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Feature


CSI: Miami concerns the adventures of Lt. Horatio Caine (the ever stoic David Caruso), and his merry band of Florida State Crime Scene Investigators. They investigate crime, as one may've imagined. Like the series predecessor, CSI, or Regular CSI, maybe even CSI: Las Vegas, the investigations filmed highlight the scientific aspects of catching the bad guys.

CSI: Miami - The Complete Third Season
I was not a huge fan of the original CSI, though I respected the storytelling an actors enough to give season five an above average grade in my review. While writing that review I caught a few episodes of CSI: Miami, as the series was next on my review slate. The Orange State series was so much worse than the Sin City series that I was obligated to change my initial views on the original series, grading it on a new found curve—the CSI: Miami Curve. All my complaints about CSI—the lack of depth, the similarity of the storylines, the blindingly over-stylized filmmaking, the questionable logic—were multiplied ten-fold with the new series.

CSI: Miami's newsprint-thin characters are downright laughable. One advantage of the original series was that it lacked star power, allowing every character similar levels of importance, and similar story lead possibilities. CSI: Miami has one big star, Caruso, who isn't interesting enough to carry a single episode, let alone an entire show. The ridiculously named lead mumbles his way through a series of lines that'd make George Lucas blush, and begins and ends nearly every episode laughably glaring just off-camera through his oh-so-chic sunshades. The supporting staff consists of characters so clichéd they might as well come with specific theme music (the Latin Guy, the Tough Girl, the Tough Cop, the Sexy Smart Girl, the Bombshell of Undetermined Racial Origin), and I'd be damned to remember most of them by name or face, even after twenty four consecutive episodes. I've a feeling it's not the actors who are to blame, and the performances themselves are, for the most part, not any flatter than the dialogue dictates.

I honestly use to like Caruso in his heyday, and have always enjoyed Khandi Alexander (who portrays Dr. Alexx Woods), but in this context I kind of hate them. Does Horatio Caine really have to threaten every single person he comes across? He warns just about every suspect that he’s specifically keeping an eye on them, and if they’re lying, they’ll have to answer to him. Is this what real detectives sound like? As if the criminals had just assumed he was going to delegate the responsibilities to someone else. The only character, and in turn, actor I really liked in the series was second episode newbie Jonathan Togo, who replaced Rory Cochrane after he was shockingly shot and killed in the first episode of the season (oops, spoiler). It seems Rory had the good sense to jump this particular sinking ship, but Togo is a breath of fresh air, exuding humility and humour through some of the series finest dialogue.

CSI: Miami - The Complete Third Season
The writing is substandard and unoriginal. It’s not that I think that the writers are actively ripping off other, better shows, as much as I believe that they are so uninspired that they aren't questioning their originality, as a good writer probably should. Caine precedes every cut with some remark so trivial, and so stereotyped to the detective genre that it will make even the most uncultured viewer wince. ‘Underneath all that make-up, she's just a little girl’, indeed, now excuse me while I vomit. Yes, the same could be said for the original series, but when Gil Grissom does it, it’s more charming than surly.

I understand that this is entertainment, not real life, but some of the required suspensions of disbelieve are pretty shifty. Apparently, every time someone gets in a scuffle in Miami, a sizable chunk of traceable clothing is torn off, area specific fish like to leap into undelivered loot bags, and DNA and fingerprint analysis can take a matter of seconds. Ironically enough, it is these silly contrivances that bestow CSI: Miami with what little watchability it has. The fact that every other episode seems to feature an unnecessary alligator cameo was one of the only things that kept me from throwing the set out the window. The shark attack in episode two was a particularly inspired bit of lunacy, though no matter what I've heard, I can't believe that sharks hunt humans in those particularly murky, shallow waters. These over-the-top touches put CSI: Miami on par with some of our worst soap operas, and had they gone just a little bit further, it may have redeemed the show entirely.

The funniest feature of the show is the ‘science montages’, as I dubbed them in my previous review. In CSI these smoothly edited musical interludes are silly, but maintain a certain level of credibility. In CSI: Miami they play out more like sex scenes than scenes of scientific detection, the sensual music and loving close-ups caused some uncontrolled giggling in this viewer. Seriously, the actors might as well have filmed the scenes in tight-fitting swimwear, which again, would've bumped the series into the realm of memorable television.

CSI: Miami - The Complete Third Season
My biggest problem with regular CSI is the infusion of that Jerry Bruckheimer protégé style. CSI: Miami cranks this up to eleven. There are about twenty unnecessary edits per sequence, zero long-angle lenses to speak of, and a guarantee of at least one bikini clad woman per minute of film. Seeing as this series takes place on the coast of Florida, rather than the depths of Nevada, every thing is coated in bright, warm colours. This would be a creative stylistic decision in 1982, but in the wake of Brian DePalma's seminal Miami crime flick, Scarface, CSI: Miami is just another neo-noir, a once ironic genre that lost it's cool two decades ago. If this wasn't enough, the characters regularly reference the film and its characters, as if to point out how boring and trite their show really is.

Video


Like its sister show, CSI: Miami is presented in a nearly flawless 1.78:1 anamorphic frame. As I said in my previous CSI review, this is pretty close to true high definition television, maybe the closest we'll get on the current DVD format. Detail level is very high, with edge enhancement being pretty much non-existent. The biggest flaw to be found on the set is, again, the lack of true black levels. CSI takes place in the seedy nightclubs and back alleys of Las Vegas at night, and it fairs worse than this series, which takes place in the intense glow of the Miami sunshine. Grain and the lack of black are less obvious, due to the overall brightness of the image.

Audio


Also like its sister series, CSI: Miami is presented in a rather aggressive Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Most of the surround effects are delegated to music, but there are some nice instances of water sound effects during sea barring sequences that give the honest feeling of being with the crew, floating in a boat. CSI: Miami's budget is obviously lower than that of the original, and the creativity of the flashback sound effects suffer a bit. A crisp, if not slightly weak, presentation.

CSI: Miami - The Complete Third Season

Extras


What I’d really like to be included on the special features disc is some kind of past season summary. Perhaps if I’d known anything more about these characters and their plights going into the show, I may have cared a smidgen more about them. Apparently, Speedle’s death in the season’s first episode was shocking. I didn’t even know he was a regular character. Alas, I was only given snippets of back-story in the set’s extras, which mirror those of CSI: Season Five.

The commentaries are really boring. Again, as I said before, it’s hard to care about even decent commentary tracks when they are the last thing between you and a finished review. Even so, the directors, writers, and producers are too technically minded for my taste, and are very good at stating the obvious, especially the writers, who seem to think they’re teaching a seminar.

The featurettes are slightly more interesting, and thankfully, for my sake, were only about twelve minutes long apiece. They are split into four categories, making it easy for viewers who don’t care about a given subject to simply skip it. ‘Delivering the Goods’ is kind of a backslapping catchall, featuring the talent congratulating themselves and each other. ‘Visualizing Season 3’ was more interesting to me as a non-viewer because it revealed a bit about past seasons, and revealed why Rory Cochrane left the show (it was, wait for it, to pursue a film career). ‘Locations Coast to Coast’ reveals the great lengths the crew will go to not have to actually film in Miami, Florida. It seems L.A. is cheaper, and more efficient. ‘Deep Blue Sea’ was not about the second episodes bravado shark attack, as I’d hoped, but about the difficulties of filming on water, and what the crew does to overcome them. The special features are capped off with an eight-part ‘Medical Examiner School’, which can also be seen on the CSI: Season 5 set. These featurettes cover the real life science behind some of the shows more entertaining crimes.

CSI: Miami - The Complete Third Season

Overall


I don’t mean any offence to those who enjoy CSI: Miami's, but I really hated it. Its redeeming qualities can be found in its occasional fondness for over-the-top moments, but even these aren’t pushed far enough to make me care. In the end, it is the dullness of the series that hurts it the most. Fans who can’t get enough cable TV reruns will be happy to know that the season three set comes complete with very solid audio and video presentations, and an average sized pile of extras.


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