The ''Damages'' actor hopes to turn around the ship in the wake of Laurence Fishburne's short-lived stint

By Lynette Rice
Updated July 22, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

Changing leads in the 12th season of a series might seem like an exercise in futility, but CSI may have found a way to put its aging cop show back inside the winner’s circle. Fresh off his Emmy-nominated run as Arthur Frobisher on Damages, Ted Danson will assume the supervisory role behind the yellow tape when the CBS series returns on Sept. 21. (His character takes over the graveyard shift in Las Vegas while the team is still grappling with the professional and personal fallout from last season’s showdown with serial killer Nate Haskell.) The TV veteran — last seen smoking a doobie on HBO’s Bored to Death — replaces Laurence Fishburne, who was never able to restore the luster to the drama after William Petersen (Gil Grissom) left in 2009. Danson won’t have it any easier; CSI is down 14 percent in viewers (13.7 million) and 18 percent in adults 18-49 from the previous season — which is partly why the network moved the mother ship from Thursdays to Wednesdays this fall. CSI: Miami (12 million) and CSI: NY (10.9 million) are also down 6 percent and 12 percent, respectively, after moving to new times. Still, CBS seems willing to give Danson and all of its other crime-scene investigators a chance to shine. ”All three CSIs have been cornerstones of our lineup for the better part of the last decade,” Kelly Kahl, the net’s senior exec VP of prime time, tells EW. ”They may be in new slots, but they’re still winning pieces in our schedule.”