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For only the second time ever, "CSI" will air less than 22 episodes this season, as CBS has cut the crime drama's episode order.

TVLine reports that the 15th season of the venerable drama will now have only 18 episodes, the fewest since the 17 that aired during the 2007-2008 writers' strike season. But the site says that the decision "was more about inventory than ratings."

CBS already has a backlog of programming waiting to make it to air, including the seventh (and rumored final) season of "The Mentalist," as well as the new Vince Gilligan drama "Battle Creek." Deadline notes that the cut "was part of a flex plan put in place in May, with the network now triggering the option to go down to 18 episodes."

TVLine's report also notes that "CSI"'s move to Sundays at 10 p.m. this season has been a relative success: though overall ratings are down, it's maintained consistent numbers among the coveted 18-49 bracket. But according to Deadline, there's still some room for concern, since spin-offs "CSI: Miami" and "CSI: New York" were both cancelled shortly after getting reduced episode orders late in their respective runs.

So does this spell the end for television's original crime procedural? Viewers will have to stay tuned -- literally -- to find out.

[via: TVLine, h/t Deadline]

Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

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