AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Zuiker, creator of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," may not have suffered for his art. But he's been really, really scared in its service.
For research, Zuiker rode along with Las Vegas criminalists on the graveyard shift about two years ago. Arriving at the scene of a kidnapping-assault, he was handed a flashlight and put to work searching for evidence.
Suddenly ... well, let the TV writer tell it.
"I'm on all fours, looking. I lift the bedskirt and I see two eyeballs," he recalled. "A hand comes out, scratches me on the face. I flew up, hit the ceiling, shouting 'There's somebody under the bed!' ... My heart is gunga, gunga, gunga!"
Authorities had an arrest and Zuiker had a plot twist for his debut episode.
The CBS drama about crime-busting forensic scientists in Las Vegas emerged as a hit in its first year and is doing even better as a sophomore.
In "CSI," professionals bring order out of chaos, turning the messiest crime scene into tidy evidence. They speak in appropriately concise dialogue as devised by Zuiker and company.
Pre-show business, Zuiker worked as a stockbroker, a tram operator at the Mirage and "assistant garbanzo bean" in the hotel-casino's ad department, with duties including copy editing.
There is, Zuiker insists, a certain symmetry in his creation of "CSI." When he signed up for a forensics class at his Las Vegas high school, he was thinking of emulating Jack Klugman in "Quincy M.E.," the 1976-83 drama about a medical examiner.
The class was not about forensic medicine; it was competitive speaking. After a tentative start, Zuiker ended up parlaying his skill in the field into college scholarships.
Crafting and delivering remarks turned out to be solid preparation for screenwriting. When an actor-friend began acing auditions using Zuiker's speeches, it didn't take long for Hollywood to come knocking -- in the form of a William Morris agent.
Zuiker eventually invested in books on screenwriting. He and his buddy wrote a script, "The Runner," in six weeks and quickly got a $35,000 offer for it.
"SOLD! Absolutely SOLD!" was Zuiker's reaction, followed by "I'm out of here!" to his Mirage boss. He packed up and headed to Los Angeles.
After seeing "The Runner" turned into a disappointing film, Zuiker worked on other scripts -- including one for Leonardo DiCaprio, then hot off "Titanic" -- that failed to come to fruition.
Try writing for television, an agent suggested, setting up a pitch with Jerry Bruckheimer's ("Black Hawk Down," "Pearl Harbor") production company.
"I only want to do one thing. I've gotta do something with forensic science," he told company executives. It wasn't "Quincy M.E." inspiring him; this time it was a nonfiction series on forensics, "The New Detectives" on Discovery Channel, that hooked Zuiker.
He quickly laid out his vision for the drama: Open after violence has occurred. Follow the process of detection, being specific about methods, then re-create the crime at the end. Magnified shots of bullet wounds and hair follicles would be de rigueur.
"We'll make science cool and fun for America. That's what we'll do," Zuiker said.
This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page C5.