Petersen Going MIA on "CSI"?
Wed Feb 18, 8:45 PM ET
By Kimberly Potts
CSI star William Petersen is mad as hell, and he's not going to take it any longer! Well, not any longer than he's contractually obligated to do so, that is.
But just how long he is, in fact, contractually obligated to do so seems to be a topic for debate, as the Emmy-, Golden Globe- and Screen Actors Guild-nominated star kicked off a brouhaha with a Playboy magazine interview that suggests his days on the hit CBS drama are numbered.
"We're just finishing our 81st episode. That's a lot. I'll do CSI until I legally don't have to do it anymore, which I think is at the end of next year. Right now, that's as long as I can foresee doing this show," Petersen says in Playboy's March issue.
The source of his rush to ankle the show? Ostensibly, it's his long-standing beef with CBS' decision to carve out its own little Law & Order-ish series dynasty by continuing to spin off CSI.
Though, given the fact that CBS says Petersen is actually contracted to do the show through the 2006-07 season, more cynical boob tube fans might wonder if the star is trying to pull down some more small-screen scratch with his comments about leaving the hit show, la the not too distant effort by Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett.
Following a big pay hike in fall 2002, Petersen currently makes about $5.75 million a season for producing and acting in CSI.
The Thursday night series, which is averaging 26.3 million viewers a week and is the highest rated drama on television this season (third overall, behind Fox's weekly duo of American Idol episodes), has already begat CSI: Miami, which, despite some critical drubbing, has managed to average 17.7 million viewers each and is the ninth most watched series on TV this season.
"And they're going to do another CSI next year," Petersen tells Playboy, referring to the CSI: New York spinoff CBS has in development for fall 2004. "Hey, they can do the show five nights a week with five different casts, but as long as they don't have my guys, they're not going to do it as well.
"CSI: Miami doesn't have our chemistry," sniffs Petersen, who landed at number eight on a recent Harris poll of American's favorite TV personalities. "Taking a blueprint of something that was organically conceived and trying to synthesize it is the difference between organic chicken and chicken jerky. There's nothing I can do about that. That's Viacom, big American capitalism and ratings points."
Actually, Petersen did suggest something he'd like to do to take a swipe at the men responsible for the spin-off mania when asked by Playboy interviewer Stephen Rebello who he'd most like to have as "guest corpses" on CSI.
"The big three would be [CBS chairman] Les Moonves, [Alliance Atlantis Entertainment Group CEO] Peter Sussman and [CSI producer] Jerry Bruckheimer, all of whom are getting filthy rich off this show," says Petersen, who, while a producer on CSI, apparently does not get a cut from the spinoffs.
"They should spend a day on the slab while we poke and prod them. You'd have to ask their wives if they'd be convincing as stiffs."