Just watched the latest CSI: Miami (“Dishonor”).
I almost didn’t. When I walked into the living room and saw Horatio’s kid on screen I was on the verge of going back downstairs to continue working.
Ah. Lost opportunities.
I could have extricated myself partway through, I suppose, but by the first commercial I was consumed with curiousity as to just how bad it could get.
Turned out, pretty bad.
No bromide was too banal to be borne aloft on near-operatic melodrama. No message of peace and tolerance too tissue-thin to support entire subplots. No modern cliché too weary and worn to be presented as thought-provoking moral.
Also (at least so far as I can tell), no writers were employed in the making of the script.
I’m sure that someone, or more likely a team of someones, had to work out the basic plot and fit in all the forensics. But the actual dialogue appeared to have been constructed from snatches of decommissioned stock phrases arranged according to purpose. Exposition: “That particular ink will show up better under infrared. Emotion: “He was my friend, ya know?” Narration: “We’re going to have to do a grid now.”
Of course, with dialogue this taciturn, viewers needed to be distracted from the fact that for long periods of time absolutely nothing was taking place.
One technique was the use of music videos. Not just the annoying little CSI music videos that occur during “tech scenes” in every CSI show, but full-fledged, drop-them-on-MTV-and-call-them-hits videos serving no purpose other than to kill time until the next commercial. This, combined with the relentless sequences of flashbacks (often recounting scenes taking place only minutes earlier), accounted for the greatest portion of the program.
This paucity of the spoken word, however, was no barrier to spelling out every after-school message of tolerance and patriotism in painstaking detail.
- Main character’s young son, despite a troubled past, has now joined the armed forces and is doing his duty in Afghanistan?
- Daughter of immigrants is a fully modern young woman with no hangups caused by being raised in two different cultures at the same time?
- The daughter’s young lover, also of her culture, is a fully modern young man with no hangups caused by being raised in two different cultures at the same time?
- The young are truly the unprejudiced voice of love and compassion in the modern world?
- Middle-aged, white man with suspicions about his Middle Eastern neighbours is a bigoted prick who earns the revulsion of all those around him?
(Especially noteworthy about this last stereotype was the purity of its presentation. No attempt was made to give the character relevance. He came in, was hated, and disappeared from the show with nothing more than Detective Tripp’s assurance to Horatio that he would “find something to get him on.”)
However, while everyone (except the next door neighbour) was the model of fully integrated decency, this was, after all, a murder mystery and the plot did require a body and a killer. The body was that of the hard-line, old-country immigrant father intent on killing his daughter for dishonouring him. And to give the audience a sense of closure, the killer was the immigrant mother who murdered her oppressive husband in order to save her daughter.
It was beautiful in its stark simplicity.
But I do keep wondering about the arrests. The daughter and her boyfriend are arrested because they have traces of gasoline on their hands. The mother is arrested because her fingerprint was found on the family gas can at the scene of the crime. And Tripp was promising to arrest the next door neighbour because he’d looked over the fence with a flashlight one night. When two of the CSIs complained about having to do a grueling grid search because they didn’t really have any evidence on the daughter and her boyfriend, it was difficult not to shout out, “Maybe you should have thought about that before you put the cuffs on them!”
But perhaps the most unreal element is the fact that not once, not in this episode, and not in the entire run of the series, has anyone ever looked at Horatio and said, “For God’s sake, lighten up, will you?”
That just isn’t believable.