For over 15 years the CSI franchise has been a solid stable of programming for the Eye Network. The original show blasted through all initial expectations and lasted for 15 years. CSI: Miami went on for a decade, and CSI: New York for a little over five years. Now the original has bowed out of the game, and after 30 years of seasons, the franchise’s future hangs with newcomer CSI: Cyber. All dynasties eventually come to an end. Some pass quietly in the night. Others do so quite horribly. After watching the short 13 episode run of CSI: Cyber, I’m afraid it’s the latter path for a once-brilliant franchise. Catch it while you can, if you’re interested. While it will be back this fall, I do not anticipate a long life for a show that is CSI in name only. Now is your chance to decide for yourself.
It all starts with Patricia Arquette as Avery Ryan. The character was first introduced in a back-door pilot the previous season on CSI. She is a psychologist who had her files hacked and made public. The resulting cybercrime caused one of her patients to die. So she joined the FBI and somehow became the nation’s leading authority on cybercrime and now heads that team for the FBI. Forget that this is a weak character back story. It’s too much been there, seen that. Characters who change the course of their lives over a death are cheap shortcuts trying to gain sympathy from the audience. But let’s overlook that for now. The fact that she became such a knowledgeable techie in whatever time there was is completely unbelievable. It’s hard to believe she was even much of a psychologist. Human empathy is something I find in neither the character nor the actor.
The only saving grace for the show is found in some of the supporting cast. Shad Moss brings the most color to an otherwise drab field. He plays Brody Nelson, a former black hat (criminal) hacker. He once brought down the New York Stock Exchange for three days. Instead of going to prison, he’s serving his time working for the good guys in the FBI. Brody brings an energetic character who has the passion and self-confidence missing almost everywhere else in the show. He’s the light that can’t be dimmed. The rest of the cast is either terribly miscast or struggling. Hayley Kiyoko plays Raven. She’s another one of Ryan’s converts from the black-hat world. She once shut down the entire New Hampshire power grid. She’s a relatively fresh presence but is made too much in the mold of the geeky social misfit. The actress appears a little over her head for most of the scenes she’s in. I think it’s more an issue with casting than the actor’s actual abilities. But she’s not as bad as Ryan’s number one agent Elijah Mundo, played by James Van Der Beek. He’s about as unenthusiastic as they come. When he and Arquette share a scene, it’s the perfect cure for insomnia. There isn’t enough energy between them to light a tiny LED display.
The character/actor with the most potential would have to be Charley Koontz as Daniel Krumitz. He’s the real tech genius in the team and the guy who brought down Brody. They have a bit of chemistry going on that has the potential to go somewhere. Brody’s been forced on him as his kind of partner, which he resents because he’s the one who tried to put him in prison. There’s banter here that, at times, breaks up the overall sleepy quality of most of this show’s running time.
Peter MacNicol’s Director Simon Sifter, who brought a certain element of authority to the show, is now gone. He departs to make room for Ted Danson’s character to make the jump here from the mother ship. It’s the right idea; Danson has been very good in the CSI universe, but he’s replacing the wrong character. The season attempts to force a kind of bond or chemistry between Danson and Arquette. There’s just nothing there. Danson’s Russell character is a much-needed shot in the arm for the show. He’s doing the best he can to make the cases appear more interesting, but he can’t do it alone. You can really see the fatigue on the actor by the season’s end. He knew he was being brought in to try to right a sinking ship. It was a suicide mission. The truth is the entire show needed to be retooled for there to be the slightest chance the show could succeed.
Beyond the cast, I find that this show breaks one of CSI‘s biggest taboos. They throw things out there that are completely cut off from reality. Ryan works on a misguided “instinct” that is usually wrong. She’s been promoted to the Deputy Director job left with Peter Nichol’s departure. But her leadership skills are worse than her instincts. How this character could inspire loyalty is beyond me. I think the writers got it by the end of the season when her earlier failure to back up a member of the team led to another team member bringing her down. The last episode is crowded with threads to lock up including an awkwardly evolved Fatal Attraction story arc involving Elijah. The last couple of minutes appear hopelessly tacked on, and it’s good riddance to a truly bad series.
You get all 18 episodes on five discs. Extras include a blooper reel, character profile on Russell, season summary, and a feature on the sound design.
The series loves throwing out tech terms in an obvious attempt to scare the viewer straight. The truth is that cyber-crime is absolutely a huge threat, and it’s about time a series focused on that kind of crime. I just hoped it wouldn’t have been done so badly. Here the solutions always seem so impossible. They come up with some incredibly absurd “new” technology to magically get their answers. There’s none of the working toward an answer that was the touchstone of the CSI franchise to this point. Perhaps the series was rushed. With the mother ship ending, CBS didn’t want to take a chance on a season without CSI. I get it. But it is finally all over now, and the franchise that changed television goes out with a whimper and not a bang. It will likely go unnoticed. If CSI ever does return to the airwaves let’s just hope they “won’t get fooled again”.