Thursday, November 19, 2009

The CSI Franchise: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

All Photos CBS

I haven’t had too much time lately to be able to recap or review any of the CSI franchise shows, but I still watch all of them faithfully. Over the last few years, however, I found that my opinions of the respective shows – CSI (Las Vegas), CSI NY, and CSI Miami – have changed. The differences between the three series became most obvious for me with last week’s “trilogy” of episodes that crossed over the cities of Miami, New York, and Las Vegas. While the word “crossover” was used to describe this TV event, it really served as just a way to feature the newer kid on the CSI block, Laurence Fishburne. Many fans complained that they felt mislead about the trilogy, and I was disappointed that Fishburne was the only one to cross over. I do understand that crossovers can get expensive due to the actors’ salaries, so I guess I can’t fault CBS for trying to create a TV event without spending a fortune.

Here are my opinions on the shows of the CSI franchise, classified as the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good: I find myself now looking forward to episodes of CSI NY for many reasons. The cast has grown on me. With complex story lines for some of the key characters, I find myself becoming more interested in what happens to them. For example, Detective Danny Messer (Carmine Giovinazzo), after becoming paralyzed when shot in a drive by shooting, fought his way back to regain his ability to walk and is now walking without assistance. Detective Don Flack (Eddie Cahill), still reeling over the shooting death of Detective Jessica Angell (Emmanuelle Vaugier), drowns himself in drinking and bad behavior. In last night’s episode, “Cuckoo’s Nest” Flack gets mugged in the subway, and coupled with some tough love by Detective Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise), Flack decides to clean up his act. And while I’m on the subject of “Cuckoo’s Nest,” I should note that CSI NY is probably the best in the franchise in creating story lines that can span multiple episodes, as this one, which involved the second appearance of the “compass killer.”

CSI NY also does an excellent job of showcasing the city of New York, with frequent shots of the skyline and key landmarks. Again, last night’s “Cuckoo’s Nest” had some great scenes with the skyline as a backdrop The shots of the Unisphere at night with the fountains running full blast was also visually enjoyable.

CSI NY, which used to be the series that I had a hard time enjoying, has now become my favorite of the three

The Bad: CSI, once the king of all CSIs, has become a shadow of its former self, after loosing many of the key members of the cast – William Petersen, Jorja Fox, and Gary Dourdan. Unlike the Law & Order franchise, which is accustomed to a revolving door of actors, CSI’s success can be attributed in part to the stability of the cast. With so many cast changes over what seemed like a short period, the show seemed to be rattled a bit. The addition of Laurence Fishburne last season made the show a little more interesting for a while, but the show also seemed to become very dreary and gloomy with its story lines at the same time. The lighting also seems very dark and heavy, making the show feel almost depressing to watch. Sure, murder is never a happy subject, but it seems that the show spends too much time making everything look so heavy and oppressive that I can’t even enjoy the mystery of the crime itself. Fishburne is a fine addition to the show, but after the novelty of his character going through the ropes of becoming a CSI, he needs a new “hook” to keep fans intrigued.

I may be too harsh in calling the show “bad”, but I can’t say that it is good anymore, or that I enjoy watching it like I used to.

The Ugly: OK, you knew CSI Miami would be at the bottom of my list, didn’t you? It’s bad enough that we have to contend with the wooden yet scenery-chewing acting of David Caruso. But with the departure of Adam Rodriguez, a few more actors have been thrown in to the mix, and they are not necessarily adding much to the show. Eddie Cibrian was introduced to the series in a flashback when his character Jesse Cardoza was with the CSI Miami team before they got all glitzy and orange. Cibrian’s acting is as wooden as Caruso’s, and I suppose that they were hoping that with Cibrian’s good looks that no one would notice. (I did.) They’ve also added another CSI Walter Simmons (Omar Miller) who is hard to miss because he is so tall. He is also hard to miss because he is always spouting off every little detail about what he sees and what he knows, not only annoying his colleagues, but me as well. Calleigh Duquesne (Emily Proctor) is also getting very tiresome, with her sanctimonious attitude and her stiff, board-like posture, she is just plain grating.

The story lines are overly simplistic, the crimes so filled with ridiculous events and scenarios, the dialog so awful, and the acting so bad, that the show has become well known as the highest rated cheese-fest on television. (Don’t mistake this for meaning it is the highest rated TV show, I'm only talking cheese-fests.) The fact that they continue to over-saturate the colors – especially the orange Velveeta glow of Miami which makes it looks like the city is constantly on fire or worse yet, in a giant fondue – doesn’t help matters any. CSI Miami is so bad you almost HAVE to watch. And yes, I still do, but for the life of me I have no idea why. I could be an illness. Or maybe it’s because I don’t watch sitcoms and I need some comedy in my life? Regardless of my reasons, the show is virtually unwatchable at times, and if I missed an episode I wouldn’t be crying over it.

Don’t get me wrong, the CSI franchise is still good television, just some of it is better than others. And I am sure there are many out there who don’t agree with my assessment of each show. But the fact that CSI NY has only improved with age and grown on me may mean that CSI can recover from all the cast changes and be back on the top of my list. But CSI Miami? Sorry, I don’t see any hope that show will every make it out of the bottom for me.

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Jachelle said...

I think your comments are spot on about the three CSIs. The original is probably still my favorite, but CSI:NY is a very close second. I love all the characters and actors. I like how they incorporate their personal lives and backstories without being overly sentimental. My only complaint is the use of singers as guest stars. Just because you can "act" in a music video does not make you an actor.

As for CSI" Miami, my husband and I joke all the time about the colors and candy-coated style of the show. I'm sure people are shocked, just shocked, when they travel there to find the sky is not orange, not everyone is in a bikini and that there are people over 30 and a size zero who live there. When we watched the trilogy he commented on how much better the scene from Miami looked in the New York color scheme. But, you gotta love it, it is such a cheesefest.

Sara said...

I agree with your assessment 100%. Even though I went to extraordinary lengths to get Caruso's stalker captured and locked up, truth be told, I haven't watched an entire season of CSI Miami since 2006. Caruso can act when he's given decent material to work with i.e. NYPD Blue. I love Gary Sinise and the gang on CSI NY and I watch that franchise whenever I can. I have never watched the original CSI and have no intention of doing so.

Guess my tv viewing habits are too picky, but for my money, CSI Miami has become the Howard Cosell of television shows.