Mrs. Skippy and I are big fans of CSI, so we were looking forward to the slough of new, gritty, procedural dramas from CBS this season. Sadly, none of the freshman programs measured up to our expectations.
We started off the New Fall TV Season Preview Week with CSI: Miami, the new spin-off our favorite Thursday night forensic drama. Both shows, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, detail how mysteries are solved by the Crime Scene Investigation squads; the original, set in Las Vegas, the Miami-based one, based in, well, Miami.
Or so the titles tell you. But the settings, cast, dialects, lighting, and obvious soundstage sets tell you something completely different. First of all, there are very few Latino or Cubans in this Miami; only one African-American, and so far, no Gays. It’s like we’re in some weird kind of Bizarro-dimension Miami populated by Pretty Yet Serious Caucasians. Sure, Khandi Alexander is the coroner, and Adam Rodriguez is one of the investigors, but to be truthful, they both come across like Pretty Yet Serious Caucasians, only with really heavy tans.
And yes, there are outside establishing shots, trying to convince you that you’re in southern Florida. Look, there’s an alligator farm! Check it out, the Fountainbleu! But the lighting for the generic outside scenes is way too harsh for the Florida coast, and the Everglades shots were laughably backed by some sort of nebulous, murky light cloud, as opposed to an actual horizon. It seemed to be saying to the viewer: Hey, don’t look back here, look up front where the investigation is, come on, it’s the Everglades, really! Don’t look for a cloud or a sky, there might be a crocadile right in front of you!
And don’t expect any dialects to help you guess what city you’re in. The real Miami has a gamut of accents and speech patterns, running all the way from Fidel Castro to Jerry Seinfeld’s Uncle Leo, retiring in Boca. But the closest thing we get to something that doesn’t sound like Middle America is the Nordic-looking yet Alabama-sounding Emily Procter, who pushes her native Carolina accent so thickly that we expect pecans and mint julips to drip out of her mouth.
And, last but certainly not least; if there was any worse chemistry between stars David Caruso and Kim Delaney, John Ashcroft would arrest them for bio-terrorism. It’s not a good idea to put two actors from two different acting schools in the same scene (the smoldering, intense everything-is-portentous school versus the warm, compassionate please-won’t-you-be-my-neighbor good girl theory of acting). Even worse, since both of them first made it big on NYPD Blue, I kept flashing back to that show. Kim looks rather lost without Jimmy Smits to return her passion, as if she is waiting for someone to exonnerate her from a drunk driving charge, and anytime she was talking with Caruso, I half-expected Dennis Franz to come in and show us his naked butt (which might have been more interesting).
Plus, the supporting cast are also all well-established (Alexander from News Radio, Rodriguez from Roswell, Procter from West Wing). It looks so obviously like A TV PRODUCTION. The original had the advantage of a cast that was relatively unknown, except for Marge Helgenberger, who essetially was refining her same character from China Beach (where she starred with Kim’s sis, Dana).
Finally, for some reason, the CSI unit in Miami isn’t content with little things like Murders. So far they have taking on Corporate Crime-induced Plane Crashes and the periennial Mad Bomber. The plots are so far out, in relation to the texture of the cast and sets which are so ordinary, as to make the resulting feeling disconcerting. It’s as if a bunch of TV execs were in a hot tub, doing some strange white powder, and they decided to throw in a whole bunch of neat yet cheap-to-produce stuff, without thought to coherency. But we know that could never happen, could it?Powered by Sidelines