THREE "CSI" SERIES might not be enough to contain Anthony Zuiker.
But rather than expand the franchise further on CBS, the creator of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and its New York and Miami spinoffs is out instead to conquer virtual worlds.
Starting with Second Life, the online community that this fall will be part of a crossover with "CSI: NY" in which star Gary Sinise's character will download an avatar and chase a killer into the virtual-world community. "It's going to be the biggest cross-platform stunt in TV history," bragged Zuiker at a recent CBS party in Los Angeles.
Ideas for cross-platform stunting usually originate with marketing guys, not writers, but that's a line the relentlessly energetic Zuiker's never appeared to notice.
CBS, Zuiker said, " took a stake in Electric Sheep," a company that designs software for Second Life (www.secondlife.com), a virtual community whose "residents" number more than 8.5 million.
"And then they called and said, 'Hey, we just bought some of this company and what do you think?' and I'm like, 'What I think is, I want to have 16 million people go to first life ["CSI: NY"] and to Second Life, that's what I think. That'd really be a lot of fun,' " said Zuiker, who's been working on the project about three months.
If you can call it working.
"I belong to Second Life. I play every day," he said.
Zuiker seems confident that the show's viewers will be able to find their way from their first lives.
"What you'll see is Gary Sinise's avatar be downloaded . . . He'll walk and he'll fly," he said.
"The campaign will be something like, 'Your first life begins at 10 o'clock. But your Second Life begins this weekend.' You'll be able to go and download and get in the site and play in the ['CSI'] lab."
Sinise may not be taking up permanent residence in the virtual world, but Zuiker hopes "CSI: NY" fans will keep coming back to Second Life after the initial show, scheduled to be the season's fifth episode.
Right now, Electric Sheep's working with "CSI: NY" "to build a virtual lab, to give people the experience of playing in the lab and doing face reconstructions . . . and also there's a Zuiker Blog, where you can go in and see a dead body and then give your opinion about what happened to the body, and then I'll rank, 1 through 10, the Top 10 people," he said.
If there's one message you should take away from tonight's premiere of ABC's latest "reality" show, "Fat March" (9 p.m., Channel 6), it's this:
Fat people deserve to be punished.
Let other TV shows put a roof over their contestants' heads while serving up the humiliation that's the routine fare of nearly everyone, thick or thin, who's foolish enough to embark on a televised "journey" - that's not the way they do things on "Fat March."
"If they think they're going to lose weight living in a mansion or sleeping in a comfortable bed, or be pampered during their workouts, they've got a shock coming," warns Trainer Steve just before he and a gleeful Trainer Lorrie deliver the bad news that "Fat March" isn't a month, but a concept.
"Each of you has just 10 weeks to walk over 500 miles across nine states," says Steve to a dozen overweight people.
If all 12 make it, they'll "share an incredible cash prize of $1.2 million," adds Lorrie.
Oh, and if anyone drops out, each of the remaining contestants loses $10,000 per dropout.
But what's heartbreaking about "Fat March" is that it's pretty clear none of these people is really in it for the money. Instead, they're clinging to the hope that a TV show can help them do what they haven't been able to do by themselves. And what's also pretty clear is that this TV show is a lot more interested in feeding viewers' prejudices about the overweight than it is in helping anyone.
After the group's walked 65 miles over eight days - camping out and consuming low-fat meals along the way - some viewers may be shocked by the relatively small amounts lost in some cases.
"Fat March's" trainers dismiss the wide variations as gender-based (because otherwise, they might have to admit diet and exercise programs don't work the same for everyone) and seem mighty cavalier, too, about the risks involved in starting overweight and apparently sedentary people on a rigorous exercise program literally overnight.
Overweight walkers (and yes, we do exist) might at least relish the scenery. Beyond that, I found most of what I saw on "Fat March" more offensive than uplifting.
But, as always, your mileage may vary. *