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TV Review: CSI – Post-Mortem

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I hate to do it, but I have to trash another favorite series of mine because it's lost its edge and vision. The 2006 season has proven a disappointment to this hardcore fan and here’s why.

A little more than a year ago, I tardily discovered the TV show CSI. I was on extended sick leave and was bored out of my mind so I started flipping channels. And much like Buffy, I innocuously flipped on a channel and discovered something I had never seen before. One thing, though, Buffy never got boring; Buffy never stepped out of its own universe.

In those months of sick leave, I started consuming all things CSI — the original, New York, and Miami. I just couldn’t get enough. Well, New York I could enough of. Right off the bat, I found CSY: NY to be bland and circular. The whole show was based in aesthetics. Everything looks fashionably perfect. I’ve never seen such a pretty bunch of labrats. Because seriously, has anyone ever seen such a high concentration of hotness in a work area for nerds? Nerds are nerds for many reasons and one of them is the inability to relate to people. Yet everyone here, even when dissecting people, look all dolled up for a party. We got cleavage, muscle shirts, come-hither stares, and very bland acting.

How many times must we see Stella wiggle a sample in a vial up in front of her eyes? How many shy naive girly looks can Montana give us? I live in a big city; it takes all but three months to lose your innocent naiveté about big city life. Six months later, you’ve blended in with the locals. You know where the best bagels are, you know which streets to avoid, yada yada yada. How many freakin’ shoulder shrugs while shaking his head can Danny Messer perform before he pulls something?

And I won’t even get started on Gary Sinise’s role. Because, who cares? The guy couldn’t act his way out of a wet paper bag. Somebody pour some salt on him to give him flavor. He could be the butt of every white joke out there. Name any of his movies and he’s the one who put the suck into it. Anyone remember that slag-heap Impostor? If you don’t, don’t worry about it — even Uwe Boll couldn’t have made it worse. Gary produces CSI: NY, so you’d think he’d throw his role a few bones once in a while to make his character more interesting.

CSI: NY was DOA.

Moving up on the list is CSI: Miami. Here I thought they couldn’t do wrong. It's Miami, likely the most corrupt city in North America and it’s pretty, it’s sunny, and it’s got beaches, surf, the whole nine yards. When I started watching Miami, it was a feast. It basically copied the recipe from Vegas but made everything slicker and more action oriented. I saw nothing wrong with this, at first, since I didn’t want a CSI clone set in Miami. I thought it had its own identity. It looked like Horatio Caine was the prince of cool. Calleigh Duquesne is simply the hottest CSI ever, but then, I just hear her speak and I melt like a 14-year old getting a handful of breast for the first time, so I’m completely biased. Alexx Wood (why the two Xs, anyway?) was touching with her compassion for the victims. The story line had some background to it, like Horatio’s brother and sister-in-law.

But again, they overdid it on the aesthetics part — too much of it and not enough substance. This series needs a jolt of reality because it is highly repetitive — crime scene, Horatio says something witty, obvious, and predictable then puts his sunglasses on with both hands and/or looks sideways and walks away, cue the title music. Because it is highly repetitive — Alexx, always in a very expensive tailleur and Gucci sunglasses, is inspecting the corpse and then ponders wisely on the poor end the victim met at the hands of a murderous bad guy. Because it is highly repetitive — Horatio ends up doing something heroic and worthy of a huge camera panning around him with his carrot-top in the wind… how cool is that?

How many sunglasses with both hands can you ingest? How many of the same line with a different name inserted can you tolerate? “[Insert name — here said in a stern and stoic voice], we’re gonna find him, I promise.” Come on, guys, think of something better. This is exactly what Lisa Simpson meant when she screamed about two-dimensional characters with catch phrases. What’s worse is that Caine is progressively turning into some modern Dirty Harry. Just last week, he calmly drove a bomb-laden car through downtown Miami, parked it on a pier, walked smoothly away as the car blew up, never even blinking, his heartbeat never getting above 70, and catch phrasing again with “Boom, baby” (or something of the sort) and that’s where the show completely lost me as a viewer. End of story. I’ll never watch again.

This is completely offtrack for the CSI universe fans have come to love. It’s kitschy, it’s cliché, and proof that they are out of ideas. The show is about a crime lab, once the crime has been perpetrated. Not an ongoing investigation unit. Not an action flick. CSI was about the brains behind investigation, not the brawn part.

CSI: MIAMI is dead to me.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation remains on my list though. It’s all about geeks doing their thing. Still gritty, still slick, and, most importantly, still smart. Gil Grissom simply cannot be imitated. His eclectic three-dimensional group has the chops to be believable as a team. Street smarts, book smarts, and the absolute coolest police detective you could think of, the scruffy Jim Brass. Greg Sanders is completely believable as the eager newbie. Sara Sidle is the reclusive but friendly and intuitive CSI. I could mention the whole cast in praise. The story lines are waning a little, though this year’s opener was brilliant, with the little maquette of the murder scene within the murder scene, but the show needs a little fixing up.

This is what I think of when I think of CSI: Gruesome Grissom can’t connect to anything or anyone — nor would he care to — and despite being a genius, still looks at the world through the eyes of a child with wisdom, like spoon-boy in The Matrix. That’s a labrat. Bugs, it’s all about the bugs and a singing fish. Intricate murder scenes win over the easy action scenes. Gut wrenching tests of resilience, like being buried alive with bugs chewing away at you. It’s about using gray matter, not letting the gray matter get used.

So in the end, Miami and New York are floaters, leaving the original CSI alive and kicking. I’m buckling up for the November sweeps. CSI’s sweeps episodes are often big productions worthy of cinematic greatness. I can only hope the show keeps its marbles, its heading, and continues its great run. NY and Miami, well, I’m not caring anymore.

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About David Desjardins

  • CSI has remained fairly strong, in my book. The recent episode where Greg is jumped? Holy crap!

    Miami does become a series of cliches at times, but it’s Miami, dude!

    NY, well…it took a while, but I’m finally starting to get into it. It seems darker and drearier, flatter, and more impenetrable, but hang in there. It’ll grow on you.

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  • Rob

    The science on CSI: Miami is abysmal. At least NY tends to get it right most of the time. For some reason, I’ve yet to catch a serious gaffe on CSI itself.

    BTW: On CSI: Miami, you can tell who the bomber is. The bomber always has a model rocket some place or uses model rocket fuel (although in a way that wouldn’t actually work). The model rocket community sued the BATFE, and the BATFE is out for payback.

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    Woohoo! Great

  • Irish

    I do not like CSI like I used to anymore, Gil Grissom lost his spark. Hooking him up with a subordinate was so wrong, as they made Gil, the once well-loved character, into a hypocritical jerk. I try to catch the Greg or Catherine-heavy episodes though as they’re the only remaining likeable and interesting characters on the show.

  • Marilyn

    Personal attacks are not allowed? Poor Mr. Sinise. Somebody broke the rules!

  • I’m sorry Marilyn, but I just can’t stand the guy

  • “Boom, baby” (or something of the sort)

    Believe it or not it was actually worse than you thought…

    He said “Burn…Baby burn”. I had to stop myself from screaming “Noooooooooooooooo!” and leaping out a window.

    That was the night the lights went out in Florida.

  • On campus, I saw a flyer, on Thursday of a few weeks ago, which said that they were showing CSI, with free popcorn, in the Student Center.

    It must not have been advertised well, because I was the only one who showed up, for watching the show.

    That was the episode where that young CSI was attacked by the mob, which had been killing people.

    For some reason, the large television in the Student Center cut out, right after they captured one of the bad guys, at the end (the episode was almost over anyway, but it was odd how it just cut out, at that moment)… I don’t know if this was a CBS problem, or just a problem with that television set.

    Anyway, I (though not a regular viewer of that show, aspects of which I find annoying) watched the last episode, on Thursday night. I saw, at the beginning, that one of their storylines appeared to be a courtroom-type scene… Something that I’m a fan of. (I’m a Law and Order person, not a CSI person 🙂

    Initially, I thought that it may be a ‘mock trial’ exercise, but then, I was not pleased to find out that – not only was it for real, but the person on ‘trial’ was that CSI, who was brutally beaten. It makes me mad that someone, who was victimized like that, because of his heroic actions, was actually hauled before an inquest hearing, with a jury…. I had assumed, when that episode a few weeks ago cut out, that it was going to be over, once that case had been resolved.

    It is troubling if, in our current system, someone can be hauled before an inquest hearing, with a free-for-all-type process, in a case such as this, which is so obviously clear-cut.

    Does anyone know whether things like that often happen in real life?

    (This case does bring to mind the real-life case of undercover police officer Lee Van Houten, who shot recently-graduated teenager Edmund Perry… There was a movie made about this case, which I only saw part of. Officer Houten was cleared by a grand jury, which also returned charges against the brother of Edmund Perry, who ended up being acquitted of the assault on Officer Van Houten. But I hope that in real life, police officers who have already been brutally assaulted are not put through the treatment that the CSI has been, during this current season.)