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  • Acceptable Targets: Any relatively harmless modern subculture that seems scary or dangerous to the general public or the target audience.
    • Gamers and gaming in "Hitting for the Cycle." For the love of all that is holy...
    • Subverted in, of all places, the episode that dealt with actual circus freaks. The freaks are the most sympathetic characters in the episode, are not portrayed as pathetic or as people to be looked down on, and the killer turns out to be by far the most "normal" out of all the suspects.
    • In at least three different instances, sex offenders were "outed" to their neighbors (and thus had their lives ruined by the CSIs) despite fact that in all three cases, the people involved had a) served their jail time and were now leading clean, unoffensive lives; b) were only tangentally involved in the cases, if even that; and c) police investigators aren't supposed to give out information on suspects to the general public anyway regardless of what that information is, as doing so until a conviction occurs is a serious civil rights violation.
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  • And You Thought It Would Fail: ABC turned the series down with the excuse of it being "Too confusing for the average viewer". Of course, it became a smash hit for CBS and the start of the Forensic Drama genre. note 
  • Anvilicious: The episode that centered around Internet bullying, though possibly a case where this needs to be brought to the public eye but it does get a bit egregious when Nick basically tries to say anyone who ever looked at the mocking videos, even if they did nothing about it or thought it was in bad taste, deserved to be put into the court system.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Sara is either one of the most compelling and woobieish characters on the show, or just plain crass and annoying.
    • Ray Langston...either he was a great character or Creator's Pet and really overused and given too much to do for a CSI 1.
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  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Sqweegel, a serial murderer out to avenge unpunished crimes... while wearing a rubber gimp suit, walking in a four-limbed hunch, and practically spitting his lines out. Despite hints he would return after escaping the cops, he was never spoken of again.
  • Bile Fascination: Not the show itself but any member of the Furry Fandom could watch "Fur and Loathing" to see how badly it is due to its poor image towards this fandom.
  • Complete Monster: See here.
  • Creator's Pet: Ray Langston. Many fans either dislike him or thinks he's So Okay, It's Average, yet in his run he had three season finales, the 200th episode and two season-long serial killer arcs dedicated to him and his problems.
  • Critical Research Failure: "Fur and Loathing" makes some gross exaggerations, misinterpretations and otherwise wrong turns in the Furry Fandom. May be due to this series coming from Viacom, the same people behind MTV's Sex2K series.
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  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Being that the show is set in "Sin City," the victims and killers are frequently just as evil as each other. For example, the secondary crime in the very first episode featured a man who killed his slovenly, drug-addicted cousin who'd been mooching off him for three years. Can you truly say anyone's in the right in a situation like that?
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Greg and Hodges in earlier seasons; when they were promoted to main characters the other lab rats got the same treatment, with Archie and Mandy in particular being well loved by the fans.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: "Ch-ch-ch-changes," the 100th episode, becomes this once the viewer remembers that the villains had an adorable little daughter who knew nothing of her parents' misdeeds and is now completely alone in the world, since even her nanny (who was also her surrogate mom since her mother is transgender and can't have children) was arrested for helping the couple cover up their crimes.
  • The Firefly Effect: Character example. Sofia Curtis, played by Louise Lombard. She was hardly developed, and only really had one episode focus on her (the episode "A Bullet Runs Through It"), but it seems the writers got bored with her. This resulted in Louise Lombard quitting the series, and moving back to England.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • An episode about a very troubled person shooting up the LVPD (three dead including the gunman, a teenager; additionally the person who manipulated him into shooting was arrested, at least a dozen wounded) aired the same day a very troubled person shoots up an army base (four dead including the gunman, over a dozen wounded).
    • "The Accused Is Entitled," which had an Expy of Johnny Depp being accused of murdering two women he had a one-night stand with and the cast being exasperated by the fact that his being a wealthy celebrity enables him to hire the best lawyers, scientists, etc. to help get him off. More than a decade later the real Depp would be accused of wife-beating, which along with other contemporary scandals related to Bill Cosby and Woody Allen among others has prompted serious discussion on the propensity of celebrities to get away with crimes.
    • The Final Boss of the series, in "Immortality," is a man who uses drugs to force his victims to commit suicide bombings along the Strip for him, sending Vegas into a state of panic. Two years later, the real Strip would see the deadliest mass murder in U.S. history, with nearly sixty people dead including the gunman - TEN TIMES more than the amount of people killed in the episode.
      • Even earlier than that, the Season 15 episode "Girls Gone Wilder" depicts a mass shooting inside a Strip hotel, which leaves nearly a dozen people dead. The last scene before the opening credits (the gunman, wielding an AR-15, watching over a crowd of people on a higher perch, prepared to take his first shot) makes this all the more uncomfortable.
    • In the Season 7 episode "Fannysmackin," caucasian Greg kills a teenage African-American gang member to stop him from beating a (also white) man to death, which sparks a subplot running through the next several episodes where the department is sued for wrongful death by the boy's family, and it's strongly implied that the family believes race to have been a motive in the killing. Greg is ultimately cleared, but fast forward to The New '10s and police departments all over the country have been dogged by accusations of racially-motivated killings of minority suspects, with the departments covering for the perpetrators, and suddenly he doesn't look so sympathetic.
  • Ho Yay: Nick and Greg. In fact, such a pairing has a large following, especially due to the subtext that occurs in their interactions.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Kelly from "Grave Danger," as she's being treated horribly in prison and it's strongly implied she didn't even commit the crime she's in jail for.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Many people tuned in to see the season 11 episode "Targets of Obsession" just to watch Justin Bieber's character get shot to death.
  • Memetic Mutation: Grissom literally Growing the Beard. It's arguably second to Chuck Norris.
  • Misaimed Marketing: The kids' science sets, even though the age range is tweens and teens, probably counts. Also the Club CSI chapter books.
  • Narm: The particular fetish of the dead Casino owner in the episode King Baby took an otherwise serious murder plot and brought a level of disbelief to viewers who took to the internet to see if it was, in fact, a real fetish.
  • Padding: The video games REALLY make you work to match fingerprints, DNA, and chemical samples.
  • Retroactive Recognition: A lot of secondary guest stars eventually found fame after their appearance on CSI. Rainn Wilson and John Krasinski both had guest spots before their own hit show, with Wilson having a memorable bit in one of the more popular episodes ("The Strip Strangler") as a possible suspect. And CSI NY 's Carmine Giovinazzo was a guest star on here before becoming a regular on the spinoff series. But, Word of God says the guest appearance wasn't an influence in casting him. A.J. Buckley, also from CSI NY, appeared on this show before becoming a regular on the spinoff.
    • Norm was the killer (sort of) in "Dog Eat Dog." The best example, however, is Eric Stonestreet as Ronnie Litra, the lab's questioned documents expert, who disappeared without explanation around the middle of Season 4... and is now quite famous as Cameron Tucker.
    • A year after playing a small guest role as a robbery witness in “Paper or Plastic?”, T.J. Thyne went on to land a regular role on another forensics series, ‘’Bones’’.
  • Seasonal Rot: The first few seasons received much more acclaim than the later ones. To be fair it's hard to avoid going stale when you have to keep making episodes for 15 years and the show is locked into a rather strict formula. One could make a case with show growing stale as early as Seasons 6/7, but it was likely Grissom's departure in Season 9 that really accelerated things.
  • Uncanny Valley: Somewhat discussed in "Lab Rats." See its quote under All Psychology Is Freudian on the main page.
  • The Woobie: All of the main cast have their moments, but Nick, Greg and arguably Sara get hit with it the most.
    • Heather in the Grand Finale. Having already lost her daughter to a crazed Neo-Nazi, she loses her little granddaughter to a random accident, shuts down both her therapy practice and her fetish club out of grief, is framed for multiple murders by a crazed stalker, and finally, at the very end, lets the man she loves go. One legitimately worries that she has nothing left in her life at all, especially since she's attempted suicide before.
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