Review: CSI: Miami 8×1

In 1997, David Caruso could still act

CSI Miami

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c , CBS
In the UK: Oh, the usual places. You know, Five, Five USA, Living – them lot

CSI: Miami, as we all know, is science fiction. It’s set in a distant future, where impossible science allows us to solve improbable, futuristic crimes with undreamt of techniques, and where a robot called Caruso (aka the Carusobot) is allowed to run a crack crime fighting team of scientist-cops.

Yet for the opening episode of this eighth season of CSI: Miami, in which the (not very) brain damaged scientist-cop Eric Delko is close to death and begins to hallucinate, we find ourselves cast backwards in time to the dim and distant past of 1997 where we discover how this crime-fighting team was assembled and the most important fact of all – how the Carusobot got its Shades of Justice.

It’s a strange world, this 1997. Strange, in the sense that it’s exactly how the real world is in 2009. Suddenly, the technology’s the same as our technology, the crimes are the same as our crimes, police officers work in police stations that actually look like normal police stations, and there are procedures that almost correspond to normal police procedures. How can this be? Is CSI: Miami really set in some alternative reality where 1997 is our 2009, and our 2009 is 2021? It’s a hard one to fathom.

But the strangest thing of all is this: in 1997, the Carusobot was still able to act like a real person.

Is it any good?
I have to say I was surprised by this. Despite attempts last season to bring the show edging towards normality, I wasn’t convinced the producers were putting in more than a half-hearted attempt.

Yet this first episode, while flawed, was quite clever and despite a near-impossible task – slotting everyone into place for CSI: Miami by the end of the episode – it did remarkably well.

The first shock is, yes, David Caruso can still act. For a full two or three minutes at the beginning of the programme, there is actual acting going – emotive behaviour, convincing portrayal of anger and worry. And it doesn’t stop there – it happens at least three or four times during the rest of the programme. It’s astonishing. He cries when he has to recall the death of his wife and some of his colleagues, he does knowing comedy when he tries for the first time to put on the Shades of Justice. Has he been saving up his energy for eight years or has there been some kind of road to Damascus chez Caruso?

The second shock is how the producers try to recreate 1997. Now a full monty of the original characters, including Megan and Speedle, would have been nigh on impossible to achieve, but at least they’re given a nod in the dialogue – no cover-ups here. But almost everyone else is here, linked together in a surprisingly logical way, including

  • Delko (running a tow truck business with a fluffy hairdo)
  • Tripp (improbably moustached as a beat cop)
  • Calleigh (new in town and apparently identical to Ainsley Hayes from The West Wing back then, but needing an inch of scary-looking obvious make-up welded to her face to achieve that look)
  • Horatio (wearing a suit made out of an old zeppelin, but physically the same and junior officer to a neanderthal old-school cop who doesn’t like this new-fangled science-stuff)
  • Alexx (preserved in aspic with a Beyoncé video haircut, apparently, but still not able to act)
  • Natalia (a black-haired test tube jockey back at the FBI) and
  • Jesse

Jesse Who?
What do you mean, ‘Jesse Who’?

Actually, good question, because crowbarred into the story with all the subtlety of Poochie into Itchy and Scratchy is new arrival Eddie Cibrian as detective Jesse Cardoza, who’s here (SPOILER) to replace Eric because he’s leaving later this season. Although never mentioned before, Jesse is apparently important enough for Eric to hallucinate when close to death.

Although a little dull and straight-laced at the moment, he’s actually quite a promising character – at least, in 1997, where detectives do lots of actual detective work (unlike in CSI: Miami proper where that’s the lab boys and girls’ jobs), he’s quite a decent police officer who for some reason decides to leg it like Chris Noth did off Law and Order for 12 years, before returning to Miami and Horatio some time later this season. What his big secret will turn out to be – for he has one – will no doubt be teased and played with for a good few episodes at least, before given an unsatisfying resolution.

Anyway, by the end of the episode, everything is worked out, Horatio proves to his reasonable old boss that science is right, the CSI unit gets set up, Calleigh and Delko have met up and flirted, and Horatio has learnt, after a decent period of behaving like a normal person, how to talk very, very slowly.

Whether the rest of the season will proceed like this now we’re back in the science-fiction future of now that is normal CSI: Miami, I don’t know. It does at least bode well that they’re using character histories, motivations and the normal tools of writing to advance the plot, rather than mind melds and whatever else they think they can get away with. But I’m optimistic that I won’t feel, every Monday, that my brain is going to be eroded by this show every week.

Well, maybe just a little bit.

And here, just in case you didn’t believe me, is the Carusobot acting!