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Catching Up: The "CSI" Writing Crossover

By admin Published: May 10, 2008

I posted before about the "Two and a Half Men" episode written by folks from "CSI." I've now caught up to the "CSI" written by the big guys from "Two and a Half Men," and the "CSI" came out better.

That's not to say it was strong as a "CSI" episode per se. I've already heard from one fan of the show who thought it demonstrated a distinct fall-off from the drama at its best. But the show was a great deal of fun for other reasons, including "Men's" Chuck Lorre working out old issues.

Lorre famously served on the sitcoms "Roseanne," "Cybill" and "Grace Under Fire" and reportedly had his conflicts with their respective stars -- Roseanne, Cybill Shepherd and Brett Butler, of course. And the sitcom diva/murder victim in "CSI," played with great skill by Katey Sagal, is an amalgam of stories told about each of those shows: Both Roseanne's and Butler's extreme behavior; Roseanne's relationship with Tom Arnold (the "CSI" version is a bonehead played by the master-of-playing-boneheads Diedrich Bader); Cybill's feuds with co-star Christine Baranski (here embodied by a phonetically similar character played by Rachael Harris). And, considering how much trouble Lorre has had with female stars, it's pretty funny to see him (with "Men's" Lee Aronsohn, also a veteran of "Cybill" and "Grace") writing an episode where the investigation includes a discussion of how tampons work.

But beyond the roman-a-clef elements, Lorre and Aronsohn also made sure to have fun with the conceits of "CSI" itself, specifically the show's love of pun-laden jokes. Their "CSI" script shoehorned them endlessly, making clear what an annoying contrivance the joke-telling can be; there's also an undercurrent of "leave the comedy to the professionals." Harris's episode-ending monologue was a cutting breakdown of the bits and pieces of TV murder mysteries, and I don't think they were excepting "CSI" in the analysis.

Of course, as I said earlier, it wasn't exactly a "CSI," not even tonally. Even the music felt a little more comedic than it usually does, and the lightning seemed brighter. Or maybe it was just that the plot and the characters were a little lighter than usual; for all the blood, it felt bloodless. In any case, I enjoyed it.

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