CSI creator Anthony E Zuiker: US TV can be too conservative

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Anthony E Zuiker created CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which first aired in 2000

The creator and executive producer of the CSI franchise has said US TV can be too conservative.

Anthony E Zuiker told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Sometimes America is a bit too uptight for its own good."

The hugely successful CSI: Crime Scene Investigation series regularly features scenes of violence, often gory injuries and some sex and nudity.

"It's hard to keep up with what people will like and not like hour-upon-hour," Zuiker told guest editor Jacky Wright.

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Jacky Wright, Microsoft's chief digital officer, is a Today programme guest editor

He suggested attempts by writers and producers to keep up with changing audience expectations can stifle creativity. "I just don't think it is good for the evolution of storytelling," he said.

Zuiker was speaking to Wright, Microsoft's chief digital officer, who is one of the programme's traditional guest editors over the festive period - and a big fan of the crime series.

Asked to comment on the debate about showing violence on TV and changing audience expectations, Zuiker told her: "I tend to be one of those writers and producers that don't necessarily love the restriction of the month, or the flavour of the month.

"It's like, some years it's OK, some years it's not OK, some years sex is OK, some years it's not OK. And sometimes America is a bit too uptight for its own good. And it's hard to keep up with what people will like and not like, or accept hour-upon-hour.

"So my philosophy is we kind of write it like we see it. We get less flack for violence, but we are very uptight in the sex department. So any kind of gyration, showing the curvature of a buttock, any enlarged breasts or too much cleavage, we have propelled ourselves from 2020 to the Stone Age as of late, just because America got too uptight for its own good."

Audience research and ratings guidance have previously indicated US audiences are particularly sensitive to scenes of a sexual nature.

Zuiker added: "If you look at the show from 2000 to this year's finale, we've definitely gone in a more conservative, nervous fashion, which I just don't think is good for the evolution of storytelling."

'Hampering creativity'

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation first aired in 2000, and the franchise spawned spin-off strands including Miami, New York, Vegas and Cyber.

The show has been credited with improving the public's understanding of forensics and how evidence gathered from a crime scene can be used to build a case against a criminal.

Zuiker particularly defended the portrayal of violence in the show, the storylines of which often centre around often gory crimes.

"If we show gratuitous violence, it's really for the sake of underscoring the crime and the evidence, it's not gore for gore or shock value," he explained.

"What I don't want to do is have the writers to be restricted. If you're going to have someone hanging from a chandelier in a casino with no head, that's because it's a mystery, not because you want to shock people."

He added: "I just think when we begin to defensively hamper our creativity or defensively write or overly edit before it gets to the next stage of the network reading the draft, because we're too scared about the backlash, I think we start to lose creatively, and the shows go from A+ to C+ very fast."

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