I must admit, I am hopelessly in love with the television program “CSI” (Crime Scene Investigators) and its spin-off “CSI:Miami.” The show is just the perfect equation of nerdiness, mystery, and sex appeal that’s impossible to resist. Why do I love it so? you ask. The reasons are simple:
- Really Hot Nerds: The show features these statuesque actors and actresses donning lab coats and prattling on about “GSR” (gun shot residue) and the mating cycle of the earworm. They make the science (and the psuedo-science) sound incredibly cool. And they all have their specialties:
- Grissom, the stoic super-nerd leader of the original CSI, is an expert entomologist, lavishing loving attention on his roaches and beetles.
- Warrick (whom my girlfriend thinks is the sexiest guy of all the CSIs) does all manner of tread marks, from sneakers to monster-truck tire tracks.
- Greg, the punky, funny lab-geek, works on analyzing the chemical composition of evidence.
- Calleigh on CSI:Miami is all about ballistics, analyzing the unique “footprint” of each bullet to trace it back to the gun it was fired from.
- The TMIcam: Every episode has to feature what “Television Without Pity” calls “the TMIcam.” I.e. a computer-generated simulation of some grotesque occurrence, like someone getting hit by a truck or a bullet passing through someones guts. Disgusting and exciting all at once.
- Positivist View of Science: The shows take a very optimistic position on science and technology as a beneficial force in peoples lives. The central conceit is that in the confusion, emotions, and moral gray areas of crime investigation that one can employ science to unpack all the lies and half-truths and get to the objective reality of a situation. There’s a mystery to solve, and technology is the key to the answer. All in under 50 minutes. I love that.
- You Can’t Leave Yourself Behind: On a more philosophical note, I am intrigued by the notion that everywhere you go, some minute trace of yourself is left behind — a hair, a skin cell, a ring finger print. And that if one observes carefully, one can follow that trail back to you. Kind of a buddhist idea, really.
Yes, I know, often the acting is hammy and the plots moralistic. Many people can not stand the over-the-top performances of David Caruso on CSI:Miami in particular. He’s kind of the James T. Kirk of the show, delivering all of his lines in EXACTLY the same PORTENTIOUS manner.
I have been unable to get enthusiastic about the second spinoff of the franchise CSI:New York. My girlfriend from Queens hates the fake New York accents. I find the plots overly convoluted and fanciful, and pacing uneven. The last episode I saw featured an NYPD radio-controlled helicopter armed with a sniper rifle!
The CSIs on the New York version have not come together enough as a team, with lots of bickering and in-fighting that I find annoying. And the overall look of the show is grey on grey, which is really ugly. The original CSI in Las Vegas emphasizes the neon glow of the casinos, while CSI:Miami bathes everything in sunlight. Why should New York look like crap?
The main critique one hears is that CSI is not “realistic.” I know that real CSI’s don’t get to solve crimes or confront witnesses or draw their guns on suspects. They don’t get the latest expensive gear or get to drop everything and focus on two crimes a week. They don’t wear sunglasses into dark interiors. The lighting guys on the shows seems to have taken their cue from the X-files where nobody seems to have paid their electric bills.
But after a long day slogging it out at the salt mines, watching some sexy science geeks fight crime armed with computers and microscopes is just what I need.