How does ‘CSI’ measure up to procedural powerhouse ‘Law & Order’?
With the 25th anniversary of the premiere of NBC’s “Law & Order” on Sept. 13 and the conclusion of the CBS mainstay “CSI” which aired Sunday night, it seems only natural to compare and contrast the two long-running series that both redefined procedural television as we knew it.
Though both series sought to solve crimes, each focused on very different areas. While “Law & Order” famously busied itself with “the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders” “CSI” delved into the science behind those same police investigations. Each a product of the decade they debuted in, “Law and Order” understood the inherent conflict that existed not just between cop and criminal, but between officer and attorney, and found new complications to exploit therein, where “CSI” gave the individuals doing the dirty work at the crime scenes, who would be background figures in any other show, center stage.
That said, let’s look at how the pair match up when they go head-to-head.
‘LAW AND ORDER’ VS. ‘CSI’
|‘Law and Order’||‘CSI’|
|Debut||Sept. 13, 1990||Oct. 6, 2000|
|Finale||May 24, 2010||Sept. 27, 2015|
|Setting||New York City||Las Vegas|
|Number of episodes||456||337|
|Spin-offs||4; “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” “Law & Order: LA” Will Hart / NBC Universal||3; “CSI: Miami,” “CSI: NY,” “CSI: Cyber” Cliff Lipson / CBS|
|Number of franchise episodes||1,054||777|
|Season ratings high (in millions)||Season 12, 18.7||Season five, 26.26|
|Longest-running cast member||393, S. Epatha Merkerson as Anita Van Buren Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times||335, George Eads as Nick Stokes CBS|
|Young guest stars||Claire Danes, Emmy Rossum, Kate MaraGenaro Molina / Los Angeles Times||Taylor Swift, Dakota Fanning, Justin BieberLuis Sinco / Los Angeles Times|
|Guest directors||Eric Stoltz, Tony Goldwyn Danny Feld / ABC||Quentin Tarantino, William Friedkin Jordan Strauss / Invision / Associated Press|
|Notable crossovers (outside franchise)||“Homicide”||“Without a Trace,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Mythbusters”|
|Theme-song composer||Mike Post, “Theme of Law and Order”||Pete Townshend, “Who Are You”|
|Exists in Westphall Universe||Yes||Yes|
|Series regulars who hunted Hannibal Lecter||None||2. William Petersen as Will Graham in Michael Mann’s “Manhunter” and Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford in NBC’s “Hannibal.”Sonja Flemming / CBS|
|Placement on TV Guide’s Best Series of All Time List (as of 12/23/13)||14||Did not place|
|Dominant controversy||“Ripped from the headlines” format sometimes left real-life victims feel exposed and manipulated.||Science and procedures as showcased were often inaccurate.|
|Legacy||“Taking the “ripped from the headlines” model to new highs (and lows). Alternate: The clang.||“The CSI Effect” that purportedly raises juries expectations for forensic science and related evidence in trials.|
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