Tuesday, April 19, 2005

CSI - A Tale Of Three Series: Miami

At the end of the second season of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation a case sent Catherine Willows and Warrick Brown from Las Vegas to Miami where they worked with a Miami based CSI unit, Thus was the audience introduced to Lieutenant Horatio Caine and the characters of the new series, CSI: Miami.

The creation of CSI: Miami wasn't as smooth as might have been Hoped. CBS, having found themselves with a surprise hit in the original CSI decided that they could catch lightning in a bottle a second time with another CSI series. Other people weren't quite so sure or quite so enthusiastic. William Petersen, who was credited as one of the original show's producers as well as the leading actor in the series, was particularly vocal. His position was that the series should be allowed to run at least five years before a spinoff was tried. Even today the actors on the original CSI are more than a little disdainful of the spinoffs. Still the executives at CBS and Alliance-Atlantis, as well as Jerry Bruckheimer and series creator Anthony Zuiker, were sure that a second series could work, and so, in September 2003, CSI: Miami debuted as a series.

The selection of Miami as the site for the second series was inspired. The city has always had a stylish, almost exotic image which was reinforced by Miami Vice, a series full of art deco buildings and pastel colours. While CSI: Miami doesn't play up the exotic aspect as much as the older show (probably because most interiors and exteriors are shot in California rather than Florida), it does have its own distinct feel. Use of a yellow tint for exterior scenes is intended to create the psychological impression of heat in much the same way that shooting at night creates an impression about Las Vegas.

It wasn't entirely clear sailing for the new show. Cast as Horatio Caine was David Caruso, an actor best remembered for walking out of NYPD Blue after the first season in the mistaken impression that he had a big movie career in his future. There was a certain amount of antipathy in some fans of the original show directed against him for that. Also retained from the pilot were Emily Proctor as ballistics expert Calliegh Duquesne, Adam Rodriquez as Eric Delko, and Khandi Alexander as Chief Coroner Alexx Woods. Rory Cochrane was also in the pilot as Tim Speedle, but the character of Speedle had been changed considerably between the pilot and the series. In the pilot Speedle had been upbeat and enthusiastic, but as the series progressed he became increasingly downbeat and even cynical. By the time that Cochrane decided to leave the series (to concentrate on his movie career, although
his IMDB biography states that he grew tired of the medical and scientific terminology used in the show) Speedle looked on crime scene investigation as just a job. In an effort to recreate the dynamic between Grissom (William Petersen) and Willows (Marg Helgenberger) that existed in the original series, a new character named Megan Donner (played by another NYPD Blue alumnus, Kim Delaney) was added. This caused more than a little friction on the set and Delaney was off the show after about half a season.

The departure of Delaney was a clear signal that while CSI: Miami may be a spinoff it is scarcely a copy. The dynamic of the show is different from the "mothership". While the original CSI is very much an ensemble show, to the point where there is at least one episode where Willows and Grissom - the leading characters - are absent except for all but one and two scenes respectively, CSI: Miami is very much about Horatio Caine. In fact that's probably a major reason for Delaney's departure; as much as anything her character wasn't able to establish herself alongside Caine. His private life is far more exposed than anyone on either the original show or CSI: New York, and certainly more than those of his supporting characters. Horatio is a former member of the Bomb Squad who became a Crime Scene Investigator, although he's clearly more at home in the field or in the interrogation room. We know that Horatio had a brother, another cop killed while undercover on a drug case (apparently anyway), and that he is in love with his sister-in-law, Detective Yelena Salas (played by Sofia Milos), which complicates their working relationship since she works a lot of cases with him. Complicating matters further is that she is involved with the rather slimy Internal Affairs officer, Rick Stetler, who is Horatio's nemesis within the department. It is difficult to imagine an episode of CSI: Miami without David Caruso being present. Although this is in part because of the way his character is written, it is also because none of the other major characters - and maybe none of the actors - is strong enough to fully carry an episode on their own. Of the investigators, Emily Proctor's character is about the closest to being able to carry an episode but it is difficult to imagine her character as the main one for a whole episode. Certainly the other two investigators - Adam Rodriguez's Delko and Ryan Wolfe, played by Jonathon Togo - don't work as leading characters yet. I think perhaps this weakness of CSI: Miami is a direct result of the decision to make Caine such a dominant figure. The chemistry that exists between the characters on the original CSI doesn't exist as strongly on this show. The problem is that it doesn't exist because it doesn't have to because these characters are only meant to support Caine, not to be anything approaching his equal.


Linda said...

Is this a David Caruso "thing"? On MICHAEL HAYES, he was also in love with his sister-in-law (the brother character was killed off midseason).


Brent McKee said...

You may be on to something there, although I don't think I ever watched Michael Hayes long enough into the series to see him fall in love with the sister-in-law. Of course in NYPD Blue he didn't have a sister-in-law so he was in bed with just about any woman willing to drop her knickers for him.

Linda said...

He was in love with her from the beginning, even before his brother died, so you probably didn't watch many at all.