Why do so many people dog CSI: Miami? It wins it's time slot easily every week. It's been in the top thirteen television shows for its entire seven-year run, getting as high as seven in 2004-05 (it's third season). The cinematography is gorgeous, it has beautiful people, and it has interesting stories. It also has David Caruso. I know for some, this is enough not to watch. I'm here to tell you something: you are missing out if you don't watch this show.
Some critics think CSI: Miami (Miami for the remainder of this post) is too unreal. Hello? If you're not watching "The Wire," then just about all police shows are unreal. Sure, some are more real (The Shield) than others (Monk) but that doesn't mean they are bad. They're just different. It is entertainment, after all. Miami's creator, Anthony Zuiker, knew exactly what he wanted when he made Miami: Not Vegas. In Vegas, you have The Land of Perpetual Shadows, pretty people wearing sexy clothes, and interesting main characters. In Miami, you have The Land of Perpetual Sunset, prettier people wearing sexier clothing, and main characters who are equally as interesting.
Miami had the luxury of airing its pilot episode wrapped inside an episode the original CSI. There's a crime in Vegas and Warrick and Willows travel to Miami to follow leads. There, they meet the Miami cast, see how they work, react to the differences, and basically get Miami's mission statement directly from Calleigh Duquesne: "We do things more fanciful down here."
Calleigh is only one of the cast of Pretty People in Miami. She's fun because she's a blonde Southern belle who knows and likes guns and has an alcoholic father. Hunky Eric Delko is Miami's underwater diver who, just last season, learned that his dad was really a Soviet, the very man who put out a hit on him. Yikes! Hello dad. Glad to know you, too. For fans of characters who have a lot of noirish backstory, Delko's your man. Or maybe you like'em smaller, less hunky, prone to wearing pastel ties with jeans, but with a gambling problem. Miami's got you covered. Ryan Wolfe has his demons, gets himself kicked off the force, brought back on the force, and is the only one team leader Horatio Caine trusts for a giant undercover project, much to the chagrin of the straight-and-narrow characters.
Horatio Caine. I think we can all be honest and say that, if you're one who doesn't like Miami, it's because of Caine. Rather, it's because of David Caruso, the actor who portrays Caine in all the episodes. I don't get it. Some accuse him of being a prima donna after his departure from NYPD Blue back in 1994. Yeah, maybe. Whatever. I don't care. Caruso's NY detective, John Kelly, was a great character and did the honorable thing when he turned in his badge and walked away. Granted, I caught this in reruns but I liked what I saw. Cut to the one-season TV show "Michael Hayes" (which I watched and enjoyed, thank you) and I thought there might be a new series for Caruso. Nope. Then, the Miami pilot: There he was again. And his character, Caine, and Caruso's portrayal of him, had me from the beginning.
As writers, we are excoriated to show, don't tell. Show a characters traits, don't tell us about them. Caine, in the first scene, shows what kind of man he is. The cops are looking for a seven-year-old girl. Caine finds her in the Everglades (or wherever they are) and approaches her. They talk and he mentions that people are looking for her. He sits next to her and says "Why don't we sit here and let them find us together." As a new dad in 2002 when this show aired, I was hooked. To paraphrase, he had me at "together."
It's exactly that empathy that I love and appreciate in Horatio Caine. He ends the episode by talking with young Sasha again, together, as they sit on a beach. He tells her that she'll hear many bad things said about her parents, who have both been murdered. He implores her to remember that both her mom and dad "fought like heroes for you." I guess that's why I like Caine so much: he fights for the powerless. Whether it's a little girl, newly orphaned, or Wolfe when he's fired/rehired, or the various other victims of crimes he meets, he's always there to help, to shoulder the burden of others' pain. That's why he does what he does even though his personal life (murdered wife; criminal brother; grown son introduced last season) is often in the tank.
You're saying "Scott, that's all well and good, but the show is just too damn cheesy" and I'll agree with you. Yes, there are entirely too many coincidences in Miami (CSI, too; can't speak to NY as I don't watch it). We're talking a 48-minute show here, people. What might take hours or days in real life takes a commercial break on TV. Deal with it. Yes, Caruso delivers his one-liners like Roger Moore did in his Bond films. William Peterson did, too, and no one gives him grief. What's up with that? And yes, there are the sunglasses. Yes, there are times when, entering a dark room, I yell for him to "take off the shades, H!". Whatever. It's iconic now. Just like Chicago *has* to play "25 or 6 to 4" in concert, Caruso has to have the shades. In last week's premiere, we get an origin story of the team...and the shades. I grinned. I love this show. So sue me.
If you haven't given CSI: Miami a try, you ought to. If you've left, give it another shot.* You might be surprised how much fun it really is.
*But don't forget ABC's "Castle." I've written about Castle on my blog and it was the one show I most looked forward to watching again. CSI: Miami was #1A. It's just aggravating that they both show up on Mondays at 9pm CST. Miami is in no danger of cancellation anytime soon. I watch Castle live and, around 10:01pm, I start up Miami. Maybe you could do the same.
P.S., After I wrote about Castle last week, I decided to write about Miami here in this space. I was going for the "Caine is like Donald Lam" angle (I'll write about this later) but changed to an entire CSI: Miami focus. In fact, I had the post mostly written when I received an e-mail from Damon Caporaso of Bookspotcentral.com. I had linked to his website's recap of Castle on Tuesday. Well, he invited me to participate and write recaps of a show of my choice. Guess what I picked? Well, you don't really have to guess, do you? My recaps start this Tuesday.