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.
-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.
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.