The good news is that we're not going to get a fourth painfully derivative iteration of CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation franchise. The bad news is that creator Anthony Zuiker has decided to build a CSI-branded crime lab in Second Life. This fall, Gary Sinise, the lead on CSI: New York, will chase a killer into virtual worlds. Viewers can then follow the Gary Sinise avatar into Second Life, where they'll help solve the mystery in a virtual Crime Lab. The television conclusion will air sometime in the spring.
The premise is similar to alternate-reality games — a genre which crosses between the Web and real life, in which authors scatter a collection of mysterious puzzles online and offline, already practiced by ABC (Lost) and NBC (Heroes) to maintain viewer attention between broadcasted episodes.
The theory is fine. The practice is less intelligible. Zuiker, divulging the details to Philly.com columnist Ellie Gray at a CBS party, seems to have been confused, and possibly more than a little drunk. "What you'll see is Gary Sinise's avatar be downloaded . . . He'll walk and he'll fly. "
The way Zuiker tells it, CBS bought a stake in 3-D-world content developer Electric Sheep and realized it needed to do something with it. Well, that makes a certain sense, if you're sloshed. I wish Zuiker the best of luck. Only someone who'd imbibed quite a bit would believe that 16 million viewers will endure the painful download and registration process, and learn the strange byways of Second Life, just to get a glimpse of a virtual Sinise at work.