x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Crime-time saviour: Ted Danson breathes new life into CSI

The popular forensics drama has received a shot in the arm for its 12th season.

George Eads, left, and Ted Danson in a scene from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Monty Brinton / AP
George Eads, left, and Ted Danson in a scene from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Monty Brinton / AP

Whether slinging one-liners, as he did in Cheers, or tending autopsies as the fearless new boss on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the veteran actor Ted Danson always brings a chipper outlook and people smarts to the proceedings. To put it bluntly, he's a breath of fresh air to the grisly goings-on in this globally popular TV morgue.

As CBS's iconic analytical drama unzips a new batch of body bags to premiere its 12th season - its first without Lawrence Fishburne as the sombre team leader Dr Raymond Langston - Danson is proving just the tonic the show needs to put some fresh fizz into its relationships and storylines.

Danson debuts in the season opener as DB Russell, the new CSI supervisor for the graveyard shift in Las Vegas. A family man and scientist who's never lost his sense of wonder - and definitely not a nerd - he comes to the team after a stint in the Seattle Crime Lab.

The son of hippies, Russell is a "Left Coast" Sherlock Holmes who devours crime novels and imagines every crime scene as a tale waiting to be told. For viewers, he presents a hipper, more accessible persona than Langston. As brilliant as any of his predecessors, and as uncompromising as hollow-point bullets when the situation calls for it, he's a lot more fun to be around.

At a Los Angeles press gathering, Danson even went so far as to call his CSI character "funny".

"Looking for the funny side takes a certain kind of intelligence, and it's the same brain that looks for clues and finds things," he says. "So I really feel at home, even though I'm not [telling jokes]. It's a perfect situation."

Another new face on CSI this season will be Elisabeth Shue, remembered for her Oscar nod as Nicolas Cage's lover in Leaving Las Vegas, and as Michael J Fox's girlfriend in Back to the Future II and III. As Julie Finlay, the new assistant night shift supervisor, she'll replace Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) this season. "Finn", as she's known, is often called the "Blood Queen" by Russell for her expertise in the lab.

In the season opener, 73 Seconds, the CSI team is still reeling from the fallout of the end of the last series. Nick (George Eads) is still upset that Langston was let go; however, Brass (Paul Guilfoyle), also bitter, accepts the new boss.

Soon they're up to their necks in a new case - a multiple homicide and injuries on a Las Vegas tram. The only soul left unharmed is a traumatised boy who won't talk … yet.

On a more gruesome note, a young man meets his demise by way of an old deer-skinning process - leaving his body looking like that of a 90-year-old - giving Russell an exceptionally busy first day on the job.

Ranked second in TV Guide's list of the top 25 television stars, the eminently bankable Danson's run of successes began with Cheers and continued as the crabby doctor Becker, in his newspaper comedy Ink, in the thriller Damages with Glenn Close, as himself in the surreal hit Curb Your Enthusiasm and in the oddball comedy Bored to Death.

Yet the multiple Emmy and Golden Globe winner, married to the Oscar-winner Mary Steenburgen since 1995, readily admits his angst and takes nothing for granted: "I'm an actor, so I am always scared," the 64-year-old says. "You never know if you are on holiday or that you have been retired and they just didn't tell you."

However, with the show's fresh renewal for a 13th season, he says: "I know we have one more year of CSI and I'm grateful for that. So, fingers crossed, I'd love to do this show for a while."

CSI is broadcast 9pm, Saturdays and 1pm, Sundays on OSN First