'CSI' loses focus when it zooms in on investigators' lives
1 hour, 41 minutes ago
Robert Bianco USA TODAY
Sometimes, popular series should stick with what made them popular.
TV's top-rated series, CSI, offers two out-of-character twists tonight, neither of which proves to be an improvement. For one week only, the show expands to 90 minutes and delves into the personal lives of its two main investigators, a subject that is usually strenuously avoided.
As it turns out, there's a reason CSI normally stays out of its characters' private lives: They're not very interesting. People turn to CSI for crisp, intricately constructed procedurals. If they wanted to hear about one investigator's intimacy issues or another's anger-management problems, they'd be watching Dr. Phil.
All right, give the show and its producers credit for trying something new. But as often happens, what's gained in the experiment is less valuable than what's lost. The best CSI episodes leave you feeling that not a minute was wasted. This one feels like it has 30 minutes too many, a not-uncommon reaction to extended series episodes.
Still, fans shouldn't panic. CSI is a well-crafted, well-run series making its efficient way through another good season. I could stand to have the gore level turned back a notch. (No more plucked eyeballs, please.) But otherwise, the show has earned its spot at the top of the ratings. Tonight's outing is a bit too slow and somber, but it still has enough twists and ick to keep viewers satisfied, if not overjoyed.
For the expanded episode, the team follows three cases that eventually combine into two. The strongest of the stories revolves around Grissom (William Petersen), as a murder in a club leads to a brief encounter with a wild partygoer (Elizabeth Berkley, trying much too hard to be Sharon Stone). Eventually, the trail leads Grissom back to an old friend, the dominatrix Lady Heather (Melinda Clarke), who is one of the few people capable of unnerving him.
The case is a little, well, sick, but it's still better than the other main story, which explores Catherine's (Marg Helgenberger) feelings for her ex-husband. The problem is, we don't care enough about her feelings for this kind of story to work, a problem compounded by Helgenberger's chip-on-her-shoulder performance. It's good that Helgenberger isn't afraid to make Catherine seem unpleasant, but she doesn't always seem to realize how unpleasant she's making her.
And believe me, 90 minutes of that is more than an audience should have to take.