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‘CSI’ creator learned on job

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Anthony Zuiker

Anthony Zuiker

HOLLYWOOD — Anthony Zuiker, the creator and executive producer of "CSI" and "CSI: Miami," knew pretty quickly that he was getting himself into trouble when he began researching the shows.

Before he began writing the first episode, he asked to accompany real-life crime-scene investigators in Las Vegas. "I said, 'You know, I want the goriest, bloodiest, craziest shift. I want to get the information (and) write a great pilot.' "

(Had we known that, none of us would have been surprised by how gory, bloody and crazy the "CSIs" have turned out out be.)

LVPD officers advised Zuiker to go along on the graveyard shift. (And, you'll note, most of the action in the original series takes place at night.)

During his second night of ride-alongs, he went on a call for an aggravated assault.

"It was myself and the real CSI. Allegedly, a female picked up another female in a bar (and) brought her back to a motel where there were three guys. They took advantage of her. Did some bad things," Zuiker said.

The cops arrested the three men, took the victim into protective custody but couldn't find the other woman.

"So we were called to the scene — Anthony Zuiker with a little pad and paper doing some research on a pilot," Zuiker said. "The guy gives me a comb and says, 'Anthony, hit your knees and comb the carpet for bodily fluids.' "

His immediate reaction was "Excuse me?" but he ended up doing as asked.

"I swear . . . I lifted the bedskirt (and) she was hiding under the bed. (She) scratched my face, jumped up like a cat," Zuiker said. "I'm just the writer, man. I'm just the writer."

"The moral of the story is that was the birth of 'CSI,' which as been the birth of surprises."

Zuiker is as surprised as anyone that both the original show and the spin-off have turned into huge hits. "CSI" is the most-watched show on television; "CSI: Miami" was the most-watched new show of last season.

So, given all the success of the two shows, where will the next "CSI" show be set?

" 'CSI: Honolulu' because I want to just run the show and relax," joked Zuiker, who's in no hurry to add a third show — something he sees as coming "two, three years from now."

"That's way-down-the-line talk," he said. "All of our focus is really on 'CSI' and 'CSI: Miami.' I think that would be something late on, but this is a time where we're really focused on marking 'CSI' great and 'CSI: Miami" great."

ONE BIG, HAPPY FAMILY? According to Zuiker, everything is just hunky-dory between the casts of the two "CSIs" now. Which wasn't always the case, as "CSI" star William Petersen made various derogatory comments about the spin-off and even refused to pose for a TV Guide picture with "CSI: Miami" star David Caruso.

"Billy Petersen loves his show. He's very passionate about 'CSI,' " said Zuiker, who maintains that stories about the rivalry are "overblown."

"I think (Petersen) has come to accept the fact that the franchise is growing. That this has become bigger than him."

(Of course, his fears that a second "CSI" would dilute the ratings of the first didn't pan out.)

"There are no tensions as of this point," Zuiker said. "We're moving forward with both shows. There's great camaraderie and it's not an issue."

E-MAIL: pierce@desnews.com