The third installment of the CSI franchise has gotten off to a strong start, cleaning up in the ratings against NBC's long-running warhorse Law & Order on Wednesday nights (10 pm/ET). But CBS isn't content to rest on those laurels. CSI: NY producers have been given a mandate to lighten up the look of their show and tell stories that are unique to the Big Apple.

Early episodes looked like they were shot in the sewer system and had a generic feel to them. "We need to bring Melina [Kanakaredes] and Gary [Sinise] into the light so our audience can get to know them," says CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler. "And we want this CSI to tell stories that can only be told in New York, which has many faces. There is the darker underbelly downtown. But there is also Central Park. New York's a vibrant, bright, colorful, multicultural place."

Changes will be noticeable this week, with an episode set at a Westminsteresque dog show. There will even be some Law & Order-style headline-cribbing with a story based on the 1994 case of the Tanglewood Boys, a gang of young mobsters who killed a college student outside a sports bar in Yonkers.

There are also personal developments ahead for Sinise's character, Det. Mac Taylor. Still haunted by his wife's death on September 11, Mac will begin a romantic relationship with Jane Parsons (Sonya Walger), who works in the DNA lab.

"Mac will continue to commit to putting the death of his wife behind him," says executive producer Anthony Zuiker. "Just when it looks like he has jumped over the hurdle, he'll get a piece of news [in the season finale] that will shake him into oblivion and force him to move forward [in] Season 2."

Could it be, as it's been speculated, that Mac finds out his wife isn't really dead? All Zuiker will give us is a cryptic "No comment." — Additional reporting by Mary Murphy