (one of which is the primary conflict in this scene)?
Surface: about how to solve this case. Suppressed: about whether or not Warrick deserves a promotion.
Is the suppressed conflict (which may or may not come to the surface) implied through subtext (and/or called out by the other character)?
Grissom’s violence towards the head and desire for blood externalizes Warrick fear of Grissom’s control over him.
Are the characters cagy (or in denial) about their own feelings?
Warrick doesn’t mention the promotion, and maybe doesn’t know that’s clouding his view.
Do characters use verbal tricks and traps to get what they want, not just direct confrontation?
No, they’re both open.

Is there re-blocking, including literal push and pull between the scene partners (often resulting in just one touch)?
Lots of reblocking, no touching.
Are objects given or taken, representing larger values?
No.           
If this is a big scene, is it broken down into a series of mini-goals?
It’s small, but there are mini-goals: Grissom asks Warrick’s opinion about his case, Grissom asks for blood, Warrick asks for help on his.
The Outcome: Does this scene change the story going forward?
As a result of this scene, does at least one of the scene partners end up doing something that he or she didn’t intend to do when the scene began?
Warrick re-examines the shoe.
Does the outcome of the scene ironically reverse (and/or ironically fulfill) the original intention?
No, it’s unironic.  He asks for help and gets it.

Are previously-asked questions answered?
Why did Grissom get the blood?  Does Warrick believe the man?
Are new questions posed that will be left unanswered for now?
What will the shoe tell Warrick?
Is the audience left with a growing hope and/or fear for what might happen next? (Not just in the next scene, but generally)
We have increased hope that the case will be solved.
Does the scene cut out early, on a question (possibly to be answered instantly by the circumstances of the next scene)?
Close enough: it cuts out early on Warrick’s realization, “Follow the shoe”
Part 6: Is this powerful dialogue? (9/14)
Empathetic: Is the dialogue true to human nature?
Does the writing demonstrate empathy for all of the characters?
Not really.  This show has a lot of empathy for the cops and victims, but the killers are often caricatures, and the pilot is no exception.
Does each of the characters, including the hero, have a limited perspective?
Yes, he too, fails to see the problem in leaving Gribbs alone. (And he, too, fails to solve his main case because he misses evidence that’s right in front of him, as we’ll find out later.)
Are the characters resistant to openly admitting their feelings (to others and even to themselves)?
Yes, Gribbs has to be pushed to reveal her misgivings.
Do the characters avoid saying things they wouldn’t say?
No. Even in this episode, with a POV character, characters are saying things like “I know you know this, but…” This becomes even more of a problem after the POV character is killed off.  As I said before, they have to turn Brass into the “explain it to me” character, despite the fact that he used to head the team!
Do the characters listen poorly?
No, it’s a show about good listeners.
Do the characters interrupt each other more often than not?
No, it’s a polite show.
Specific: Is the dialogue specific to this world and each personality?
Does the dialogue capture the culturally-specific syntax of the characters (without necessarily attempting to replicate non-standard pronunciation)?
Stokes is slightly Texan (“It’s all about Cabo”), Warrick is slightly black (“Twenty bucks, by the end of shift, I’m the man.”)
Does the dialogue capture the jargon of the profession and/or setting?
Very much so.
Does the dialogue capture the tradecraft of the profession being portrayed?
Very much so.
Heightened: Is the dialogue more pointed and dynamic than real talk?
Is the dialogue more concise than real talk?
Yes. “I need a pint of your blood.” “Why?” “So many reasons.”
Does the dialogue have more personality than real talk?
 “At least until you solve your first and if after that you don't feel like King Kong on cocaine ... then you can quit.”
Is there a minimum of commas in the dialogue (the lines are not prefaced with Yes, No, Well, Look, or the other character’s name)?
Yes. (But Willows does say the dreaded “Sis” to her sister!)
Do non-professor characters speak without dependent clauses, conditionals, or parallel construction?
Even the professor characters speak more briskly than normal.
Is there one gutpunch scene, where the subtext falls away and the characters really lay into each other?
Not really.  The Willows-Gribbs scene quoted above sort of counts, but for the most part, the gutpunch lands in the form of the shock realization at the end, which causes lots of gutpunch scenes where they process the trauma in the next episode, and admit that they were all too blithe in this episode. 
Part 7: Does the pilot manage its tone to create and fulfill audience expectations? (7/10)
Genre and Mood: Does the series tap into pre-established expectations?
Does the series fit within one genre (or compatible sub-genres)?
The cop show combined with elements of the doctor show, which creates a new type of show.
Are unrealistic genre-specific elements a big metaphor for a more common experience (not how life really is, but how life really feels)?
NA: It’s all fairly realistic at this point.  More unrealistic crimes will be introduced later on.
Separate from the genre, does the pilot establish an overall mood for the series?
Yes: “Neato”.  The focus is kept on “I fucking love science” and every microscopic shot is accompanied by a rock-star guitar lick.
If there are multiple storylines, do they establish the spectrum of moods available within that overall mood?
Yes: Grissom’s case is creepy, Warrick’s case is serious, Stokes’s case is fun, Willows’s molestation interview is painful.
Is there a moment early on that establishes the type and level of jeopardy?
No, they intentionally obscure the level of jeopardy until the shock reveal at the end.
Framing: Does the pilot set, reset, upset and ultimately exceed its own expectations?
Are there framing devices (flashforwards, framing sequences and/or first person narration) to set the mood, pose a dramatic question, and/or pose ongoing questions?
Yes, we begin with atmospheric shots of Las Vegas while the victim’s “suicide” tape plays, giving us a flashforward to the piece of evidence that’s about to be played.
Is there a dramatic question posed early on, which will establish in the audience’s mind which moment will mark the end of the pilot? 
Yes, why did this man “commit suicide”?

Does foreshadowing create anticipation and suspense (and refocus the audience’s attention on what’s important)?
Yes, the zoom-ins on the evidence give us glimpses of clues that the techs can’t see yet, and artfully obscure other details that we now begin to speculate about.
Are set-up and pay-off used to dazzle the audience, distracting attention from plot contrivances?
The competition between Warrick and Stokes distracts us from the fact that neither one of those cases could actually be wrapped up in one night.
Is the dramatic question of the pilot episode’s plot answered near the end of the story?
Well, it’s interesting because the fake suicide crime that takes up the teaser goes unsolved at the end, so they pose one dramatic question and then flip it out for others that do get answered (What really happened in the break-in? Will Gribbs stay on?)
Part 8: Does the pilot create a meaningful ongoing theme? (13/14)         
Pervasive: Is the theme interwoven into many aspects of the show?
Does the ensemble as a whole have a unique philosophy about how to fill their role (and competition from an allied force with a different philosophy)?
Very much so.  There are SIX redundant statements of the ensemble’s philosophy, including at least one in every act of the show!  The most applicable is this: “The cops? Forget it, they wouldn’t know fingerprints from paw prints. The detectives? They just chase the lie. WE solve.  We restore peace of mind, and when you’re a victim, that’s everything.”
Does the pilot have a statement of philosophy and/or theme, usually either at the beginning or ¾ of the way in. (Sometimes this will be the ensemble’s stated statement of philosophy, sometimes this merely be the implied theme of the series itself.)
See above.
Can the show’s overall ongoing theme be stated in the form of a classic good vs. good (or evil vs. evil) dilemma?
Looking vs. listening, induction vs. deduction, objectivity vs. subjectivity.
Throughout the pilot, do the characters have to choose between goods, or between evils, instead of choosing between good and evil?
Is it a crime to roll a john? Is it okay to help a judge bet to get a warrant?, etc.
Are the storylines in the pilot thematically linked (preferably in an indirect, subtle way)?
Not really. As a pilot, it’s more important to show a wide variety of cases than it is to link the cases thematically. 
Are small details throughout the pilot tied into the theme?
Everything speaks to the theme.  Gribbs points out that they’re judging her subjectively. Warrick is accused of letting his quest for a promotion make him subjective, etc.
Will the heroes grapple with new moral gray areas in each episode?
Yes and no. Some writers will use the show’s objective philosophy to dismiss the idea of moral gray areas, while others will find room for moral debate within the show’s empirical universe.
Grounded: Do the stakes ring true to the world of the audience?
Does the series’ set-up reflect the way the world works?
Yes and no.  The scope of the job is greatly exaggerated for dramatic purposes, but the details of the job are lovingly portrayed in fetishistic detail (albeit with a wildly unrealistic budget and time frame).  This show could be called “The Way the World Works.”
Does the series have authentic things to say about this type of setting?
Very much so, both about the job and about life in modern Las Vegas.  I think the Vegas setting is a big secret of the show’s success. 
Does the ongoing concept include twinges of real life national pain?
The show paralleled a growing national distrust for empathy (“I feel your pain” was over) and a desire to return to objectivity and skepticism.
Are these issues presented in a way that avoids moral hypocrisy?
The limits of objectivity will be acknowledged and tested every week.
Do all of the actions in the pilot have real consequences?
Their blasé treatment of Gribbs has terrible consequences, for instance.
Untidy: Is the dilemma ultimately irresolvable?
Do the characters refuse (or fail) to synthesize the meaning of the pilot episode’s story, forcing the audience to do that?
They’re still reeling as the episode ends.
Does the end of the pilot leave the thematic dilemma wide open and irresolvable?
Definitely.
Total Score: 116/132
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