Judge Brett Cullum's analysis of the crime scene reveals that a fake Rolex is not a real Rolex, Los Angeles is not Miami, and Emily Procter looks mighty fine, especially when wielding a pistol.
Our reviews of CSI: Miami: The Complete Second Season (published April 13th, 2005), CSI: Miami: The Complete Third Season (published November 16th, 2005), CSI: Miami: The Complete Fourth Season (published April 25th, 2007), CSI: Miami: The Final Season (published December 16th, 2012), CSI: Miami: The Ninth Season (published October 13th, 2011), and CSI: Miami: The Seventh Season (published October 12th, 2009) are also available.
Horatio Caine (while removing his sunglasses): "The evidence…(dramatic pause) as always…(dramatic pause) will speak for itself." (He looks up at the sky, profile to the camera, and puts on his glasses.)
CSI: Miami is the first spin-off of the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. (A third New York version debuts in the fall of 2004.) David Caruso (NYPD Blue, Jade) leads the Miami cast in solving crimes and making arrests. The twist here? The crime scene investigators in Miami are cops first and scientists second, so they differ quite a bit from their more scientist-thinking equivalents in the original Las Vegas show. Style saturates this show, which seems to revolve around sunglasses, gore, and heavy rap music. Is CBS just cloning their successful Jerry Bruckheimer-produced flagship show? Yes and no. We still see the familiar CGI autopsy and crime reenactments, but there are significant differences to be found. The show has been popular with many; it's mainly a matter of personal taste and your feelings about Mr. David Caruso. Can we blame CBS for imitating the Law and Order model of cloning your most successful series? Do they actually one-up them by throwing in some tried and true new formulae along the way?
Facts of the Case
Here's the basic outline of each and every episode: a crime is committed, the cast arrives on the scene to investigate, a theory is formed, Horatio (Caruso) always guesses right, and he usually gets the criminal. Then he stares up at the sky peering through his sunglasses (or dramatically takes them off), all in profile.
This beautifully packaged set spans seven discs containing 25 episodes, from the crossover pilot (really a CSI episode that introduces the Miami cast when a criminal flees to Florida) to the first season's finale. The shows are presented in broadcast order; the show numbers are juggled, since the network decided to move some shows up and push some back during the initial part of the season. Included are the controversial first ten episodes with Kim Delaney (NYPD Blue), who was removed from the show (or quit) due to a lack of chemistry with Caruso. Scattered throughout the disc are commentaries from writers, directors, and the occasional producer. Hmmmm! No cast participation?
Bonus documentaries about the making of the show are found on the seventh disc. These include: CSI: Miami Uncovered (eleven minutes), Creating CSI: Miami (twelve minutes), Inside the Autopsy Theatre hosted by cast member Khandi Alexander (three minutes), A Gun Lab Tour from star Emily Procter (2 minutes), and a long look at the forensic veracity of the show hosted by the show's police advisor, John Hayes of the LAPD (endless!)
INT: CLOTHING SHOP
FRANZ (wailing): Daaaaviddd! You will be visited by three ghosts tonight! All from the past! From the '80s will come the ghost of Miami Vice. The '90s will come in the guise of NYPD Blue, where you and I once dwelled together. And finally, you will see the Ghost of CSI Future from this new millennium! They will all merge together at the end of the night, and you will be offered a new series! It's your chance to be back! But you will have to confront all three of these ghosts on a regular basis. Can you still be cool, David?
CARUSO removes his sunglasses.
MONTAGE: ROCK MUSIC (pref. Who)
CSI: Miami is all about Caruso and his red-headed return to glory. If you liked him on NYPD Blue, then you'll be tickled pink to see him back on the small screen after his unsuccessful flirtation with Hollywood. Let it be said (for the record)—I actually love the big lug. He's cool and he adds a lot to this show, which could just be seen as a merger of a by-the-numbers cop show into the established CSI formula. He's not the only reason to watch [Ed. Note: Emily Procter is!], but he is a large part of it. Say what you will about his mumbling or his sunglasses fetish—he's the core of the show.
Horatio the character says he is named after Horatio Alger, but a more apt description comes when a character mentions Shakespeare's Horatio. Hamlet pleaded with that Horatio to tell the world who killed him, and that seems to be Horatio Caine's mission as well. He's out to right the wrongs, and avenge the memories, of people who have passed. The dead can not speak for themselves, so he's going to do it for them. And he's really good with kids. Did I mention how cool he looks in sunglasses?
But don't think it's solely the Caruso Show. He's surrounded by a stunning supporting cast—and this time around, the girls rule the roost. Emily Procter (The West Wing, Body Shots) plays "gun girl" (ballistics expert) Calleigh Duquesne. Her Southern charm, and her unlikely pairing with several semi-automatics, make her the sexy standout of the series. And betcha-by-golly wow! She has some killer moments. (It should be noted that I have a thing for girls with guns!) Khandi Alexander (ER, Poetic Justice) is Alexx, a benevolent autopsy specialist who talks to her dead people. It's nowhere near as corny as it sounds, and goes a long way towards humanizing the scenes of intense gore. Rory Cochrane (Dazed and Confused) underplays Timothy Speedle, a lackadaisical video and letters expert. Finally, Adam Rodriguez gets to be Eric Delko, the ethnic Spanish-Russian scuba diver who joins the land team.
Season One of CSI: Miami involved a lot of tweaking and experimenting. Roles change, and the characters unfold very slowly, almost as if the writers were still figuring out what to do with them. You really catch on to this when Kim Delaney's character mysteriously up and leaves after the tenth episode. I liked her role as the foil to David Caruso. She played a no-nonsense, by-the-book officer named Megan Donner, whose approach challenged the intuitive and go-with-your-gut Horatio Caine. They had no romantic chemistry, but I thought it was nice to have a purely platonic relationship on network television. As the first ten episodes progress, her part gets smaller (as does her hair), and she ultimately fades away without too much fanfare. Later on in the series they replace her with a love interest in the form of Yelina Salas (Sofia Milos, The Ladies Man, Caroline in the City), the widow of Caine's brother. She's sexy, but she's also his sister-in-law. I liked her, but I missed Delaney, even though her run was brief. From episode to episode you also have a revolving cast of criminals and victims. I spotted Chris Penn (Reservoir Dogs, the bigger Penn), regulars from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and folks from Twin Peaks.
This is a gory show where anyone can die. Priests, infants, illegal aliens, pregnant women, five year olds in a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant—nobody is safe anywhere. I learned about three hundred different ways to kill people (including soaking a condom in nicotine!), and how to tamper the evidence enough to throw the criminologists off. And not one sex scene, unless it is in the context of the murder of a hooker or stripper. This is the ultimate show for Spike TV. Lifetime? Uh…no. Stick with Cagney and Lacey.
Miami itself becomes a character in the show, and the city is ripe and ready to host another stylistic crime drama. Everything is shot in a golden haze of amber or a cool blue. Homage is paid to the style of Michael Mann (Miami Vice, Manhunter) almost continuously, but the show captures its own flavors as well.
There's nothing safe about the show's visual style choices or camera angles; it's a gorgeous show to look at from episode to episode. The cinematographer won an Emmy, and rightfully so. The DVDs capture the dizzying art quite spectacularly. For television, this borders on the equivalent of a cinematic anamorphic wide screen transfer. No bothersome edge enhancement, and only occasional grain now and then. Sound design gets the same cinematic emphasis (through a 5.1 surround track) that the visuals get. The show really pops on DVD. Just watch out for those musical stingers that rumble your whole room. And the packaging is downright dope as well. A cardboard slipcase is held together by crime scene tape. Inside is a metallic-looking plastic briefcase holding the discs themselves. CBS deserves some props for making the case as cool as the show.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
But is it as good as the original CSI? No, it's not. CSI: Miami is a collage of many previous shows—Miami Vice and NYPD Blue among others. What it does it does well, but it's nothing you haven't seen before. It's like a well-made copy of a Rolex. It looks good and flashes on your arm, but deep down you know it's just similar parts turned into an approximation of something else. Worse still, this first season really struggles to figure out where it's going. It seemed like 23 little mysteries strung together where the crimes were all that emerged out of the flash of the series. Where were the characters?
Yeah, it's photographed very well—but what's with the Los Angeles version of Miami? Most of the shoots were done in LA, and it quite often doubles for Miami, an unmistakable city. Sorry, but I was born in Florida, and I can spot which shots are on location and which are down the block from the television studio. When will television spread the location love like Sex And The City did for NYC? Caruso lives in Florida, and probably (ironically) has to commute to film the show. Every now and then a real Florida location pops up, and it sticks out in your mind for the rest of the show.
The formula is tight and never adjusted, and you know exactly what you will get structurally in each episode. They never veer from it…ever. It's not terribly creative, other than the science and the crime aspect. Popular television for Middle America is exactly what CSI: Miami is, and there is nothing wrong with that. But then, there's nothing exciting about that either. You have to just let it wash right over you. But you won't be clamoring for the next episode right away.
Stylish, well-acted, and relentlessly formulaic, CSI: Miami is a calculated risk by a network that never shakes things up too much. But let's not forget that at The People's Choice Awards this first season walked away with the award for Favorite Television New Dramatic Series. It's a safe bet the whole family will like this one to some degree.
The best episode in this first season has to be the season finale. It had me gnashing my teeth and on the edge of the futon for a solid hour. Not every episode has this effect, but it gave me hope that after this first season they may have figured out how to make this a "blow your mind" show. And even if time and future seasons of the show prove to be not as exciting, this is an excellent batch of episodes that will make David Caruso proud. He's shed the retail life, and he's back in Los Angeles fighting the ghosts of his past quite well. Dennis Franz can stop haunting him.
CSI: Miami is free to go despite its tendency to stick too close to its formula. David Caruso has finally won the approval of the court, and proves he can still carry a network series nicely. CBS could teach the other networks how to do a DVD transfer and packaging right.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• CSI: Miami Uncovered
Review content copyright © 2004 Brett Cullum; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.