CSI: NY – Season 9

csinyCSI New York was a show that I’ve spent the last 4 years watching “just one more season” because it seemed certain to be cancelled at the end of the year. Neither the ratings nor critical praise lived up to its older sibling, and in the case of the praise, that really wouldn’t be a tough competition to beat. How it managed to get to nine seasons is one of the great questions for our time. Heaven only knows there was nowhere near enough character development, plot or creativity to fill 197 episodes. But it’s finally really been cancelled this time, and I can now finally stop watching.

Season 9 went by exactly the same way the others did, a roller-coaster of characters and plots swerving from unremarkable to annoying with just enough charm and humour scattered through to make it just about worth watching. The combination that frustrated me most was the sloppy police work and forensics in the field but a reliance on the tiniest scraps of evidence and scientific anomalies in the lab. Each case would come down the the perpetrator leaving microscopic traces of some sort of dirt that was only found in one place, or a hair that indicated a rare genetic condition. All found after 17 thousand police officers and CSI’s had clomped through the crime scene. OK the British forensics teams in their white jumpsuits and hair nets look pretty silly, but at least they give some degree of confidence they’re not contaminating everything left right and centre.

The characters suffer their usual mixture of blandness and sanctimony. Everyone getting nicely caught up in their own fiascos as girlfriends get abducted and goodness knows what else. After 9 years I should feel some sense of connection to the characters, but with the exception of the gloriously weird Sid the Coroner and Adam the Tech guy, I really couldn’t give a hoot about any of them. Flack can at least be relied on to provide good banter, but the rest of them never seemed to develop between 2 sentence clichés.

For all that, clearly the show did something right because I actually stuck it out for 9 years! Admittedly a lot of the was accompanying ironing, but I can’t deny that I seem to have passed 6 full days of my life with it on in the background. That really does tell you far more about me, than it does about the show though.


The Upfronts – CBS

cbsCBS, home of the procedural. Looking at the list of renewals, although its portfolio is aging, they are still some of the most popular shows on television. The bad news is with so many slots taken, that doesn’t leave much space for new things.

What’s out
csinyThe biggest cancellation for CBS was surely CSI: NY, which having held off the executioner for the last couple of its nine year run, finally succumbed. Rules of Engagement is a sitcom I know nothing about but has apparently had seven seasons! Freshman series struggled to deliver the high ratings CBS demands, comedies Made in Jersey and Partners didn’t make much impact and while I quite enjoyed Vegas, even I would admit it wasn’t as good as it should have been or needed to be. Golden Boy meanwhile is a police drama that seems to have come and gone with almost no comment from anyone.

What’s returning
The Big Bang TheorySome of the most popular shows on American television are on CBS and their pick up is no surprise. CSI and NCIS may be heading into their fourteenth and eleventh seasons respectively but show little signs of stopping. NCIS: Los Angeles goes into season 5, although its own spin off series (NCIS: Red) was surprisingly absent from the pick-up list. The schedule is packed out with the rest of the procedurals – Blue Bloods, The Mentalist, Hawaii Five-0, Person of Interest and Criminal Minds, going into season 9 after last minute contract negotiations as the female co-stars sought pay equity. Despite relatively poor ratings, it’s also no surprise that The Good Wife, easily the most critically acclaimed network drama is also picked up. CBS also somehow manages to have some of the best performing comedies – The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and How I Met Your Mother return, although it will only be Two Men without the Half and it will be the final season for Mother. Mike and Molly and 2 Broke Girls round it out. The only new show with a pick up is Elementary.

What’s New
The Crazy Ones – Father/daughter ad agency. That’s as much of the blurb as you need to know because the pairing of Robin Williams (Mork!) and Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy!) is what either sells this show to you in a heartbeat, or has you changing channel. I thought it looked one of the most promising comedies so far.

Friends with Better Lives – Six friends are each jealous of their friends lives, be they young parents dreaming of less responsibility, professionally successful but lonely or recently divorced but pining for the ex. Sounds like Friends with more bitterness. Arrives midseason.

Hostages – the night before she’s due to operate on the president Ellen Sanders’ (Toni Collete, United States of Tara) family is taken hostage by a rogue FBI agent (Dylan McDermott, American Horror Story). If she doesn’t kill the president, her family will die. The performances all fell a bit flat for more and although it sounds like a great concept for a film, I’m not sure how it would be drawn out to a series.

Intelligence – Gabriel (Josh Holloway, Lost) is the guinea pig and centre piece for a government agency, led by Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger, CSI). He has some kind of magic technology implanted into his brain which basically gives him access to all the information ever which he presumably uses to fight crime. This looks like it could be fun, with some cool special effects and a solid cast, it’s like NCIS meets the future. Starts midseason.

The Millers – Nathan Miller (Will Arnett) is recently divorced, his dad (Beau Bridges) sees how happy he is and ditches his wife of 43 years (Margo Martindale, Justified). Mum ends up living with son, Dad with daughter. There was not a single thing in this trailer that made me smile and more than one thing that made me want to crawl under a rock.

Mom – three generations of dysfunctional women try to connect with each other. Remember yesterday’s reaction to Bradley Whitford in Trophy Wife, well there was an identical one to Allison Janney in this. Seriously, did their mortgage plans all fall through at the same time or something?! Making a comedy about recovering drug addicts and how they destroyed their family’s lives they’ve had on their families is a brave choice, and one that they should have run away screaming from.

Reckless – “a sultry legal drama set in Charleston, South Carolina, where a gorgeous Yankee litigator (Anna Wood) and a charming Southern attorney (Cam Gigendet) must hide their intense mutual attraction as a police sex scandal threatens to tear the city apart.” Genuinely that’s what the blurb in the press release says. It really does. Starts midseason.

We are Men – Chris Smith, Kal Penn (House), Terry Shalhoub (Monk) and Jerry O’Connell (Sliders) all live in the same apartment complex and are single following various divorces and dumpings. They share a common bond of seeking women and being idiots. It’s a terrible title and it accurately represents the show.

Links: CBS insist on doing those weird behind the scenes trailers which infuriate me and, particularly with the comedies, seem to be trying to show us how much fun the cast is, rather than how fun the show is. The press release and schedule summary are at the Futon Critic.

CSI:NY Season 8

CSI:NYIt seems at the end of season 7 I proclaimed that I wouldn’t be returning to CSI:NY, that I’d grown too tired of the flip-flopping character development, the gratuitous ratings grabbing stunt casting, the financially obvious product placement and the utterly unremarkable storylines. Apparently I forgot all that and watched season 8 regardless.

The good news for you is that I’m not going to bother writing yet another version of the rant that I’ve produced reviewing the last two seasons. The bad news is that’s not because anything’s improved in CSI:NY, it’s just because I seem to care less and can’t really be bothered.

CSI:NY sits alongside NCIS as my choice of watching to accompany other tasks that only require half a brain – ironing, tidying, filing, accounting… I just watched the last episode of the season while kneading some bread dough. Both shows are good for this because not only do they not need concentration, but they actively discourage it. If you focus on the plot too much you might spot that it’s dumb. Instead if you just dial up your attention for the witty banter and dial it back down again for the exposition, you’re sufficiently amused and not too irritated.

CSI:NY ranks above its naval colleague simply because in comparison its characters are an exercise in careful development and subtle traits and emotions. I actually like most of the CSIs when they’re just chatting and doing their jobs, they all of course become epically irritating when they go off on some sort of self-righteous rant about justice or honour or professionalism or whatever, but most of the time they’re a fun bunch who have interesting (and consistent) relationships and who I would actually trust to investigate a crime without running the risk of screwing it up.

The plots remain dubious in the extreme, always relying on extraordinarily unlikely connections and minute traces of stuff . “I found this tiny flake of soil in the carpet, it’s possible it came in on the boots of the 15 police officers, but as it happens it’s found at only 1 specific place in the city where the person who appeared to be only tangentially connected to the case, but is coincidentally played by a big name guest star happened to mention visiting last month.”

Beyond all expectations, CSI:NY will be back for season 9, with 18 episodes to take it up to 200 episodes in total. I don’t think anyone anticipates it being renewed for season 10, but you never know. I’ll continue to watch it as long as I have ironing that needs doing.

What I’m watching at the moment

I’m pretty much in the depths of scheduling desperation at the moment. Keeping on top of all the stuff coming in each week is about all I can manage, taking an evening out to watch a film can cause catastrophic backlog on the sky+ box. Unfortunately while I’m watching a lot of TV, there’s not much for me to talk about, no new pilots, no season end reviews, I’m just trudging through the middles. So with a lack of anything else to write about, here’s a snapshot of what I’m watching at the moment.

Bedlam (Sky Living, Mondays) –Sky’s attempt to offer an alternative to Being Human, with a supernatural ghosty drama type thing. It’s awful. Particularly hateful is the lead female character, Kate, who is an absolute bitch of a blond trendy 20something who the rest of the cast don’t slap about the head for some reason that escapes me. Will Young is kind of adorable, but the rest of the cast is completely bland and the plots simultaneously over the top and boring. I gave it two episodes, but I don’t think I’ll be watching the third.

Glee (E4, Mondays) – I’m also enjoying Glee recently, although I have no idea why. The characterisation is all over the place, just about every relationship is lacking in chemistry, plots are painfully ‘issue of the week’ and I want to gaffer tape Rachel’s mouth shut every time she appears. However, there’s been some really fun music choices, the Rocky Horror Picture Show episode was kind of inspired, Kurt breaks my heart every week and for all the fact that most of it is rubbish, it really makes me smile.

Blue Bloods (Tuesdays, Sky Atlantic) – There are two remarkable things about this otherwise mediocre show. The first is that the writing is often utterly terrible, plot is delivered in scenery chewing monologues with all the subtlety of breeze blocks, “it’s a shame mom is dead and my brother was killed on duty, I’d really like to talk to them about my conflicted feelings” isn’t far off the quality of dialogue here. The other remarkable thing however is Tom Selleck. Every time he is on screen he brightens the place up, managing to somehow have credible relationships with his concrete inspired offspring and navigate his way through the awfulness in a way that makes me come back for more each week.

Bones (Sky Living, Wednesdays) – Bones herself seems to have regressed this season, becoming even less aware of how normal people behave, more annoying than ever. But despite the best efforts of the central character, I still enjoy the show a lot. It comes up with an interesting gimmick each week (the body in chocolate was particularly grim) and Booth and the supporting cast (including the entertaining, rotating interns) are extremely watch-able.

Grey’s Anatomy (Sky Living, Wednesdays) – I’m loving this season. I pounce on every episode as soon as it arrives and I can find a safe time to watch it – there cannot be any possibility of interruption or distraction, it just has to be me and my show. Everything just seems to be working, there’s not too much whining, there’s no duds in the character collection, the relationships are all interesting and going somewhere and the dialogue is as sharp as it’s ever been. Love it.

Mad Dogs (Sky1, Thursdays) – the first episode was definitely the high point with the careful pacing and gradual creepiness now replaced with a random chaotic collection of violence and shouting. The actors make it enjoyable, but I’m glad it’s only four episodes long and finishes this week.

The Good Wife (More4, Thursdays) – I am SOOOOOO over Kalinda. I mean seriously? Are we supposed to be sympathetic, because frankly I’m beginning to think she’s had some kind of psychotic break. I also don’t really understand why Diane and Will have suddenly taken against each other, I loved them in the first season, friendly and constructive while still keeping a few cards to themselves, now they’re acting like paranoid conspiracy nuts, did I miss something? I’m also pretty bored of the political campaigning – has there even been mention of the actual political issues at all it seems to be all about threats and manipulation? So overall, I’m struggling a bit with The Good Wife at the moment.

CSI (Thursdays, Five USA) – There have been a few interesting bits this season, but nothing spectacular. The emotional and personal stuff has been laid on a bit thick, issues coming and going like sledgehammers. The show could really use some younger characters to come in and challenge the status quo a bit, it’s at risk of turning into Midsummer Murders.

Brothers & Sisters (Thursdays, More4) –This isn’t an amazing show, but it continues to be comfortable. It’s full of melodrama, cheese and sappiness. The cast has thinned down a bit having lost Robert, Holly and Rebecca which I think actually improves the show and I don’t miss any of them. The small time shift also makes things a bit more interesting, but at its heart this is a hot chocolate and duvet show.

The Big C (Thursdays, More4) – It’s billed as a comedy, and it *is* funny, but all the humour comes from the “you’ve got to laugh or you’ll cry” school of thought. It’s not an easy show to watch, but it is extremely good with a spectacular performance from Laura Linney.

NCIS (FX, Fridays) – only just returned so the only episode I’ve seen is the resolution to the big mid-season cliff-hanger which I really didn’t care about in the slightest. Despite the fact that the ratings are through the roof on this in the US, I’m losing interest as characters continue to behave erratically and the plots get less and less engaging.

Criminal Minds (Sky1, Fridays) – I always enjoy Criminal Minds, it’s not spectacular, but each week the mysteries are interesting, the action suitably dramatic and the characters and their relationships rewarding for the long term viewer. I do miss JJ horribly, but am enjoying Garcia’s increased role and appreciate that the new agent brings a bit of energy to the show. A solid performer.

CSI:New York (Saturdays, Channel 5) – The disappearance of Stella and her replacement by Sela Ward was a bit spontaneous, but gave the show a bit of excitement. But it didn’t really last and it’s settled back into a bit of rut. It’s ok to watch while cooking or ironing, but that’s not exactly high praise.

Outcasts – (BBC1 Sundays) – it’s a bit n&*f really, I have some really very serious doubts the writers have any idea about the timelines, the history of the colony or where they’re going with the mystery. BUT if treated as mindless entertainment, it’s actually moderately enjoyable.

NCIS: LA (Sky1, Sundays) – the sister series however I’m enjoying more and more. The plots are still pretty dull, but the characters and dialogue have a spark to them that the original series seems to have lost. The ensemble is working well together having lost Nate and what’s-his-face who were pretty dull and replaced them with quirkier and more interesting Nell and Deeks.

Top Gear (BBC2, Sundays) – Falling to the bottom of my watch list, I find myself fast forwarding more and more of each episode. When they’re spontaneous, I still love them, but too much is scripted and obviously faked.

Supernatural (“spring/summer”, Sky Living) – when a show takes on the apocalypse and the devil, it’s a big question where to go next, but the tighter focus on the more personal issues was a good choice. There’s still a great mix of angst, action, drama and a bucket load of humour (it’s been a long time since I laughed at anything as hard as I laughed at Dean and the fairy).

CSI:NY – Season 6

CSI:NYWriting a review for season six of CSI: NY immediately after reviewing House season six makes me feel that maybe I’ve been a little harsh on House. I criticised it for having a lot of un-memorable fluff around a few amazing minutes each episode. Then I come to look at CSI:NY and realise that the fluff is for the most part just as unmemorable, there are no amazing minutes and the only memorable bits are only memorable because they’re kind of awful.

The problem with New York is that it feels like it’s a television show, that everything is written and guided to maximise ratings, product placement, celebrity appearances and mostly, to generate an exciting looking trailer for next week’s episode. The cases and character developments all feel contrived; nothing seems as if it’s stuff that has just happened and has to be dealt with, it always feels as if a committee of writers has sat down together and decided what would be interesting this week. The next week they may decide something different and the previous events are just forgotten. It means that each episode is quite enjoyable in a disposable way, but when I come to write the end of season review I feel weirdly angry about the whole thing.

The science is really suffering along the way. Too often the episode is about an artificial puzzle created by the criminal to specifically grab the attention of the CSIs. As if they too have seen their smug faces on TV and want to have a shot at beating them. The thing is the puzzles aren’t satisfying for a viewer because they always require huge amounts of exposition to explain and are always solved only just in the nick of the time. It all felt too artificial, crossing out of the realms of suspension of disbelief and leaving me rolling my eyes. The science is often compromised along the way, fitted in around the puzzle or the need for a flashy effect.

Characters suffer from the same flip-flopping continuity issues. The cliff-hanger of season five effected the whole team either directly through injury or loss, or indirectly seeing their colleagues and friends struggling with grief or physical issues. But after a few episodes that all seemed to be mended, it was only when I started writing this and looked back at the episode guide for the whole season that I remembered the apparently life altering turmoil the characters had been through, by the end of the season it was as if none of it had happened.

When they’re being written well, I like the New York characters; they act like a big dysfunctional family and fall into their roles easily. I was worried last year that the Lindsey and Danny relationship would have a negative effect on the show, but it’s either been handled carefully so it has minimal effect on the story or it was a victim of the uneven continuity and some of the writers just forgot about it. I like it when Mac loosens up a bit and gets off his self-righteous horse and he’s done that a bit more this season. Hawkes I find annoying in the extreme, but he had very little to do in the second half of the season, so that was fine by me. While depressed Flack at the start of the season was very well played, in some ways I was glad that the writers forgot that arc and returned him to carefree sarcasm. I thought it was a real shame that the Stella and Adam relationship wasn’t investigated more though, Adam is a great spark of life to the show (much like Greg in CSI:Original’s early years) and his lack of confidence is a really great contrast to the self-righteous CSIs.

I think New York is struggling to identify itself. It’s always been the quiet younger sibling compared to the trend setting oldest and explosive middle child; but at 6 years old, it really should be able to stand on its own. Maybe this season long arc of puzzle solving is it staking a claim as to the approach it’s going to take to the CSI genre, but if it is, I’m afraid I don’t like it. CSI:Original went through a few years of not quite knowing what to do with itself, until the recent massive cast shuffle gave it a new lease of life. With CSI:NY’s relatively low ratings, and a move to the Friday Night death slot in the US next year, I have a suspicion the show may not survive much longer, and while I am glad to have watched past seasons, if season 6 is an indication of the direction the show is going to take I don’t think I’ll miss it very much.

Cop Shows and Medical Mysteries

Quick note – I should have mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’ll be avoiding specific spoilers as much as possible, vague ones might spill out, but hopefully nothing the BBC wouldn’t happily post on their site without warning ;0)

Most of the procedurals ticked along as they do, if you asked me to describe what distinguished this season from the last for Criminal Minds, Bones or NCIS I’d really struggle. That’s not to say they’re not fun and interesting to watch with the occasional flash of brilliance, but mostly they’re pretty unremarkable. I’m not asking that they have giant world changing events every episode, but it’s possible to spread character development more evenly through the season. With half a dozen or so big episodes during the financially important sweeps weeks, the rest of the season can feel like padding.

It’s the old guard that tried to shake things up a bit this season with both CSI original flavour and New York making some big cast and character changes. For CSI it all came a bit too fast for me, you have mostly the same characters for 8 years (!) and then in half a season you lose 3 of them. I’m only half way through season 9 but so far I like that the lead actor’s replacement is not a direct replacement for the character – Laurence Fishburne brings gravitas and big-name-ness to the cast, but his character is lowest on the totem pole, shaking things up quite interestingly. The changes with CSI:NY, with Lindsay and Danny’s relationship adds something new to the show, but I’m not convinced it’s anything good – they need to be very careful not to turn it into CSI:Couples Counciling.

When I wrote the first draft of this article, it was pretty harsh towards House. Up to episode 19 things were pretty dull and repetitive. The new and old minions still seemed to be in limbo nearly two seasons after the original shake up. I like the new minions a lot, but they can never stand on their own while Foreman is sitting at the end of the table frowning at them and Chase and Cameron are popping up for their obligatory one scene a week and reveal just how much smarter they are and how much better they understand House. Also I continue to find Cuddy the most frustrating character on the planet, for a supposedly smart woman she really is dumb as hammers sometimes. The ‘relationship’ between her and House is the most unlikely, ill-advised, blind stupid idea ever. Meanwhile the medical mysteries were getting less interesting and I struggled to remember them over the advert breaks. Then suddenly someone woke up and things got good again. Three episodes in a row had fascinating stories, character growth and spark. House seems to do this every season, have a few great episodes at the beginning, a few amazing episodes at the end and absolute drivel in between. They really need to smooth this out if they don’t want me to just tune in for those 6 episodes and skip the other twenty.

Then we have Grey’s Anatomy and I don’t really know where to start. The large plots continue to be a pretty daft, the Izzie storyline having a new record number of wtf moments. I still get irritated at just how many life changing things can happen to each of these people every year, but I guess if you accept that this is more soap opera than realistic drama then it’s all ok. The dialogue and acting however continues to impress, each episode is a roller-coaster of sobbing and laughing leaving me a quietly gibbering mess if I try to watch too much at once. It’s a show that comes so close to delight that the frustrations drive me absolutely mad.

Up tomorrow – Sci-fi

CSI: NY: Season 3

I like CSI New York, it’s a bit more actiony and cheesey than Las Vegas without taking things to extremes as Miami does. It also doesn’t take itself quite so seriously, the characters make fun of themselves (usually) and the whole thing just seems a little more fun. The final episode of the season is a case in point, ridiculous all out Die Hard plot with just a teeny bit of forensics thrown in to justify the CSI label.

I do sometimes feel though that they’re taking rather extreme liberties with the science and plots. It’s also getting a bit ridiculous just how often the CSIs seem to get involved with their own cases. But it’s a fun and diverting show which doesn’t make me shout too often.

DVD Special Features
I actually have the two half-season sets for this show, so watched the first half a few months ago. I was slightly frustrated when the first half came with no special features. I forgave them as they padded it out with some bonus episodes – a season 4 Miami episode which was concluded with a second season New York episode. However on reaching the end of the second dvd set I went looking for the special features only to find that it’s a completely vanilla set. Astonishingly poor showing.

CSI:NY: Season 1 (second half)

The second half of the season is a little lighter than the first and consequently a bit more fun to watch. The thing that stands out most to me is how New York everything is – from the plots, locations through to the characters, it’s not just about the cases it’s about the city as well. The characters are a huge step forward from the bland collection in Miami and seem to have more energy that the Las Vegas crew.

There’s still an issue that the plots seem to be getting sloppier, there are an increasing number of points where cases could be tied up faster just by asking the right question, but I guess that’s just television.

DVD Special Featuressc
There’s only one commentary and it suffers from Deathly Silence Syndrome. The 4 featurettes however manage to be interesting and fun to watch. The overview of setting the show in New York gives some interesting background, the character/casting review gives some depth. The set tour is a little dull but the small feature on the animals used in the series is fun, something that’s usually missing from CSI dvds.