Ted Danson, George Eads, Marg Helgenberger, Eric Szmanda, Paul Guilfoyle, Robert David Hall & Jorja Fox of the CBS series CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION Photo: Art Streiber/CBS © 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Outlasting its two spin-off series, CSI is back on for a 14th season. Aside from reaching its 300th episode with Marg Helgenberger returning, the altercation between George Eads and the writer has whittled down his screen time to three meagre episodes. Debashine Thangevelo got Ted Danson’s lowdown on what’s in store…

LIKE your Law & Order franchise, NYPD Blue and NCIS, CSI is just one of those series that, in raising the bar, also retains its popularity and lifespan on our screens.

And even without Gill Grissom (William Peterson), the series continues to appease and remain a drawcard for whodunit fans.

Also, it has already been given the green light for a 15th season with a new spin-off on the cards, too.

Following last season’s cliffhanger, Ted Danson says, “We ended… with several people in jeopardy. Morgan (Brody) had just been kidnapped while trying to go undercover to discover who our killer was. And Ellie Brass had been kidnapped as well. So I think the last kind of line was, ‘You have to choose, Paul: which child lives, which dies’.

“So it was very kind of dramatic and very scary and I don’t want to give anything away because it’s kind of a very complicated plot. But I will say people die. It’s a very, very sad beginning.”That he revels in this role is mirrored in his brilliant depiction. He is authoritative but also empathetic as a leader. And he brings these two traits out with aplomb.

One of the highlights this season is the 300th-episode milestone.

A humbled Danson responds, “I am standing on the shoulders of an incredible group of actors. You know, Marg (Helgenberger), who comes back to shoot some stuff, and George Eads, Jorja Fox, Eric Szmanda, who else? Paul Guilfoyle. They have all been here for 14 years and some of the others have been here for nine to 10 years. I have been here for two years, so I feel very blessed.

“The guy who is directing our show, Alec Smight, was here from day one as an editor and Carol Mendelsohn is still, you know, along with Don (McGill), leading the ship. It’s really a testament to the show that you have crew and cast members that have been here since day one. That’s pretty astounding.”

He continues, “The writers and the producers give the audience an airtight forensic mystery based 90 percent on science, so you get to play along and try to discover in a legitimate way who did this crime. It’s beautifully shot and you have grown to love these actors that have been with you for 300 episodes. So it’s a really tight ship and it’s really well done and people are still enjoying it around the world.”

Commenting on Helgenberger’s brief return in the Frame by Frame episode, he says, “They (the team) discover a man, Jack Witten, who they could not prove had killed this young girl because they couldn’t find the body. But they were convinced that he had. And 14 years later, the same man is involved in a murder of a young girl in his house in Vegas and he is very wealthy. Sara is still very angry that he got away. A lot of the characters are. So it gives a chance for Marg to come back and participate in a flashback-like manner.”

Meanwhile, Elisabeth Shue, as Julie Finlay, is nursing a lot of guilt following Morgan’s abduction.

She says: “When this season starts, I feel really, really on the edge and worried that she is not going to make it out alive. At the same time, Brass’s daughter is also in jeopardy and the two of them are together when the serial killer calls Brass.”

Unfortunately, Eads scenes have been reduced following his altercation with the writer. Hopefully, this time out won’t spill over into the 15th instalment.

• CSI (season 14) debuts on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Wednesday at 9.30pm.