When Fishburne was hired to replace the departing William Petersen in the 2008-09 season, it seemed like the right move: When the star of a series leaves, the next move is usually to find an actor of roughly equal stature to replace him. Fishburne, an Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated actor who hadn’t done a TV series in more than two decades, fit the bill perfectly.
For whatever reason, though, Fishburne’s character, Dr. Raymond Langston, didn’t strike the same chord among “CSI” fans that Petersen’s Gil Grissom did. Petersen seems unlikely to take his old job back full-time, and Marg Helgenberger is reducing her role as well, so the show will be looking for another lead actor (or actress) for Season 13.
That might not be a bad thing, though. With a new lead (and also a new timeslot, 10 p.m. Wednesdays), “CSI” could freshen things up a little. Zap2it humbly suggests the following people for consideration.
Michael Chiklis: Grissom and Langston were both cerebral, somewhat buttoned-up characters. Chiklis (“The Shield,” “No Ordinary Family”) would likely bring a much different energy to the crime lab. We could also see him playing much more of a “Vegas guy” than Petersen and Fishburne. Helgenberger’s Catherine Willows has deep roots in Las Vegas, but her experience has made her wary of the city’s allure. It might be fun to see a lead character who really embraces the wilder side of Sin City.
Dylan McDermott: If the show wants to keep the same template for the CSI team leader, it could do a lot worse than McDermott, who had years of brooding intensity on “The Practice” and proved pretty adept in the cop-show world on TNT’s “Dark Blue.”
Minnie Driver: Why not a woman at the head of the team? Driver starred in a CBS pilot (“Hail Mary”) earlier this year, and while the network didn’t pick it up, she reportedly turned in a pretty strong performance. And as someone fairly close in age or even younger than other members of the team, it could make for some interesting workplace dynamics.
Ashton Kutcher: Whoops — wrong CBS show.
Jesse L. Martin: The long-time “Law & Order” detective certainly knows how to mine the character moments in a plot-driven show. And if “CSI” ever did a musical episode, he could totally carry everyone else in the cast.
Elizabeth Mitchell: Intelligence? Check. Ability to be flinty when called for? Check. Someone who deserves a lead role in a series? Check and check.
Mark Valley: The former “Human Target” star can either go quietly intense (see his “Fringe” role) or swaggering and cocky (see “Keen Eddie,” still our favorite role of his), depending on how the show crafts the new character. Bonus: His character could have a running competition with Nick Stokes (George Eads) over who has the squarer jaw.
Jennifer Beals: So first, seeing Beals on TV again might ease our disappointment at the cancellation of “The Chicago Code.” But she’s also a fine actress who could easily slip into the world of “CSI,” and after seeing her as the head of an entire police force we wouldn’t have much trouble envisioning her as the leader of a small team of investigators.
Who would you like to see take over for Fishburne?