Following the success of NBC’s “Law and Order” spinoffs – “Special Victims Unit,” “Criminal Intent” and “Crime and Punishment” – CBS has revealed an extension of its own hit crime drama, “CSI,” in the form of “CSI: Miami.” Thankfully, as far as spinoffs go, “CSI: Miami” is not bad. In other words, it’s nowhere near the atrocity that was, say, “Baywatch Nights.” Nonetheless, the series premiere of “Miami” suffers due to its horribly improbable storyline, which drags down its more favorable elements.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of CBS
Caruso momentarily remembers his previous television success and the years of film failure that followed.

“NYPD Blue” alumni David Caruso and Kim Delaney star as crime scene investigators Horatio Caine and Megan Donner. Megan, formerly Horatio’s boss, returns from a leave of absence to find that Horatio is now ranked above her. Naturally, Caruso’s character is a hard-boiled, go-with-your-gut detective, whose hunches unfailingly conflict with Delaney’s methodical, scientific approach. This is really old hat for anyone who has ever read a book or watched a movie, or gotten out of bed, for that matter. The lack of a truly dynamic relationship between the two lead characters, or any of the expendable supporting actors, is truly disappointing. Considering the amount of talent in the cast, expectations were high.

Bear in mind that this is not a condemnation of “CSI: Miami,” but the crime that was investigated in the series premiere was laughable. Perhaps this will improve as the show continues, but the first episode was just ridiculous. For starters, the story centers around the crash of a company plane in the Everglades. Predictably, the plane was carrying executives of a corporation suspected of cooking their books and Horatio can smell foul play from square one. After some investigation, it is revealed that a number of things went wrong on that flight. First, a rivet from the poorly constructed plane’s door popped out, killing the pilot. But was this what brought the plane down? No. Actually, it was a shoe that did it. A shoe! An employee who was going to expose her boss’s misdeeds at the deposition was pushed out of the airplane’s door and her shoe got caught in the turbine, thus causing the plane to crash. Of course, the CSI team was able to deduce all of this with relative ease. The writers were really reaching on this one.

“CSI: Miami” also includes a few too many cheeseball moments to allow it to be taken seriously. Although the performances are boringly deadpan, Caruso manages to deliver one-liners that would make any viewer cringe. When a possible plane crash survivor is located, Horatio runs to the scene, shouting, “Stay with us!” which is followed by a commercial break. Worse yet is the somber scene where a corrupt business executive is found, having committed suicide by hanging himself. Horatio looks up just to say, “You’re really swingin’ now, huh, Scott?”

There are good things that can be said about “CSI: Miami” and they mostly concern the cinematography. Like the original “CSI,” this is a Jerry Bruckheimer production and it shows. The opening plane crash scene looks good enough to have come out of “Behind Enemy Lines” or “Pearl Harbor,” and the show is fast-paced and intense. While the special effects are generally impressive, at times the show becomes dumbed down because of their use. For example, whenever an investigator finds a piece of evidence, it is magnified and the shot is held for a second to emphasize its relevance to the case. This patronization can be a little bit insulting, and makes “CSI: Miami” seem a little too much like “Blue’s Clues” for its own good.

This is a great-looking show, and will probably appeal to most avid fans of crime drama. Assuming that more chemistry will develop between the characters and that the writing will get more intelligent and less ridiculous, “CSI: Miami” has a lot of potential. But generally speaking, isn’t the whole crime drama ripoff/spinoff game getting a little bit old?

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