10 December 2007

10 Things I Adore About CSI

CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) is on cable every Wednesday and every Sunday on AXN Channel. Needless to say, I get hooked to the show, so much that on Sunday I don't do much but laze about and wait for the three-hour CSI omnibus. To my knowledge, there're three CSIs: Las Vegas, New York, and Miami. I love the plot of CSI: Las Vegas the most, love the cast of CSI: New York the most, and love the editing and bossa-nova atmosphere of CSI: Miami the most.

Well, to begin with, I don't think I can actually list ten reasons why I adore this show but I'll make an attempt nevertheless.

1) Contrary to what the majority of CSI viewers may think, I believe that CSI is a kind of romance. It's a detective romance whereby every crime is eventually solved. I love to watch it partly because of this almost always 'happy' ending, in which all evidence nicely leads to a culprit. There's no evidence excessive as it always turns out to be relevant. Watching the show thus gives therapeutic (or hypnotic) effect, as it implies that everything can and will be solved in due time. In reality, it's surely not what happens. Cops are normally badly paid and they surely are not a bunch of clever people, like the CSI teams. Evidence can be tempered with and corruption abounds. It's interesting to see that the show itself tries to downplay these two significant, yet highly complex, factors that can affect the search for the culprit. So yes I love to watch it as it takes me away from the complexity of the real world where culprits still get off scotch-free and cops are still not as efficient.

2) It's not too long. Each episode lasts about 40 minutes, the period I find perfect for viewing and understanding such a complicated plot. I need to confess that sometimes I find watching a two-hour feature film such a commitment. I'd rather watch 30-minute Simpsons, as it's more digestible and I can resume doing other stuff, such as washing dishes, ironing, stroking the cat, or all three together. Also, watching films also means writing more entries in this blog -- another commitment. With CSI, I don't need to write any more apart from this one. :)

3) Most characters are good-looking. I don't know why but maybe it's linked to my first point about romance. As CSI is a kind of romance, no one expects it to abide by all rules of the real world. With this point in mind, the producers decide to spruce up their shows by making most team members good-looking, especially in the CSI: Miami, where the cast (well, apart from Horatio Caine who sports too many wrinkles) seems to parade out of fashion magazines. Of course, this contrasts nicely with the real world, where normally in police stations you don't expect to see any good-looking people, but burnt-out, jaded police officers with pot bellies.

4) Poetic Justice. Everyone who commits a crime is punished. In the CSI world, moral rules are very effective and karma seems to be always at work. Bad politicians get punished and thrown to lions (well, this is a bit exaggerated) and most of these criminals are greedy, corrupt, and evil. They don't normally show the case where murderers are mothers who innocently commit a crime in order to protect their children. This will be too complex and the audience will sympathise with the criminals. No good. The audience needs to hate the criminals and they need to be penalised. Complexities of intention are downplayed, especially when these entail the 'bad' status of the culprit.

5) All three CSI teams are colourful race-wise. They're from all over the place: black, Hispanic, Chinese, you name it. But of course it'd have been nicer to have some disabled people there too, like some smart alec in a wheel-chair who can answer every question and behave like an oracle decipher at Delphi. I know I'm going too far but from my experience most of the representations of the disabled swing between two extremes: the miserable victim and the wise hermit. Well, at least having the teams multiracial is acceptable, but what I still find awkward is that the team leaders of all three are still white men. Maybe the teams themselves signify the US of A, where the leader of other colours is still an unthinkable choice.

6) The body. The show is both frank and manipulative when it comes to portraying our body. Dissection is normal but we are shown only certain parts of the body. Reproductive organs are still under-represented. But the show does raise questions about our emotion invested in seeing our body so frail and defenceless. Also, we are not shown the inside of the body, as much as the outside. Cuts and wounds are normal, but we are not just as much allowed to see the damage done to internal organs or bodily fluids associated with body dissection. I guess the show both problematises and reinforces our abjected feeling towards the body.

7) Most deaths are extraordinary. Some die crucified, some die jumping out of the balcony, some die with part of their head ripped off, some die on the spotlight. Of course if deaths are normal, no one is going to watch it. We all would like to know why these eccentric deaths occur. Apart from that, some events in the show are extremely improbable yet possible too, like three identical twins try to kill a man for money. Of course I find this hilarious, but who'd have thought much about it? It's a romance anyway.

8) I seem to gain a lot of knowledge of chemistry, like if you combine nitrogen and potassium you'd get blah blah blah ... well, to tell you the truth, I don't remember much of this knowledge. But the show is full of them, some of them so fantastical that I don't know whether it's true or just a make-up to make the show interesting. But anyway, if you like to get an A for your chemistry subject or to find a good way to kill your friend, this is the show to look out for.

9) I want to be good after watching the show. After seeing Horatio Caine strutting about like a hero in Chinese action films, I am inspired to walk like him with a fire bomb detonated in the background, to talk with honeyed eyes to a victim, or to finish talking in mid-sentence not caring whether my interlocutor understands me or not and then walk away (but don't know where to!). I confess that of course I lie when I say this, as CSI: Miami seems to make this stylisation excessive and put the character of Horatio Caine on the brink of stupidity.

10) Even though the show does glamorise crimes, it does also glamorise the search for a culprit. By making their DNA tests and scans something of beauty, the show gets across the message that the police will get at you eventually. Of course many deaths are portrayed in aesthetically beautiful positions (like in quality paintings or like deaths caused by Hannibal Lector) and it may not be too far-fetched to say that they aestheticise the crime by making it beautiful and sublime. But unlike Hannibal Lector's series, they aestheticise the hunt too, how the teams rationalise, using the existing evidence to find the culprit. The harmony of teamwork is also a beauty too. I think in this lies the show's responsiblity for creating the moral sense in the public (even though I do admit that they exploit the representation of crime a little).

So here is the list of ten reasons why I adore the CSI. I don't mean that CSI is excellent in all counts but these ten reasons are what makes the experience of viewing the CSI valuable: it's an experience of learning more from life, art, and artistic perception in general, using the CSI as a channel.


lacyleanne said...

CSI:Miami is the best of the 3 CSI's and David Caruso as Horatio Caine is why.

David Caruso is a fabulous blend of Italian and Irish, looking more Irishhan Italian, obviously, with his creamy pale complexion and those blue-blue eyes, but make no mistake aboutit: David Caruso is an exceptional actor far underappreciated in his time. Horatio Caine will be remembered well after David (and me, too) is gone -as an icon of justice, compassion and responsibility.

Too many wrinkles? I dont know who you are looking at, because when I look at David Caruso - and I do, often - all I see is life, experience, love, sex, care, concern, and humanity. If more guys looked like David Caruso, it would be heaven because it owuld mean that guy possessed all those heavenly traits.

Long live David Caruso and Horatio Caine.

dechito said...

Thanks for your lovely comment. I agree that one sees a lot of experience and life in Caine's character and I do find his action something that we nowadays should follow. But what I don't like is the excessive stylisation of his character -- the 'overacting', I'd say. If his face connotes full humanity, his acting should accordingly reflect that too. I think the creation of Caine's style borrows rather too heavily from Chinese gangster films.