CSI Miami, reviewed by an admitted CSI junkie

Last night Sandra and I finished watching the last of the CSI: Miami Season I episodes. Looking back on it, here are some thoughts:

First, I’m a CSI junkie. I like seeing science take a major role in a story — even if it has to be watered down a bit for TV. I like the thought that the average violent criminal leaves a huge evidence trail — even if in the real world we lack the resources to sniff out that trail in most cases. I even like the concessions that the CSI series make for TV Drama, like having the CSI team interview suspects, carry guns, and occasionally get placed in mortal peril. I’ve stopped wincing and saying “now that’s just ridiculous,” and I’ve started enjoying the way it allows each story to unfold and run to resolution in just 43 minutes.

Comparing the Vegas CSI series to the first season of CSI: Miami, three things stand out.

1) The first of these is Horatio Caine vs Gil Grissom. The Miami series revolves around Caine. He is positioned as a demigod. His CSIs never do anything meaningful without him there to comment, or to prod them in the right direction. He knows their jobs better than they do. Grissom, on the other hand, would just as soon be left alone with his bugs, and the Vegas series can (and does) run entire episodes without him present. I really prefer that model. “Teamwork” makes for a better story than “Superhero saves the day.” Sandra and I counted the “head shots” of major characters during the opening credits, and Caine gets SEVEN. Nobody else gets more than three. This is especially annoying since Caine is NOT the most interesting character.

2) The second difference is that Caine and his team seem much more willing to make up a story and find evidence to prove it. Caine himself is guilty of this most of the time. He gets hunches, and then he directs his team to go get evidence to support the hunches. The only times I remember Grissom or members of his team doing it, they either got proved wrong, or Grissom yelled at somebody for doing it, or in some other way that behavior — “wishing” for the science to support a given hypothesis — was shown to be inappropriate.

3) The third difference, and the one that I think most changes the flavor of the show, is that where the original CSI tended to focus on how science makes the walls close in around the perpetrators, CSI: Miami always pulls back and reminds us that these crimes had victims, almost as if to say “but it didn’t do any good for THIS person.” From a moral standpoint, I approve — the show tries to re-sensitize us to that which we’ve been repeatedly desensitized. From an entertainment standpoint it bugs the ever-lovin’ crap out of me. I watch movies and television as a form of escapism. Being resensitized to the point that I identify with victims and their families is not escapism (or if it is, it’s masochistic escapism). I don’t watch televised news for precisely this reason.

Other notes:
-Sandra and I love despising the superhero portrayal of Caine. When he washed blood from his hands on the beach at the end of episode 124, we both burst into laughter. I doubt this is what the producers, writers, and especially the actor had in mind, but there you go. We’ve found a way to be entertained.

-The cast takes some time to get used to, but by the end of season one they seem to work together (as actors) pretty well. The latino chick they introduce right after the pilot, and who resigns from CSI for personal reasons was no great loss. In fact, I thought “good riddance.” The hawt female cop, introduced as Caine’s sister-in-law (married to his now-deceased brother) is much more interesting.

-Sandra and I both love Callie. She SOUNDS like a dumb blond, right up until you listen to the actual words she’s saying. She’s capable, she’s smart, she’s hard-working, and she works hard to be cheerful — even when things really suck. These traits may get played as flaws from time to time, and her character isn’t strong enough (or ridiculous enough!) to replace Caine’s as a hub around which the show can revolve, but that’s fine. Of all the CSIs, she’s the one who gets by the best without Horatio flying in to save the day.

When CSI: Miami Season Two comes out on DVD, we’ll almost certainly watch the episodes in order. But I’m not looking forward to that with the same thrill with which I’m looking forward to the release of Season FIVE of the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

–Howard
ps: I know there is a CSI: New York on these days. I saw one episode, and in that one episode I realized that series had far more potential than CSI: Miami. After all, it has Gary Sinise, who has convinced me utterly in every role I’ve ever seen him play.
pps: If my mother- and father-in-law are reading this, yes, please, keep TIVOing and burning CSI (any flavor) to DVD for us. Yes, we’ll probably rent the DVDs anyway. Yes, there will be repeats. Yes, the commercials drive me crazy. But I’m a junkie, and having a cheap fix is great.

26 thoughts on “CSI Miami, reviewed by an admitted CSI junkie”

  1. Oh… the MUSIC

    I would love to have the CSI “montage” and “evidence” music in my collection. The CSI Soundtrack CDs I’ve seen feature the “hit” tracks by popular bands. BAH. I want the creepy, moody, cinematic pieces. Graeme Revell, the lead composer for the CSI: Miami series, has done numerous movie soundtracks, including Dune, Chronicles of Riddick, Assault on Precinct 13, and Daredevil.

    These may not be the best films ever made, but Mr. Revell’s music was not at fault. I bet it would be great to cartoon to.

    –Howard

    1. Re: Oh… the MUSIC

      Have you checked to see if he has a website? One of my friends is a Hollywood composer, and has demos and full pieces up for free download.

  2. Agreed wholeheartedly on all points. You’re almost quoting the conversations that my partner and I had after watching Miami and comparing to the original.

    New York is definitely good viewing as well and keeps with the team feel. The characters all have quite distinct personalities as well and depth to them.

    One other note is that the colour or Miami is just wrong. The overall feel of the original and New York are deep, dark broody colours. Miami is clean bright and crisp and suits Miami Vice instead of CSI. 🙂

  3. I have to agree with your analysis of CSI:Miami. Watched CSI:New York last night and while it’s not quite Grissom material, it was a good show. Better than Miami, IMO.

    One thing that I still have a problem with is the Navy version, but my parents love it. It has to be the characters, which are pretty interesting, but as someone whose has known military contract and civil service people, there is no way you can convince me that Gabby would be allowed to wear some of the stuff she does in a lab. She sure as heck wouldn’t be wearing fingernail polish – any lab technician handling solvents knows better than that. The stuff is constantly coming off. Even though I no longer work in a lab, I still don’t wear it.

  4. Someone once pointed out to me that, because of Caruso’s delivery, you can add “…stupid!” to the end of any of Caine’s lines and it works. He’s such an arrogant jerk.

    “Let’s take a look at the body…stupid!”

    “The killer must have left some trace…stupid!”

    “Let’s go out for pizza…stupid!”

  5. I kind of like Horation-as-Superhero. I think I still prefer CSI Vegas over Miami, but I (unaccountably) like Caruso’s character here.

    Which is interesting, since I haven’t liked him in anything since he played Kit-Kat in Hudson Hawk.

    Anyway, I believe that if you put Gil and Horatio together with superglue, you’d end up with Batman.

    CU

  6. When CSI: Miami Season Two comes out on DVD

    It was released back in January. I know because I had a friend who was visiting ‘Forn Parts’ pick it up ‘specially due to the lack of “One Season – One Box” releases over here in Yukkia.

    And I second the Navy NCIS recommendation from , which uses the teamwork angle more effectively than CSI:Miami.

  7. Drama!

    Howard, you forgot the best thing about CSI:Miami, Caine’s SUNGLASSES OF DOOM!!!! Really, it’s a big reason why I stopped watching the freaking show. Every dramatic moment has to coincide with Caine putting on his SUNGLASSES OF DOOM and striking that weird hunch-lean-node posture so we can know drama is happening. Or, he takes off the SUNGLASSES OF DOOM so we can gaze into his eyes and know he is human too. A human with SUNGLASSES OF DOOM!

  8. oh yeah.

    Also, you can only take so much of Caine’s posturing. Literal, physical posturing. The sunglass tricks, the coat pullbacks, the sideways, head down look. Really, now. Also, CSI: Miami seems to be where they test out ‘cool camera tricks’.

    And, I really, really, really dislike Caine’s ‘I’m gonna get you’ mentality when he’s only got an idea of what may have happened. And his whole infatuation with children can get creepy.

    1. I loved Ainsley Hayes.

      Especially because almost every time she appeared on the show, she concluded every conversation with something along the lines of “I’m gonna go get a muffin.”

      That was great.

  9. I’ve always found Horatio Caine obnoxious, and wondered how many lawsuits he has against him for threatening suspects. The fact that the shows running plot centers around him is more unbearable than that he is at the core of every episode.
    And I don’t know where it is, but there is a very Callie-centered episode, where she comes off very well. Of course, there’s also one where her father is involved, and she stands around like a twit because she’s not allowed to get involved.

  10. Alas, CSI: Miami’s “look for evidence to fit the theory” pattern is way too common in the real world. Which is why DNA evidence is freeing so many people.

  11. I even like the concessions that the CSI series make for TV Drama, like having the CSI team interview suspects, carry guns, and occasionally get placed in mortal peril. I’ve stopped wincing and saying “now that’s just ridiculous,” and I’ve started enjoying the way it allows each story to unfold and run to resolution in just 43 minutes.

    Depending on the department that can actually change. For instance in the SFPD you have to serve a year as a beat officer before you will be accepted into the CSI group. And it would make sense for them to ask specific questions to suspects but I would expect that they would be doing that with whatever detective that is assigned to the case.

  12. The original episode of CSI that introduced the spin-off had the following exchange:

    CALLEIGH DUQUESNE: You got a theory on how the mother and daughter ended up all
    the way in Miami from Las Vegas?

    CATHERINE: We don’t really work theories. Do we, Warrick?

    WARRICK: No, just evidence.

    CALLEIGH DUQUESNE: We’re much more fanciful down here. Aren’t we, Horatio?

    HORATIO CAINE: I think that’s a fair description.

    There are a number of reasons why CSI: Miami just doesn’t “click” for my wife and me, though we’ve never bothered to analyze them. Everything you’ve covered is certainly part of it, at least for me; the above is certainly prime. CSI hooked me for two reasons: one, the absolutely unfair way they introduced you to the main cast in the opening episode; and two, the rigorous adherence to the scientific method. Yes, the police procedures and the capabilities of the technology are often handled with artistic license — but Grissom’s solid determination to Make No Assumptions and Follow The Evidence makes the show the Best Hard SF On TV, EVER.

    I think you’ll like CSI:NY. The team isn’t the fine-oiled machine that the Vegas team is, especially in the early episodes; part of the theme of the first season seemed to be getting a fractious group to work TOGETHER, instead of as cowboys. Gary Sinise is a more central character than Grissom, but isn’t the “superhero” that Horatio is. He also seems to be a more capable administrator — Grissom is simply not a political animal, and that has repercussions in the more recent seasons (no more spoilers than that, troops; Howard hasn’t seen’em yet).

    And, well, he’s GARY SINISE.

  13. You’ve done a wonderful job of sumarizing my feelings.

    CSI: Miami is all about cops catching the bad guy DESPITE poor police/csi work. Frankly, I hate it.

    I’ll take the original Vegas show any day of the week.

  14. Caine is a little irritating at first. As the show progresses he gets better.

    The last episodes of this past season were the best Miami had to offer.

    CSI Vegas is still my favorite though. I haven’t watched CSY:NY.

    Two CSI’s, WIthout a Trace, Dr G Medical Examiner, Monk, And some other great shows keep me occupied enough .

  15. A couple of possible spoilers, if you’ve not see eps in question, but nothing that will surprise anyone. Its all like “yeah, that’s in character”, nothing that sets up the cliffhangers or anything like that.

    I find Horatio to be fun foil for the “resensitize and identify with the victims thing”. Hmmm. Foil is probably the wrong word. I guess I feel like you couldn’t have that with Grissom. He is concerned for the victims, but buries that concern in following the evidence. He is, in many ways, the quentisential science geek, who has found a way to contribute.

    Horatio feels your pain, and he makes someone pay for it. I like that. I catch myself getting mad at the bad guys, and then just enjoying the ride when Horatio and Callie and the rest rake them over the coals. I also get a visceral thrill out of his essential immunity to crap from his superiors. I saw an ep of Law and Order tonight, rerun on TNT. This is the one where Lenny’s daughter is buried, and Jack is going before the disciplinary council, and the judge handling the case that’s being tried is also up for election, I think to DA, and trying to make a big show, with lots of political points, out of the whole thing. At the end, Jack threatens the judge in order to get him to accept the very reasonable (12.5-25 vs the max possible of 25 – and the case was weak) – threatens his political carreer in a way that he can’t presently do anything about other than agree to.

    That sort of sticking it to the man, which is similar to what Horatio does (and wait till you get to this most recent season…). He flaunts authority – and gets away with it because he’s right and because he knows how to play the game – play it AGAINST the players. That’s something Gil has never been able to do, because he maybe thought he was immune to the games or something, since he refused to play them.

    Yeah, my wife and I watch everything CSI (and everything L&O). That’s about it for me for TV though – well, Justice League, but, really, that should be required viewing for everyone.

    Yeah, so Horatio’s superhero-ness is fun, for me. He’s BATMAN.

    I get a kick out of Callie because she’s pretty much unstoppable in the same way as Wonder Woman. Or maybe a ninja. That one scene in the gun store just … wow, that was so cool. And her stupid boyfriend, and his jealousy and his refusal to accept that she was capable of handling it herself? And then she DUMPS him, and I loved that. At least, I think that was a dump.

  16. Well…

    … we happen to LIKE Caine. We just don’t look at it as a CSI show, because the CSI element is very much secondary.

    CSI Vegas is focused on the CSI concept, although the “science” is often totally mockable. (Not as mockable as that on many other shows, true, but I still have a hard time keeping a straight face in many instances). The characters in both shows can be very interesting. But yes, Miami is much more focused on Caine than anyone else; it’s really HIS story, and if you approach it with the idea that what you’re watching is a more typical cop show — one with its roots in the ’70s shows like Columbo and Rockford — with a slightly different twist.

    We both love Callie (“Bullet Chick”, as Kathleen calls her). But we find Caine is a very likeable man (and he’s also STRONGLY reminiscent in a number of ways of one of my own characters that I designed originally about 15 – 20 years ago; the agent you meet a couple of times in Digital Knight, James Achernar. The similarities are in some ways quite startling) and his interactions with the other characters are fun to watch. But I agree that if you watch it expecting another CSI like CSI Vegas, you’ll be sadly disappointed. It’s not really that at all.

    Vegas is more an ensemble cast; Grissom is just one of several important characters, although in many ways he’s the core of the show. The other characters are all fun and interesting; I think my fave on that show is Katherine.

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