And, since the vacation ended, I've watched all of CSI (but not the spinoffs). It's kind of weird to have the two TV shows I like be the highest-rated drama and the lowest-rated drama on TV. (And, if you're wondering, I started by downloading, but I ended up just buying seasons 1-5 on DVD, since I'm not really a big fan of the not-paying thing, and I was too impatient to Netflix it.)
Procedurals can be fun; they're a sort of modern day detective story. I used to watch Law & Order nightly repeats in Boston in the late 90s. So I guess that's the main hook; it's interesting to watch the case being solved. A few of the actors are particularly charismatic, which helps.
But let's hit the highs and the lows:
- THUMBS UP: Science! Given all the crazy evolutionary controversy and the global warming controversy, it's great that this show was out there "single-handedly" (I'll pretend, anyway) fighting the good fight for science. Sure, it's not research science (at least mostly), but the whole premise that people lie and facts don't... yay.
- THUMBS DOWN: Psychics! In two episodes! With both "knowing" things that are seemingly scientifically inexplicable. (Yes, the last one had some of her stuff explained away... but some not.)
- NEUTRAL: Implausible science. I'm sure nearly everything is wrong in the particulars, given that the few subjects I know about seem pretty wrong (e.g. the stuff with extracting sound into separate components; I'm not even going touch the image enhancement stuff). At first, this bugged me a little, but I decided to just roll with it, and it's been tolerable; in the end, I have a sense that things could go this way, there is tech of this sort in other areas, so whatever.
- THUMBS UP: People lie! And when it's pointed out that the evidence doesn't fit their lie, they switch to a new lie to match the evidence! But they rarely tell the whole truth (except see next bullet point). Basically, I like this in part because it helps sell the anti-police state privacy line: everybody does have something to hide. It's not quite totally true, though, since the people with something to hide are all adulterers and others whom the CSIs may not make moral judgements on, but the TV viewers can freely do so (and still claim they themselves have nothing to hide). But it's still a step in the right direction. Also nice in the way it acknowledges the policy of "just say nothing; deny everything" as a strategy. It may be that it works better in real life, when there's much less forensic evidence on hand, I don't know. But it's nice that the show is based around a methodology that rarely requires overcoming that.
- NEUTRAL: The bad guys almost always confess! This is a TV convention from long before CSI: you need the bad guy to confess so you can know that the crime really has been solved; otherwise you end up in that crazy place that long-time Veronica Mars watchers are familiar with. So, I'm totally fine with the confession as a shortcut around (a) a long trial process, and (b) not even being sure at the end of a trial process. (A jury of peers declaring innocent or guilt doesn't make a person innocent or guilty!) The trick here is it's not used to solve the crime, just to confirm it.
- THUMBS DOWN: "There are too many forensics shows on TV." There are also too many lame CSI episodes!
- THUMBS DOWN: CSIs not recusing themselves from cases in which they have personal involvement, conflicts of interest, or appearance of conflict of interest. It's always in the interest of personal drama, but it just cuts way back on the believability of it. (Or rather, the believability that their supervisor doesn't smack them down for it and let them go.)
- THUMBS DOWN: Lazy fingerprint graphics. There have been, I dunno, at least ten episodes, across multiple seasons, in which they put a fingerprint up on screen, then overlay some markers of features and draw a line through them, and then run a comparison on that--which used the exact same set of markers and the exact same line through them as the other nine episodes. WTF. (If you want to look for it, the line is basically a lowercase 'n' without the hook at the top left, and with the right lower side curving out like cursive, but on the way down it curves in to the left a little.)