Sunday, June 12, 2005

TV Review: CSI Miami

Summer repeats allows us the misfortune of addressing shows we might otherwise ignore. Take CSI Miami. Take it and drop kick it and toss it in the trash can.

It's not just the fact that Jerry Bruckheimer has churned out so much trash over the years that makes us avoid this show. It's not even the fact that he's had his head so far up the administration's ass that we wonder if he gets a concussion whenever the Bully Boy eats beans. It's just that his work feels like it's been churned out by someone who has no spirit or hope left within them, by someone who is either scared of the world or wants to appeal to all the other reactionaries who are.

We wouldn't say that Don Simpson was a saint. Please, he probably crawled over ten hookers most mornings to get to the first line of blow that would carry him through his various meetings and conference calls. But Simpson believed. And while he was a partner, a Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Production stood for something Simpson believed in. Which was? A fascination with the flesh. That's why you get Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer and others doing a towel parade in Top Gun or Jennifer Beals in various stages of undress in Flashdance. If the "feel good" plots seemed sometimes to exist only to get you to the disrobing, at least the films got somewhere (to undressing), at least they had a point.

Bruckheimer has no point. It's "feel good." Feel good for feeling good. Feel good for feeling good about feeling good . . .

As he's gotten more mechanical, the films have gotten worse. Pearl Harbor was the kind of disaster that should kill a career. Don Simpson would have demanded some nudity and probably wouldn't have fallen for the phase that plauged Hollywood for a few years, the "let's all be long winded like James Cameron because Titanic was so huge!" Simpson, always one to focus on the costs, would have noted that at less than two hours, a film could be shown more often and increase its potential profits.

But Bruckheimer wants you to feel good. He wants so badly for you to feel good that he became a pest. Movie goers have learned to avoid him for the most part.

So he took his tired act into another medium and, possibly a little bitter over the way the whole thing worked out, he's not interested in uplifting you, he's interested in playing to your darkest
thoughts about society, freedom and the state of the world.

Reactionary has apparently worked for him. He's quite the success on TV. (We hear Simpson cackling from the grave, "Couldn't make it in the big league without me!") If sex scenes give you the heebie jeebies, where do you head? Why CBS of course. And it's there that he's become the Tiny Tim to the Depends-set as he tiptoes through the perceived depravity of the world today much to the amusement of arm chair victims of the cultural wars.

Quick shots of sex and murder. Those are real popular. That's combined. We don't mean a sex shot, then later in the show a murder shot. Sex and death often go together in Bruckheimer's reactionary world. We'd like to say, "Hey, get your murder out of our sex!" But we're afraid, like an old TV commercial, he'd shoot back, "Get your sex out of my murder!" and we be caught in an endless back and forth.

It's a pitch older than Cecil B. DeMille (though he utilized it more than anyone until Bruckheimer trotted his tired act over to television -- but DeMille did it on the big screen -- again, we hear Simpson cackle). The correlation allows for cheap thrills without anyone getting too bothered by the "sin factor" since, after all, "the sinners" have been punished. (So has the audience, though many don't seem to grasp that.)

CSI Miami was the first attempt to spin off the franchise. Kim Delaney was a part of the package originally but this show's not about acting which is probably why a Kim Delaney leaves and a David Caruso stays. And stays with the cast, if you can call them a cast.

The acting is beyond laughable. Does Caruso think he's Robert Blake in a David Lynch film or is he just trying to play a trick that's grown far too old and wrinkled to market anything other than eccentricities?

We're not sure. But we love how some critics rush to assure that Caruso can act. He can't. It's the same "performance" he gives in everything from Jade to Kiss of Death to Proof of Life. And goodness if they didn't hiss and howl as he trotted out the same old song in film after film. Put him on TV doing the same old song but surround him with corpses and suddenly he can act! What is that? By comparison to a lifeless corpse, Caruse can act?

Caruso is older (and creepier, he looks like Bill Macy's older brother these days) so they keep him dressed in black and sporting sunglasses but that won't make him Don Johnson. (Whom we're sure is the personfication of cool to whomever puts together his wardrobe.)

In the episode we watched, the plot, such as it was, revolved around a drug dealer, we think, who beat up on his old lady (we use the term intentionally) and then killed her while well- off kids were discovered to have sex, do drugs and cheat. A lot and a lot and a lot.

This show feeds into every stereotype possible. It's the sort of thing you'd see on an old TV show and laugh your ass off at. But when you watch, for instance, Hawaii Five-O, today, you're at least treated to some really outlandish fashions or a sure sense of what decade you're supposed to be in. Style, on this show, seems nonexistant.

Speaking of Hawaii Five-O, we're personally fond of a really cheesy episode starring Susan Dey of The Patridge Family and L.A. Law fame. She's a hippie trying to get her act together and stumbling around the beach while hoods hunt after her. It's complete and total cheese (not unlike Andrea Mitchell's new haircut and use of way too much base and eye liner -- unless, on the latter, she's attempting to bring back Streisand's sixties glamor) but Susan Dey manages to cut through the cheese quite often and it's great to see her with the famous hair and in the period clothes uttering period phrases.

No one can cut through the cheese on CSI Miami because they're not even trying for characterization.

For a moment on CSI Miami, a young actress almost broke through. But while Hawaii Five-O would have made her the focus (she was integral to the assorted crimes), CSI Miami seems far more fond of focusing on Caruso who, honestly, can't hold your attention because even the creepiness wears thin after a bit.

Along with Caruso, we get Emily Procter who was so obviously meant to play Mavis in The Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion! (Which, for the record, she did.) Listening to her chatter away in that thin voice we wondered what exactly was so irritating about her. Then she said "Oh please, I do not even have time to go to the mall!" at one point and it hit us, she's like those women, those white women, Wal-Mart chooses to emphasize in their TV ads. You know the ones. "I could work but dad-gum how would I find time to spend my life at Wal-Mart if'n I did!" With smile lines carved into the sides of her face and "hick" tatooed on her ass, Procter wonders around in clothes that look like they came off the racks at Wal-Mart.

Before you think, "Thank God! Someone who's not dressing above their character's budget," remember that we said Wal-Mart. The hideous white, body hugging, breast-line plunging shirt might fill the racks at Wal-Mart, but it's hardly what one expects a crime scene investigator to be wearing to the office (with or without a jacket tossed over it).

With her montone expression and monotone delivery, we're not sure what she'll do after CSI Miami goes off the air. (Do they still have the Hee Haw "honies?") But voice lessons are strongly recommended (that tinkly-winkly voice is irritating and it has nothing to do with a southern accent, it has to do with sounding like an airhead). To hear her squeak "Anything on Danny's clothes?" is to go running for the Tylenol and ear plugs.

Anything on Danny's clothes? "Lip stain" on his boxers. Which leads to a "flash" of young Danny about to make out with his teacher. This is what passes for adult drama.

Caruso (what, you thought we were done with him already?) attempts to pass himself off as George Clooney. He tries to steal mannerisms and do the "I'm talking to you but notice how I'm not looking at you" move Clooney favors. But there's a difference between them besides the obvious aesthetic one, Clooney can, after all, act. It's why Clooney has a career and why Caruso is back on television in a cookie-cutter, assembly line show that depends soley on the actors not getting tired of playing blank cyphers who ask endless questions over and over.

The show wants so badly to be stylish. And possibly to the traditional CBS viewer, it is stylish.
The camera moves aren't anything you've seen on Barnaby Jones, after all. They're about two decades behind MTV, but they probably seem "fresh" to eyes more used to Nash Bridges and Walker, Texas Ranger. While those last two shows didn't kid themselves about being anything other than the standard TV corn that's been junking up television for years, CSI Miami wants to be the Ikea of TV shows (long after Ikea has lost it's freshness).

At the end of the show (yes, by gritting our teeth, we did make it to the end), Caruso's Horatio comforts the brother of a victim (the "old lady") in a series of "flashes." We consider them snapshots. And poorly done ones. The music blares throughout as time moves so slowly that it's rendered in still photography.

The word we hear is that the show's in trouble. Both from viewers (who are bored) and the network (which worries that since America can no longer want to love Raymond, Monday's are about to go into the crapper). Instead of worrying, all should celebrate the fact that this piece of condescending crap ever managed to grab viewers to begin with. Forget that Caruso never connects with anyone that he's on camera with and seems to float around like the Rod Sterling of the show. Forget that Procter's voice grates on your nerves. Forget the bad wardrobe, the "special" effects of sound and video that aren't that special. What's most shocking is that the hope-I-die-before-I-get-old crowd would, as they close out their middle-aged years, watch this nonsense.

Isn't this all that they railed against as teenagers?

Last week's review led to two e-mailers questioning what we saw as the glorification of the "law" and the "of course he's guilty" attitude of Law & Order: Trial By Jury. For those two, and any others missing the obvious, we offer the following dialogue exchanged during the show.

Procter: Do you think the parents have any idea that they are paying for their kids to have sex with teachers and buy their grades?
Adam Rodriguez: I don't know but it makes me realize what an angel I was.

Makes the audience realize that too. Makes them feel really smug and satisfied the way their parents did watching those wacky hippies on the cop shows of the sixties and early seventies. We'd argue that anyone from that period who watches this nonsense today was never interested in opening the floodgates to all, just opening them to themselves. Fair or not, that's why the baby boomers have one of the worst generational images. We're glad that we can say the boomers we choose to hang around don't share that selfish, 'Me-Decade' quality, but this crap obviously sells to those who do -- as well as to the reactionaries of all ages who need to be reassured of how wicked the world is.

There's no need for characterization in these type of shows or for strong acting, they're morality plays, little parables about the wickedness that is all around you and how only the strong arm of the law can save you. So you smirk as Caruso strongs arms a meth user or as Proctor has an entire school turn over their cell phones. (Proctor rolls her eyes when a campus security guard says he's there to make sure she doesn't trample the student's civil rights.)

These type of shows are what the boomers once rebelled against. Forgive us if badly acted, badly written, reactionary sermonettes don't strike us as entertaining. It's not that there's not a place for shows like these, it's just that the place is PAX and not CBS.

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