Over five seasons, the forensic teams of CSI and their spin-off counterparts at CSI: Miami and CSI: NY have dealt with a lot of stiffs. But one dead body CSI: NY viewers apparently didn’t want to deal with was Yasser Arafat’s.
As first reported by the Associated Press, CBS took the rare step of publicly criticizing the producer who decided to break into the final minutes of Thursday’s CSI: NY episode to report the Palestinian leader’s demise.
“An overly aggressive CBS News producer jumped the gun with a report that should have been offered to local stations for their late news,” the statement read. “We sincerely regret the error.”
CBS will re-air the whole episode on Friday at 10. A spokesman would not tell the AP if the producer would be disciplined.
The incident was a twist on an earlier dust-up at CBS over the coverage of another celebrity death: that of Princess Diana on August 30, 1997. But back then the problem wasn’t that CBS broke in too soon; it was that the network didn’t get on the air quickly enough.
CBS lagged other networks in going with the Diana story and initially provided coverage from Britain’s Sky TV instead of a CBS-anchored broadcast. In the aftermath, CBS demoted a high-ranking news executive.
One difference this time: The CSI triumvirate is the royalty of the CBS court. From Nov. 1-7, Nielsen ratings had the original CSI as the most-watched show in the country with 30.6 million people tuning in. The New York and Miami versions place 14th and 15th nationwide, with about 15 million viewers each.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 12, 2004