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Attack of the TV Clones: Thank 'L&O' and 'CSI'

June 14, 2002|NOEL HOLSTON | NEWSDAY

Everybody's picking CBS' "CSI: Miami" to be the fall season's slam-dunk hit--this despite the fact that the pilot, broadcast last month as an episode of the mother series, was one of the creakiest "CSIs" ever.

"Miami" star David Caruso, the actor who vainly bolted "NYPD Blue," exhibited little chemistry with the Las Vegas "CSI" contingent or Emily Proctor, his female co-star-to-be.

Why, then, the optimistic prognosis? Simple. Name recognition. "CSI" is a brand now. It will stand out like Caruso's carrot top among the unfamiliar (and often over-wordy) titles of new fall shows in TV-listing grids. If "CSI: Miami" works, as it probably will, the producers could very well franchise their brand, like KFC or "Law & Order." The hook, however, would be geographic: "CSI: Minneapolis" (the snowy one). "CSI: New Orleans" (the jazzy one). "CSI: North Platte" (the corn-fed one).

Every city in the country with any pride and expectation of progress will want its own. Getting a "CSI" pegged to your metropolitan area will become a symbol of having arrived, like getting a Bloomingdale's or an Ikea.

We know what would likely happen next, TV being the medium where cloning was invented and where plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. More and more networks will turn to the producers of their most successful series and say, "Could we get another of those--in Cincinnati?"

So fasten your seat belts and lock your tongues in cheek as we get ready for:

"The King of Jacksonville": Plump, parcel-delivery man and too-cute-to-be-true wife share a cramped, cinderblock rambler in Jacksonville, Fla., with her garrulous widower dad, a retired greyhound trainer.

"ER: Phoenix": With a cast that includes new faces and actors who left the Chicago-based original for opportunities that didn't pan out, it will offer a familiar mix of surgery and soap. In addition, the producers will guarantee viewers they'll never see a drop of rain or a flake of snow.

"Will & Grace: San Francisco," "Will & Grace: New Orleans," "Will & Grace: Minneapolis": Capitalizing on the popularity of the New York prototype, three more sitcoms featuring funny homosexual guys and their straight female friends, set in America's most gay-friendly cities.

"Friends: Nashville": Comic misadventures of six lusty young adults who live in the same apartment complex in Music City, among them self-employed song plugger Chandler Bodine; his wife, barbecue caterer Monica Wynette; her archeologist brother Hoss; and an endearingly dense aspiring singer, Willie Tribbiani. Their home away from home is a coffee shop and deli, Nashville Katz, operated by a former New Yorker.

"The West Wing: New York": Fast-talking drama set in the homes of a former president and first lady, the latter now a rising political figure.

"LAPD Blue": Oh wait, that's already been done. They call it "The Shield."

*

Noel Holston writes about television for Newsday, a Tribune company.

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