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Laurence Fishburne leaving 'CSI'

Posted by Matthew Gilbert  June 8, 2011 06:55 AM

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I can't say I'm surprised.

When Laurence Fishburne replaced William Petersen after Petersen left "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" in 2008, he was doomed to disappoint fans. Petersen was beloved, and his character, Gil Grissom, was the essence and heart of the show. No matter how good Fishburne was -- and as Ray Langston he was very good indeed, a low-key and yet riveting TV presence -- "CSI" lovers were going to find him wanting.

Some have blamed Fishburne for the show's sliding ratings, which have dropped significantly in recent years. Only 11.4 million viewers watched this season's finale. But I suspect, "CSI" was on its way down, anyway; after 11 seasons, it has lost a whle lot of freshness and energy. How many freaky Las Vegas crimes can the writers come up with, without repeating themselves? How many character departures can they make into believable plot turns?

Fishburne's contract expired last month, and he has decided not to renew. Marg Helgenberger's contract also expired last month, but she has announced that she will be back for a few episodes. We'll see how it all turns out, as the show moves to Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. I hope Paul Guilfoyle doesn't jump ship, too... He's one of my favorites.

Thoughts about Fishburne's departure? Possible replacements -- aside from Charlie Sheen?

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