This is the second part (of four) in a blog series about what shows I’ve watched and what I thought of them. Just a few remarks for each of them. The text will be with only minor spoilers, so it should be relatively safe to read this in case you’re curious about shows you haven’t seen before.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Country: USA/Canada | Genre: Crime Drama | Seasons: 15 (2000-) | Status: Returning
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (also known as CSI: Las Vegas) follows Las Vegas criminalists as they use physical evidence to solve grisly murders in this unusually graphic drama, which has inspired a host of other cop-show “procedurals”. An immediate ratings smash for CBS, the series mixes deduction, gritty subject matter and popular characters.Wikipedia
We’ve seen 9 seasons of this wonderful show with likable characters searching for evidence at crime scenes. This is almost the exact polar opposite of 24 – a calm and relaxing show where several scenes with no dialogue shows the evidence being scrutinized while the composer of the show demonstrates his latest masterpieces (these shows must be heaven for composers).
Most of the seasons are of a high quality with great acting, lighting and stories. There are a few exceptions where we thought CSI: NY was better that particular season, but for the most part the show is top quality. Season 7 even has a main story involving a miniature serial killer that builds scale models to reflect each crime scene – an intriguing story with creative camera angles.
A nice and refreshing change is that not all murders are homicides. Some are actually suicides or just mere accidents, and it’s great to see these variations on the old theme. On the downside, we’ve noticed that a dead child in a family would often have been killed by one of the parents; typically the mother. This happens so often that it actually becomes a cliché.
There were many excellent episodes and it would be hard to single out one of them. Many fans would no doubt mention the two episodes directed by Quentin Tarantino (Grave Danger) which was indeed very exciting. One of our favorites was Ending Happy in season 7. The victim in this episode has been exposed to a fascinating amount of attacks that could all be the reason for his death, but in the end the episode surprises with a wonderfully silly explanation.
Country: USA/Canada | Genre: Crime Drama | Seasons: 10 (2002-2012) | Status: Ended
Inspired by the top-rated series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami follows a South Florida team of forensic investigators/police officers who use both cutting-edge scientific methods and old-fashioned police work to solve crimes. Horatio Caine heads the team of investigators while working crimes in the steamy tropical surroundings and cultural crossroads of Miami.Wikipedia
This is truly the black sheep of the three CSI shows. I actually liked this show in the beginning and later, long after I noticed its many problems, I kept being naive and continued to watch the show anyway. I finally had enough after 7 seasons. Don’t ask me why I didn’t stop earlier.
In short, the show is way too stale and unbelievable. Perfect models as murderers and saturated colors are in abundance. It’s like watching a live action version of a CSI show that was intended to be a cartoon. The characters are very stereotypical and predictable, sometimes lack emotions, and we also found most of the characters to be pretty uninteresting. Especially Calleigh Duquesne (Emily Procter) is like watching a mannequin interviewing suspects.
At least Lt. Horatio Caine is somewhat entertaining in the beginning because of David Caruso’s taciturn acting and peculiar mannerisms, but even this gets boring after a while. The corny one-liners in the beginning of the episodes quickly grows old too.
David Caruso acts in a way that just grates in the long run. He rarely looks into the eyes of the person he is talking to. Instead, he just looks to the side; presumably so that David Caruso can read his lines from a board. Most of his lines are short and cool (sometimes he even repeats a few words just for poignancy), and his body language is plain and predictable. A few rare scenes requests a sad moment, but David Caruso barely makes a sad face. No tears, no nothing.
Country: USA/Canada | Genre: Crime Drama | Seasons: 9 (2004-2013) | Status: Ended
CSI: NY (Crime Scene Investigation: New York) was the second indirect spin-off from the veteran series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and directly from CSI: Miami during an episode in which several of the CSI: NY characters made their first appearance. The third edition to the CSI franchise follows a New York City forensics team/police officers headed by former tough Marine Major, Det. Mac Taylor.Wikipedia
Fortunately, the third CSI spin-off show in New York is almost as good as the original Las Vegas show. The characters are generally better than in CSI: Miami (both as actors and as interesting personalities) and you can feel that the writers have more fun with this show. The main reason for this is of course Gary Sinese as Det. Mac Taylor. Gary Sinese is a great actor that can handle a lot of dialogue, he appears cool and competent, and doesn’t shy away from a lot of action as well.
The show actually felt like it had a few problems in the first season. It used a filter to create a bluish atmosphere in New York, and Sheldon Hawkes (Hill Harper) didn’t really seem at home as the medical examiner down in the cellar. In the second season, Sheldon Hawkes was promoted to be part of the CSI team which was a really nice and logical move. Dr. Sid Hammerback (Robert Joy) became the new medical examiner, and the show eventually used normal colors.
Sid Hammerback is not your typical medical examiner. He has a habit of oversharing, and we were quite amused by his weird disassembling glasses. Another thing we’ve noticed is that he goes through quite a lot of drama – he almost dies several times. Danny Messer (Carmine Giovinazzo) loses his glasses in season 5, which we thought was a bad move. The glasses helped making Danny Messer feel different from the characters of the other CSI shows.
Ironically, I think CSI: NY has the weakest music of all three CSI shows. Bill Brown made the excellent main theme for the PC game Anachronox (which I really liked a lot) but I’m not quite as impressed in CSI: NY. Often the sessions with no dialogue (where a CSI examines some evidence) plays a piece with far too excessive drum tracks on top. Of course it helps giving the spin-off show a style of its own, but I would rather have had music with relaxed or no percussion.
The Dead Zone
Country: USA/Canada | Genre: Science Fiction/Suspense | Seasons: 6 (2002-2007) | Status: Canceled
Small-town teacher Johnny Smith is involved in a car accident that leaves him comatose for approximately six years. After regaining consciousness, Johnny begins having visions of the past and future triggered by touching items or people. Johnny also learns that his fiancée, Sarah, gave birth to his son in the interim following the accident, but has since married another man.Wikipedia
Johnny Smith is played by Anthony Michael Hall (the guy from The Breakfast Club) in this version of Stephen King’s novel. I actually thought he fit the role nicely and the special effects showing how he perceives a vision is well done.
I watched all six seasons and thought it was a reasonably entertaining show, but the first season was indeed a bit weak. Especially an episode where a town believes Johnny is a witch (Here There Be Monsters) is downright annoying. In the end of the first season, politician Gregory Stillson (Sean Patrick Flanery) is introduced together with a sinister main story. This gives the show some of the vigor and energy that was lacking. The show was canceled after six seasons, but luckily the last episode does end on a relaxed note for Johnny and Sarah to give the illusion of closure.
I actually had to get used to Sheriff Walt Bannerman (Chris Bruno) as I felt the actor was a bit detached. Later, I totally accepted him. Either the actor had to get used to the role or I simply got used to the way Chris Bruno acts. An actor I was very happy about right from the beginning was Nicole de Boer as Sarah (which I knew from season 7 of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). She just felt so natural and was perfect for the role. Also Sean Patrick Flanery as Greg Stillson (the guy that played young Indiana Jones) had a dedication and recklessness that suited the role perfectly.
Episodes I really liked were The Hunt (I liked the idea of Johnny actually being hired to help a team of soldiers – I wish they had done more of that) and Shadows (Johnny must stop a man from killing Bruce and setting Johnny off – good suspense in this one).
Country: USA | Genre: Crime/Suspense/Drama | Seasons: 8 (2006-2013) | Status: Ended
Dexter structures his killing around “The Code of Harry”, a body of ethics and procedures devised by his adoptive father Harry Morgan (who was a Miami cop) to make sure Dexter never gets caught and to ensure that Dexter kills only other killers. Harry also trained Dexter in how to interact convincingly with other people despite his dissociative mental illness, which Harry believed to be sociopathy.Wikipedia
This is a truly amazing show that comes with all my best recommendations. I’ve seen 3 seasons so far and the writing has been top notch in all of those. There’s a lot of characters each with individual problems not necessarily tied to Dexter’s own story at all. The show is not afraid to create tension, confrontations and awkward situations to keep you from always second-guessing it. Sometimes this makes me slightly uncomfortable, but in a really good way.
Another reason I like this show so much is the style. Dexter (Michael C. Hall) narrates almost all his scenes as if he’s thinking out loud, and it works really well. I’ve always liked this kind of narration and it also fits well with the nature of the beast; it allows him to explain his behavior. The show also uses steady cam with clear lighting and colors in almost all shots – my favorite way of filming. There is no restriction regarding the language either (the F-word is used a lot by his sister).
The writers of the show has gone through a lot of trouble to ensure that although Dexter is indeed a serial killer, there’s a lot of redeeming qualities about him to make us like him and his actions. First of all, Michael C. Hall is of course a great actor; likable and good looking. Dexter is fond of children and would never hurt them, and his adoptive father trained him to only kill bastards that really deserves to die anyway. This gives him a tint of a vigilante or superhero with a secret identity that not even his own sister is aware of. Furthermore, his killings are usually shown in a subtle manner – typically no more than the camera shying away while hearing the victim screaming.
Describing the show could perhaps give the impression that you can just watch any episode like e.g. CSI, but a season is actually a contiguous story that works best when watched chronologically.
Country: USA | Genre: Science Fiction/Drama/Thriller | Seasons: 2 (2009-2010) | Status: Canceled
Dollhouse is a science fiction series created by writer and director Joss Whedon. The show revolves around a corporation running numerous underground establishments (known as “Dollhouses”) across the globe which program individuals referred to as Actives (or Dolls) with temporary personalities and skills. Wealthy clients hire Actives from Dollhouses at great expense for various purposes. The series primarily follows the Active known as Echo, played by Eliza Dushku, on her journey towards self-awareness.Wikipedia
The idea with child-like “blank” agents that can be programmed for any role is ingenious. To begin with the show hints at turning the idea into something like Alias, i.e. dangerous and intricate spy missions. That would have been a great procedure. Unfortunately, the show spends more and more time back at the Dollhouse facility as certain dolls becomes more self-aware and there’s an increase of internal conflicts, drama, intrusions, fights, etc.
All that happens in season one is not necessarily a bad thing per se, it just feels like it should have been spread out over several seasons instead of just using it all up in the first season. If it had been spread out, perhaps there have been room for some of the external missions I was yearning for. In the end it felt like a mess and I stopped watching it after the first season.
Another thing that irked me was that some of the actors were unconvincing. Especially the ex-FBI special agent investigating the Dollhouse felt like he was only in it for the money. That being said, Alan Tudyk arrives in a later episode as a crazy architect with all kinds of strange phobias, and he does a great job with it. Lots of funny dialogue there.
Country: USA | Genre: Space Western | Seasons: 1 (2002) | Status: Canceled
Firefly is a space western series created by writer and director Joss Whedon. The series is set in the year 2517, after the arrival of humans in a new star system, and follows the adventures of the renegade crew of Serenity, a “Firefly-class” spaceship.Wikipedia
Sadly this show didn’t earn enough ratings and was canceled after barely one season (15 episodes). If there was ever a severe crime against television greater than anything else (even greater than the cancellation of the original Star Trek show), this would be it. It was an excellent space western following a wry team on a small spaceship. No doubt the Millennium Falcon and its captain Han Solo was used as inspiration, but it worked and the show was well written.
Just as you get used to the characters and start really looking forward to more episodes, it stops. A movie was later released as closure, but it was not enough. I know I’m not alone when I say that we’d really, really, really like to see this show resurrected. We really would.
So, if you like space TV shows you should of course see this if you haven’t already. Just don’t do what I did and watch the movie first out of curiosity. It’s not so much because of spoilers; it just might not make you care for the characters. I had to see the show first for that.