Stephen M. Silverman
September 26, 2002 11:25 AM

CBS’s “CSI: Miami,” starring David Caruso and Kim Delaney, may have attracted nearly 23 million viewers this past Monday night — making it the most-watched September drama debut since “ER” in 1994 — but the Florida-based spinoff of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” isn’t charming everyone.

The original show’s star and producer, William Petersen, is now publicly carping about the copycat program. “They should have waited five years for a ‘CSI’ spin-off, or at least four,” Petersen, 49, tells Chicago Sun-Times TV critic Phil Rosenthal. “They won’t even wait for that … time to gestate, like a ‘Law & Order.'”

In a further dig, Peterson, who costars on “CSI” with Marg Helgenberger, referred to the new show as “NYPDCSI,” because of the participation of former “NYPD Blue” stars Caruso and Delaney.

Speaking over breakfast in his new home in Los Angeles, Petersen goes on to tell Rosenthal: “I’m the only one who said I won’t have anything to do with ‘CSI: Miami’ because it’s too conflict-of-interest for me to even conceive of, and they still have their hands in it … It’s tricky, because it’s everything we can do to get our show done. If our show starts to suffer, I’ll go berserk. ”

Helgenberger, 41, also got in her two cents’ worth at the Emmy pre-show on Sunday, telling Matt Lauer, “As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one ‘CSI,’ and that’s the one nominated tonight.”

CBS spokesman Chris Ender, attempting to downplay any notion of a feud, tells the New York Post: “We wouldn’t be doing ‘CSI: Miami’ if we thought it would hurt ‘CSI.’ That’s the mother ship.”

Petersen, who developed “CSI” with action-movie king Jerry Bruckheimer (“Pearl Harbor”), similarly voiced concern over another new CBS crime drama, “Without a Trace,” also produced by Bruckheimer, which, in Peterson’s view, is “another ‘CSI’ show.”

“I can hardly even talk to those guys,” he says. “I mean, what are we, McDonald’s?”

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