Mastermind behind ‘CSI’ Turns Franchise to New Direction with Unscripted CBS Series

"CSI" franchise creator Anthony E. Zuiker appears on a panel at the 2016 Winter TCA on Jan. 9, 2016, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP)
"CSI" franchise creator Anthony E. Zuiker appears on a panel at the 2016 Winter TCA on Jan. 9, 2016, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP)
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Mastermind behind ‘CSI’ Turns Franchise to New Direction with Unscripted CBS Series

"CSI" franchise creator Anthony E. Zuiker appears on a panel at the 2016 Winter TCA on Jan. 9, 2016, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP)
"CSI" franchise creator Anthony E. Zuiker appears on a panel at the 2016 Winter TCA on Jan. 9, 2016, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP)

There have been five “CSI” shows with actors playing forensics experts — “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “CSI: Miami,” “CSI: New York,” “CSI: Cyber” and “CSI: Vegas.” Now it's time for the real experts to bask in the spotlight.

“The Real CSI: Miami,” premiering on CBS on Wednesday night, is a documentary-style look at the hunt for real criminals told by the officers and lab-coated pros who actually solved the murders.

“'CSI' has that ability to live in different spectrums,” says writer-producer Anthony E. Zuiker, who created the hit franchise. “It made perfect sense to try the unscripted version of the show because the format could still relatively be the same.”

The series uses real 911 calls, actor portrayals, surveillance video, interrogation and bodycam footage, crime scene images, cool graphics and re-creations. There are also interviews with survivors and family members to underline the pain of loss.

“I know what makes ‘CSI’ work and what does not work. And what does not work is when the episodes are emotionally vacant,” says Zuiker. “It’s very important to have the survivors and emotionality. That was one of my No. 1 mandates to have.”

The technicians and officers explain their thinking on motives and clues and return to key crime scenes. So if a detective went scuba diving for a vital clue, we see him back in the water describing how he found it.

“You have to make sure it still feels like a ‘CSI,’ but you also don’t have the ability to get extra creative in the writing because you have to stick to the bona fide facts of the case,” says Zuiker. “That was the challenge.”

One of the first episodes revisits the 2015 gunshot murders of couple Tara Rosado and Carlos Ortiz in the Florida Keys. Their bodies were found in a bedroom, with signs of a struggle but no gun was recovered. “That tells me there was someone else in the room. And that’s when the hunt for the killer began,” says investigator Mary’s Martinez.

Viewers watch as authorities eye an ex-husband before the discovery of an old gun in a canal leads scuba teams to find a submerged iPhone nearby that reveals the reason for the murders might have been a fight between friends over a bale of cocaine.

Another episode examines the 2018 murder of rapper XXXTentacion, gunned down outside a motorsports store. Authorities investigate whether it was the result of a rap beef or a simple robbery. Smartphone GPS and metadata, surveillance video and the discovery of a live cartridge help finger the suspects.

“A lot of what I had to do with the producers of the show was to give them the confidence that the forensics was not boring and that the forensics drove the narrative,” Zuiker says.

In many ways, “The Real CSI: Miami” is a nod to the forensic sciences that sparked the birth of “CSI.” Zuiker was inspired after watching an episode of “New Detectives” on the Discovery Channel about a cheerleader killed by an obsessed photographer.

Detectives in that case found the dead woman's hair follicles in the suspect's car, determined the body had been redressed and that she was wearing no makeup, undermining the killer's alibi that she was doing a photoshoot.

“I think when those three particular pieces of evidence were explained to me as a novice in forensics, I realized that the body was a perfect specimen to solve crime,” Zuiker says. “That’s how ‘CSI’ was born.”

Zuiker was 28 when he realized he had a potential show on his hands. Now he is 55 with a hit, Emmy Award-winning franchise that rivals the “Law & Order” universe and is broadcast in 171 countries and multiple languages. "Did I think we’d get past 13 episodes? No. Did I believe we had something special? Yes,” he says.

“CSI” has indeed proved a durable property, going from the desert of Las Vegas to the waters of Miami and into the urban jungle of New York and even online.

“This is a particular franchise that can live and be malleable in scripted, unscripted and docu-series, movie formats, gaming formats,” he says. “I think, for me, personally, this ‘Real CSI: Miami’ is a tremendous pivot in the right direction to keep the entire franchise healthy.”

Zuiker is an active producer, always looking for storylines for his shows. He was inspired to write an episode of “CSI: Vegas” after learning about a metal drum washing up with a body inside and another show by discovering that someone made micro-crochet koalas on Etsy. He thought little koalas might be an interesting “cry for help” by a fictional killer to leave at crime scenes.

“I was always hoped that ‘CSI’ would be a crime deterrent. I sit back as the creator of the franchise and have to chuckle to myself every morning when I read crime stories about the colossal mistakes that people are making when they commit a crime, as if the show never existed. If they just took the time to watch my show, they probably would think twice about it.”



Bruce Springsteen Is Officially a Billionaire

 Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band perform during a concert at Strawberry Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday, July 15, 2024. (AP)
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band perform during a concert at Strawberry Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday, July 15, 2024. (AP)
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Bruce Springsteen Is Officially a Billionaire

 Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band perform during a concert at Strawberry Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday, July 15, 2024. (AP)
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band perform during a concert at Strawberry Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday, July 15, 2024. (AP)

The Boss is officially a billionaire, Forbes said Friday, estimating that Bruce Springsteen is conservatively worth $1.1 billion.

The guitar hero bard behind hits including "The River" has solidified much of his wealth in recent years, the financial outlet indicated, in no small part due to a blockbuster sale in 2021 of his music catalog to Sony for an estimated half-a-billion dollars.

The deal followed his wildly successful Broadway show run. Now, Springsteen is on a global tour currently set to run through 2025.

According to industry tracker Pollstar, in 2023 Springsteen sold more than 1.6 million concert tickets, raking in $380 million in revenue.

And the 74-year-old "Dancing in the Dark" singer shows no signs of slowing down.

For decades the "Jungleland" songwriter has penned music that focuses a sentimental lens on underdogs and the working class -- and he's sold 140 million albums globally, placing him among the all-time bestselling musicians ever.

A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee with 20 Grammys and an Oscar to his name, Springsteen is also set to be the subject of a forthcoming biopic, with Jeremy Allen White of "The Bear" fame slated to play him.

His marathon shows are the stuff of legend, with the longest clocking in at more than four hours, a performance he pulled off in Helsinki in 2012.

Other industry heavyweights who have hit the billionaire mark include Rihanna, Jay-Z and Taylor Swift.