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Evidence is in: Gil Grissom is irreplaceable

Everyone’s favorite CSI might be leaving the crime lab, but William Petersen's portrayal of Gil Grissom has left an indelible mark on the show. By Paige Newman
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“CSI’s” Gil Grissom is one of TV’s rare creations. He’s Joe Friday meets Bill Nye the Science Guy. He’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson rolled into one person. Unlike the leads on other "CSI" shows — Horatio Caine in Miami, and Mac Taylor in New York — Grissom is a scientist, not a cop.

He doesn’t get caught up in what might be; he deals solely with what is. His very presence on a TV drama is a contradiction, because he eschews melodrama.

If you really want to know Grissom, examine his office. Notice the radiated fetal pig (Miss Piggy), the two-headed scorpion and the Big Mouth Billy Bass above the door. He’s a man who rides roller coasters after doing his employees’ yearly reviews and spends his free time studying bugs. One of his most romantic moments with Sara Sidle came when the two of them were both wearing beekeeper masks.

If you want a standard dramatic hero, go watch “CSI Miami’s” Horatio Caine remove his sunglasses a few million more times.

Grissom’s role on the show has always been as the pragmatist. While he feels for the victims, most of the time he’s more fascinated by the details of the case. Though he solves “who dun its,” it’s really the why, and especially the how that drives him. He never stops being the most curious person in the room.

Don’t expect a dramatic exit for Grissom. Sure, CBS will promote his eventual final appearance (10 episodes into the season) as though he were about to go sailing off a 50-foot cliff, but that’s not what will happen on the show.

The chances of Grissom being shot, having a mental breakdown, killing someone in a fit of rage or driving into the nearest brick wall are highly unlikely. That’s not who he is. His exit will be natural, impermanent (William Petersen has already suggested that he may make an occasional appearance, and he’s still a co-producer) and provide a gentle farewell to the co-workers who will miss him like crazy.

Grissom has always kept his team, which can get a tad dramatic, scattered and over-involved with the suspects, focused on the evidence.  Without him, they will be, in a sense, orphaned. The balance of the show is bound to shift without the fatherly way he guides Nick, Greg and Hodges, or the way he balances Catherine’s emotional empathy for victims. He and Sara were the science nerds. And without them, the show will have to change.

Laurence Fishburne is joining the show as a former pathologist who now works as a college lecturer in criminology. Entertainment Weekly’s that Fishburne's character may have some “funky serial killer DNA.” Sounds intriguing, but a little gimmicky for a character who is meant to ground a TV show. It also sounds a bit too dramatic; the kind of detail that would make Grissom raise his eyebrows and want to examine the bloodwork one more time. Too bad he won’t be there to do that.

Paige Newman is's Movies Editor.