CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION (CBS)
Scheduling history: CSI has aired about 9.5 of its 11 seasons to date as one of the defining shows of Thursday night. Only the first half of season 1 on Friday and the most recent season on Wednesday have gone elsewhere. It'll return to Wednesday in 2012-13.
See (who saw) how it all began: CSI began on 10/6/00 with 17.0 million viewers and a 5.4 demo (preliminary), which don't really look like anything too world-shattering considering it was twelve years ago. But of course, the important thing to note is that this was a Friday number. By Friday standards, even back then, it was a pretty pleasant surprise, and seemed to suggest there was a lot of potential there. Most of its Friday airings during fall 2000 would score in the mid- to upper-4's in the demo.
The best of times: But CSI was not going to achieve its maximum ratings on Friday. It had to be moved, and a post-Survivor slot on Thursday was the ticket. Its demos shot up at least three points in the second half of season 1, and the growth would continue for the next couple seasons until the show settled in with an average between a 9.0 and 10.0 from seasons 3 through 6. The series high was an 11.6 demo, achieved on 10/17/02 and for the 100th episode on 11/18/04. It cracked the double digit demo plateau during 5 different seasons (2 through 6) and was one of the monsters of primetime for at least half a decade, even if sometimes overshadowed on its own night by the ratings of Friends and ER.
The worst of times: The first real challenge to CSI's dominance was ABC's move of Grey's Anatomy to the night in fall 2006, and what a challenge it was! After airing six seasons without a single season-to-season drop larger than 9%, beginning with the Grey's arrival the drops were -24%, -16%, -18%, a whooping -28% in 2009-10, and another -13% in 2010-11. As with ER, the show went from the top of the pedestal to a very middle of the road program in just a few short years. The series low is a 2.3 demo on 5/5/11 and 5/2/12.
Then vs. now: Of course, we can't give Grey's Anatomy all the credit for the fall of CSI. After all, that show did plenty of its own ratings plummeting. Especially in the last couple years, more of the credit in the CSI case should go to the cast upheavals. This show has not been able to keep its core cast intact, and especially the loss of William Petersen in season 9 had a tangible effect on the show within that season and especially in the 28% drop in season 10. 2009-10 marked the first season ever that CSI was actually outrated by one of its spinoffs. However, the show managed to reverse its course of bad casting in 2011-12, as the Ted Danson/Elisabeth Shue pair helped the show withstand its first timeslot move in over a decade. CSI's first season on Wednesday amazingly saw its smallest year-to-year decline in six years, and it seems pretty likely at this point that (unlike Law & Order) this program is going to outlive all its spin-offs.
Season adults 18-49 lows/averages/highs:
|1||2000-01||Fri 9:00, Thu 9:00||4.4||6.6||9.3||detail|
|Premiere||Average||Finale||P -> F|
For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.