By Wayne Karrfalt
Special to TelevisionWeek
When the top show among males finally got the top cult-guy director in Hollywood to direct an episode, everyone involved knew it would be something special.
“CSI” creator Anthony Zuiker had been after Quentin Tarantino to direct for years, having met him at an awards show and learning that the director of “Pulp Fiction” was a huge fan who was well versed in the show’s mythology. When some crew members ran into Mr. Tarantino this season while shooting on location in Las Vegas, CSI’s producers were able to nail him down to direct the gripping two-hour season finale, which aired May 19.
“CSI” executive producer Carol Mendelsohn said the episode represented the cast and crew’s best work to date. “They all brought it for Quentin,” she said.
The forensic crime drama was watched by 30.7 million viewers, just short of the 31.5 million viewers who tuned in for its 100th episode this past November. However, in its fifth season, “CSI’s” overall ratings are up 6 percent over last year. Ms. Mendelsohn attributes the rise to exposure the show gets in reruns on Spike TV, which strips it Monday through Friday at
7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
“A lot of viewers have discovered the show for the first time because it is on a male-skewing cable network,” Ms. Mendelsohn said.
Although “CSI” is television’s highest-rated show among men 18 to 49, on CBS it skews more female, as do most other top broadcast network series. (“The Simpsons” and “24,” both on Fox, are notable exceptions.)
But on Spike the audience is more gender-balanced. Spike attributes this to its male-skewing schedule and the Jerry Bruckheimer-style promos it runs for the show, featuring action, gross-out elements and the flashiness of its Sin City setting.
“CSI” has been able to do what Spike’s scripted originals have yet to accomplish on their own: establish a sizable base of male viewers on which to build. (The show averaged a 1.0 rating among men 18 to 49 for the month of April.) The network will add new episodes of “CSI” each year and begin televising reruns of spinoff series “CSI: NY” in fall 2006.
“There are not that many male-skewing scripted dramas out there, but we’ve got two of the best,” said Kevin Kay, executive VP of programming and production for Spike TV.
With its use of special effects to highlight cutting-edge forensic techniques “CSI” has benefited from being broadcast in HD on most major-market CBS affiliates. The show is a key enticement for men to upgrade to HD. It is featured on Comcast mailers promoting the option to subscribers.
When looking for a hotel room in Las Vegas to celebrate the end of the season, the “CSI” team insisted on a suite with an HD set on which to watch the final episode. “Not having HD was a deal-breaker,” Ms. Mendelsohn said.