Having somehow evaded watching one single episode of CSI ,or any one of its many spin-off titles until now, I’m admittedly not the most qualified person to criticise a show which has been seen by a loyal following of 80 million people. In spite of this rather severe handicap, I soon managed to wade through my dementia-like confusion (Are these characters reoccurring? Are they romantically involved? Who’s that?) and eased into the storyline – or whatever semblance of a narrative there was.
After a ceremony celebrating Detective Lindsay Monroe’s bravery in a previous case (the act in question involving Monroe fatally shooting a suspect), Mac and his team return to the office to find yet another murder victim, an occasion rendered so trivial by their job they barely register the body. Standing above her is Detective Jo Danville (Sela Ward), a new recruit sent to head the division whose imminent arrival, one would think, might have merited an office email but, again, no-one seems to care that much. When it comes to murder, or major restructuring, the cast of CSI react like sated Roman emperors made nauseous by their own opulence, too bloated to move or muster a facial expression.
Equally as suspect as the murderer and the acting is the plot which makes Jonathon Creek’s powers of deduction look decidedly elementary, logical even. From some bloody handprints, the woman’s physical appearance and some hasty investigative work, several conflicting motives emerge which eventually leads them to former EastEnders stalwart Sean Maguire, seen here playing a mysterious wealthy businessman.
It’s testament to CSI:NY’s winning schlock factor and well tuned formulae that it often makes for entertaining fare. Indeed, despite missing out on several strands of back-story and references, CSI:NY was still accessible, surprising given it’s seven seasons deep. However, its willing mediocrity does eventually become tiresome. Like an underperforming child, you just want it to settle down and apply itself for once; the bombastic soundtrack, the constantly swirling cameras and an endless parade of crash zooms conspire to render the show both self-consciously post-modern and gratingly lobotomised in that manner so aesthetically unique to American television. In essence, it’s impossible to tell how seriously CSI takes itself or if its stupidity is unintentional. Any show in which forensic scientists photographing a crime scene are made to look like fashion cameramen from Antonioni’s Blow-Up is surely an ironic take on the police procedural and whodunit genres?
Whilst I may not be returning to CSI, CSI:NY or CSI:Miami any time soon, it is nonetheless seamlessly produced puff that spreads as easily over dead brain cells as butter on freshly toasted bread, which is about as complex a recipe as it gets.