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10 on TV Drama #2: CSI: MIAMI and CSI:NY


In any franchise, there’s bound to be some dilution: if the subsequent Alien films lacked the shock value of that very first chestburst because we’d seen it before, then it’s kind of inevitable that CSI: Miami and CSI: NY are thought of as “nowhere near as good” as Crime Scene Investigation.

I saw Anthony Zuicker on telly and he said he was literally whisked into an Exec’s office after a successful run of Crime Scene Investigation and told, “Come up with a city.” He said, “Erm…. Miami.” Whammo, said faceless Exec puts the wheels in motion: we’re gonna do CSI: THE COOL WAY. There will be no nerdy Grissoms, no seedy glamour Las Vegas backdrop, we’re gonna have sex and sun and crime all the way and who much cares about character because did I mention there was SEX? There’s a lot of spin involved in this writing lark of course, but I can believe this was how CSI: Miami was spawned for the very reason it lacks so little of what makes its predeccessor great, which namely is characterisation.

Like a lot of women, I love Horatio regardless of course, even if he is ginger andeven if he is the most cardboard, 2D and stereotypical leader possibly in TV history, hence this fantastic medley of his corny one-liners on You Tube. I mean, that name: Horatio Caine. Could they have been any more cheesy? But that’s what CSI: Miami is – Cheesy Crime. Not gritty, makes-you-think, oh-that’s-interesting, oh-my-God kind of crime. (Cheesy crime: I’ve copyrighted that by the way, hands-off bitches.)

But this cheesiness is backed up, so it’s okay. It makes no apologies. It is what it purports to be – and why not? Character might be more shallow than Crime Scene Investigation, but it’s the kind of characterisation that all of us understand, even if we don’t like it – and that’s Horatio, as the knight in shining armour. This is why we love him girls, am I wrong? We know that if Horatio’s on our side, then everything’s ok. Apart from poor wife Marisol of course, he was off vanquishing the baddies in one of his infernal grudge matches as she lay dying but hey – quit whining. And he went all the way to Rio to avenge her. Oh and got his own brother killed in the process. But hey, Ray was as bad as Horatio is good so let’s forgive our hero there…Again. And not to forget of course that Horatio is bullet-proof boys, how cool is that? People can get shot all around him, yet he never even gets so much as a graze. Niiiiiice.

So if Crime Scene Investigation invests in character with its Las Vegas backdrop as well – a backdrop (and a very nice one it is too) – then CSI: Miami is principally about, well, Miami, with the characters playing second fiddle instead. This second part of the CSI franchise is the complete opposite in effect of the original and I wouldn’t mind betting this was on purpose. Why? So it could achieve a fanbase all of its own as well as cash in on the CSI brand. People who watch CSI may not watch CSI: Miami on the basis the original is more a broadsheet to the sequel’s tabloid version, but you can bet there are CSI: Miami fans who wouldn’t watch CSI on the basis there aren’t enough babes in it. It’s this style over content that sets the two programmes apart, whilst still encouraging die-hard fans like me to watch both simply because they will anyway.

In comparison then, I started off liking CSI:NY a lot more than CSI:Miami but just recently this has swapped places in my mind (though neither will ever come close to the original). I think the reason for this switch is that CSI:NY tries emulate both its predecessors which I think is a shame. Whilst CSI does character and CSI: Miami does arena, CSI:NY feels like the little brother who can never live up to his successful siblings’ legacy, in that the programme does both character and arena adequately but excels in neither in my view.

Let’s take character for example. Whilst Horatio is the absolute anthesis of Grissom, Mac falls somewhere in-between. He’s cold and calculating like Grissom but lacks Grissom’s boyish charm; he has a dark side like Horatio, but even when that perp threw himself off a building whilst handcuffed in order to implicate Mac as a suspect-basher, I never really got enough sense of his dark side to really believe Mac *could* have thrown that guy for real… We all know it’s a mistake and Mac’ll be let off the hook. None of the other characters in CSI:NY really jump out at me (bar one, which I will go into in a sec) which is odd when you consider their much more 2D counterparts in CSI:Miami seem a lot more luminous (perhaos ‘cos they wear less clothes? There’s an essay for you: discuss).

For me, the one character I really like in CSI:NY is Danny Messer. Like Catherine in CSI he is not privileged and grew up the hard way and like Eric is Horatio’s right hand man, so he is Mac’s for the most part – when he’s not arguing with him about how Mac’s wrong.

It’s this crucial difference that sets him apart in my mind as being one of the most interesting characters in CSI:NY, largely because what he does (the arguing with authority) is something that is new to the franchise. Mac respects Danny regardless, probably because of his lack of ass-kissing and whilst Danny sometimes believes that Mac is “out of touch” with the “street”, he ultimately respects Mac too. Danny had it hard growing up and sometimes his past comes back to haunt him – just as Catherine’s does in CSI. Of course, in CSI, Sara is often at loggerheads with Grissom, but this is nearly always because of personal reasons or something small to do with a case. Similarly, Catherine disagrees with Grissom nearly every episode, but crucially she is a senior investigator like him, of the same generation, when Danny is considerably younger and lower on the pecking order than Mac. Oh, and did I mention tasty? Hmmmmm….

Over to you…

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