Kent faculty, students reflect on ‘CSI: Miami’

Ali White

Scott Lautanen, director and co-producer of the hit show CSI: Miami, may be famous now. But it wasn’t long ago that he was sitting in professor Ben Whaley’s office with both arms in casts, taking his TV production-2 final exam orally.

“I was a new, young professor at the time and didn’t want to get a reputation for letting kids off the hook too easy,” said Whaley, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “He came in explaining why he couldn’t take the final because of this flag football injury excuse, with both arms in casts, and I didn’t take it. I made him sit there after class and take the exam orally and he did fine.”

Years later, Whaley said he was more than surprised to hear Lautanen’s voice on his machine, asking if there was any way to help out, considering his position with CSI: Miami.

“I thought that after a stunt like that I would never hear from Scott again,” Whaley said. “But after a quick call to Marianne (Warzinski), we got the ball rolling and realized we could bring him to campus to talk to our students.”

Lautanen will be speaking to selected classes tomorrow and Friday, and will also host a question and answer session, open to all students tomorrow at 7 p.m. in room 104, Nixson Hall. The Kent State alumnus is a 1984 graduate of telecommunications in the School of Speech, now equivalent to an electronic media degree in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

After graduation, Lautanen pursed his dreams by going to Hollywood and working for Steven J. Cannell Productions, then becoming a director of The Pretender and then landing his current job with CSI: Miami.

The popular forensic thriller series has inspired a near cult following of adoring fans of the show.

“CSI caught the spirit of forensics and the murder mystery and people are wrapped up in it,” said Max Grubb, assistant professor of electronic media in JMC. “People can identify with the characters and the juggling of their lives on the show and the actual personalities of characters.”

People are fascinated by crime and CSI came along with the right program at the right time, said Gary Hanson, assistant professor in JMC.

CSI hasn’t benefited everyone, however, according to Steve Schirra, sophomore biology major and assistant forum editor at the Stater.

“CSI ruined my life because I used to want to be a forensic scientist,” said Schirra. “But since the show came out, millions of teenage girls have flocked into the field of forensic science thinking that they’ll not only get to interrogate criminals, but also look really good doing it.

“The field has become so overwhelmed that is nearly impossible to get into grad school, all thanks to CSI.”

Contact CCI beat reporter Ali White at [email protected].