Laurence Fishburne, CSI | CSI Laurence Fishburne and guest star Tracee Ellis Ross

These are tough times for CSI. Yeah, the show still does well in the ratings, but the series has lost its mojo since William Petersen?s Gil Grissom left two years ago. Enough time has passed to say flat out that Laurence Fishburne?s Ray Langston just hasn?t been as interesting a character. Langston is less a strong leader — or, as in the case of Grissom, a fascinatingly eccentric one — than just another member of the team, which has pushed Marg Helgenberger and George Eads to the forefront. They?re fine, to be sure, with Helgenberger?s Catherine enjoying some more screen time with an actual love life. But their characters always seem to be waiting for Gil to poke his head around a lab corner to give an inscrutable order or test them on an arcane theory.

The return of Jorja Fox as Sara Sidle hasn?t really upped the energy level. (If anything, the show has suffered a bit by losing another woman — Liz Vassey as the sparky ”lab rat” Wendy Sims.)

Now in its 11th season, CSI still airs good hours, and coexecutive producers Treena Hancock and Melissa R. Byer are talented writers who authored two of this season?s better episodes, November?s ”Wild Life” and Feb. 3?s ”The Two Mrs. Grissoms,” which treated us to a fleeting glimpse of Gil Grissom via a video-chat conversation with Sara. Even tucked away on a screen-within-a-screen, Petersen exuded the kind of energy and bristling curiosity that CSI too frequently lacks these days. C

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