CSI, who are you? I really wanna know…

20Feb07

Warning: there will be spoilers for the CSI episodes already shown on five so far in this article.

What on earth has happened to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation? The fourth episode into the new series on five, and CSI has dramatically jumped the shark. I had my suspicions after the end of the previous series, where Sara and Grissom were shown sharing an intimate moment in a hotel room (good grief, crack-monkeys* writers – they might be drawn to each other, but getting them together is a terrible idea), but things have gone from bad to worse.

There was a time when CSI was slick, compelling and quirky. Its team of gorgeous oddballs were science geeks who just happened to look like supermodels, but who had obsessions with entomology and the Discovery channel and were barely able to form functioning human relationships. But now there are signs of a creeping decline into CSI: Stupid territory.

Chief among the betrayals in this series is what they have done to Gil Grissom. Once an introverted, intelligent, compassionate man who seemed more comfortable with his collection of insects than with people (unless they were deaf, little people or dominatrixes), Gil is showing signs of Horatio Caine syndrome and morphing into a pompous, judgemental, moralising blowhard. Grissom was the man who could be counted on to not to judge the more freakish aspects of Vegas culture the CSI team ran up against every week. The more of an outsider a suspect was, the more Gil identified with them, treated them as people and refused to give a knee-jerk response. But now we are subjected to scenes like the one in the second episode of the current series, where Gil suggests that a man whose wife may or may not have killed herself could be prosecuted for assisting a suicide. The Grissom they have built up over the previous series as compassionate man who refuses to make up his mind until all the evidence has been gathered and analysed would never have suggested something so brutal.

Once resolutely about the science and the evidence, CSI has cast all that out and replaced it with shallow stupidity. The second episode, where the dead bodies in the morgue sat up and talked to each other in between a quartet of thin stories about their respective demises, cavalierly cast out CSI’s former devotion to the physical evidence. Was it supposed to be whimsical? Moving? If so, it failed spectacularly. Seeing the dead bodies sitting up and talking to each other broke the real-world (if an incredibly well-funded and glamorous real world) feel on which CSI has always relied. It changed the rules.

No, now it’s all about the CSIs. So far Greg, Catherine and her daughter Lindsey have all been victims of crimes, and we’re barely into the first half of the season.

In the first (double) episode, Catherine was drugged in a club and woke up in a strange motel room. Suspecting she had been raped, she performed her own rape kit, something we saw in wince-inducing detail. It transpired that she had been drugged and her daughter kidnapped for leverage over her father, Sam Braun, an old Vegas-style casino boss. At the end of the episode, Sam (a long-running character, whose prickly and morally confusing relationship with Catherine has always been interesting) was shot and killed. The death of a major character was squished into five minutes at the end of the show and has barely been referred to since. They may be setting Catherine up for a major breakdown, but there’s no sign of it yet, and some of the questions a regular viewer would want answered (does Catherine inherit Sam’s casino empire?) have been completely ignored.

Next, in the fourth episode, Greg became the victim of Kevin Federline and his gang (da kidz aren’t all right), who were happy slapping (called “fanny smacking” in the show – dear god…) unsuspecting Vegas tourists for kicks. Greg, trying to stop out a down-home cowboy type from being beaten to death, got kicked around the set for no discernable reason, except to liven up an otherwise thinly-plotted episode. The show had no shades of grey – Grissom even compared da kidz to a “swarm” in order to plot their movements. Equating criminals with animals (Federline played a character called “Pig Man” and wore a pig mask) is about as reactionary as it comes.

Nick’s character has always been an interesting take on a type of masculinity. Square-jawed, Texan, conventionally handsome, in another show he would be the all-American hero. In earlier seasons of CSI he has consistently been shown to be vulnerable – crying (and not in a macho way – in a really scared way) when a gun was drawn on him, being kidnapped and buried alive in the Tarantino-directed finale of season five, and having been molested as a child. Nick more often finds himself the damsel-in-distress of CSI than any of the female characters. He has also been presented as empathetic.

Nicky held at gunpoint:

So when Greg was beaten, it was entirely out of character for Nick to hit one of the kids who were taunting the CSIs as they worked the scene, but yet again the writers threw years of character development out of the window to show some reactionary, “justified” brute force.

Tonight’s episode (Double Cross) was an unholy mess. A pregnant singer crucified in a church. A suspiciously silent priest and a garrulous car salesman. Andi from Dawson’s Creek in a minor role as a nun. Turns out the priest, the car salesman and the singer were old high school friends. The singer and the priest had been a couple back in the day, and the car salesman had been sleeping with the singer since the priest threw her over for God.

The story meandered along, stretched out by Brass’s sudden inability to perform even a perfunctory interrogation. Finally the old friend, the car dealer, confessed to killing the singer. She was leaving him for the priest. So what gets through to this stone killer, so cold that he is able to crucify the woman he supposedly loves? The baby she is carrying is his. This is enough to break the man down and he begins to cry. The important thing is he killed his own baby. Not that he killed the woman he loved, the one he had been friends with from childhood, in an appallingly cruel way. No, it was the foetus baby that got him. Well, thanks, CSI, for that reminder that adult women are less important than babies. At the end, the killer told the priest that he should have been man enough to come to him as a friend and tell him that he and the singer were planning to marry. Man enough. Once upon a time CSI would have made it clear how deluded a killer was who said that kind of thing. In the new, reactionary CSI, it passes without comment.

Sadly, I think it’s time to close the curtains on CSI. Once darkly funny, conventional yet subversive, all about the science and cracking good entertainment, it has lost the things that made it special. The evidence is in and the conclusion can now be reached – CSI is guilty of becoming just another blowhard cop show.

*With apologies to Demian at TWoP.

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2 Responses to “CSI, who are you? I really wanna know…”

  1. 1 Sarah

    I feel compelled to comment as I totally agree with this wonderfully written and totally accurate article!

  2. 2 Eddie

    Hi.

    I have to say first off that I like the way things are going and can only hope that the writers have left enough time to fully develop the openings for the characters.

    In ‘fannysmacking’, I felt Greg was very good. And yes, Nick does now seem a little too impulsive. Surely the shooting of Catherines father Sam WAS over too fast.

    With Grissom, I see a change in how he sees the perpetrators of some ugly crimes. One instance from the end of ‘fannysmacking’, where he speaks of people being given a moral compass, but not everyone following it. I could see this change in Grissom growing as series 7 went on.

    Anyways, enough already. You’re welcome to visit tv addiction and I hope you like it.

    Eddie.


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