You never forget your first “grownup” show. Though you may still watch shows made for teenagers, it signals your arrival to the world of primetime network dramas or comedy. For me, at least, it was also my introduction to TV fandom. It gave me my first ship and my first character to look up and relate to (who shares a remarkable number of similarities to my favorites today). Though I stopped watching the show long ago, it will always hold a special place in my TV history so today I’d like to tell you all about my early love for CSI.
I didn’t start watching CSI from the beginning. In fact, I don’t even remember why I started watching at all. For whatever reason, I watched the second season episode “Chasing the Bus” and I was hooked for the next several years of my life. I went back and watched all the previous episodes on DVD and started watching live in the fall of 2002. Before the days of DVR and online streaming the next morning, appointment TV was much more popular than it is now and this was must-see-TV for me. Friends knew that they were not to call me while it was airing because I didn’t want to talk to them. Everyone who knew me knew this was my show and I was so enthusiastic about it that I got several other people watching as well. I got fingerprint powder and lifting tape for my birthday in 2003 and I owned more than one book about the forensic science behind the show. I was part of the generation of teenagers who grew up watching the show and who were inspired to learn more about the field.
CSI introduced me to Sara Sidle, the first character I have felt fiercely protective over. She wasn’t great with people (a trait that my teenage self greatly related to), she had some huge emotional walls that she didn’t often left people cross (again, something I related to), she cared deeply about getting justice for victim’s families and the victims themselves, and she was a really good CSI. She was also deeply unhappy and all I wanted was for her to find some happiness in her life. Her demons constantly haunted her and did until she left the show in season 8 in an attempt to figure out her life and what she needed.
She was my reason for watching the show and her final (at the time) episode was my final one as well. But her influence over me and the fictional characters I love continues to be seen in my current life. So many characters I love struggle with opening up to people. Kate Beckett, Emma Swan, and Cristina Yang are probably the best current examples of that. And I recognize that’s not strictly because of Sara. It’s because it’s something I struggle with, therefore I relate to characters with the same problem. But Sara was the first who made me believe that it was something I could improve on. She did open herself up little by little before she left to take care of her own mental health. She grew and she found happiness and she made me feel proud.
Speaking of her happiness, it was her relationship with Grissom that introduced me to the world of shipping. From the moment their characters were reunited on the show, it was clear there was something special between them. There was flirtation, moments of prop/music-related subtext, protective moments, and heartbreak as each explored other relationships. The moments may not have been frequent but they were looked at and analyzed over and over again. The connection and caring between these two very private, very emotionally closed off people spoke to me at the time and was a relationship that I was very invested in.
It was a ship that taught me patience. It took 4 seasons for Grissom to admit his feelings for Sara. It took another season for Sara to open up to him about her past and start the process of letting him fully in. It took another season still for them to officially be shown as a couple. It was another season before anyone else in the lab knew about their relationship. Then finally Grissom proposed the next season in season 8 and Sara left 4 episodes later. All in all, it’s not the most satisfying ship I’ve ever had but it was my first. Even if I recognize why they didn’t work out in the long term, knowing that they went through all of that only to be broken up off screen still hurt. That was how much I loved this show and this ship. Six seasons after I stopped watching, I was still disappointed to hear they had divorced.
I haven’t watched the show in years but I still like knowing that it’s still on. It’s a reminder of such a large period of my life and some very happy fandom memories. There’s something special about firsts and that’s exactly what this show is in so many ways.
I want to hear about your TV firsts! Tell me about any of the firsts that make you the happiest – first show, first ship, first favorite character, first fandom experience or any other first I’ve forgotten about.