'CSI: Cyber': An Oscar Winner in the Worst 'CSI' Yet
You could feel sorry for Patricia Arquette, imagining that she signed on to CSI: Cyber before she won an Oscar for Boyhood — that now she’s stuck on a risible CSI spinoff instead of scooping up fresh feature-film offers.
But really, Arquette has very little to do as Special Agent Avery Ryan, head of the FBI’s Cyber Crime Division other than deliver pseudo-hard-boiled lines like,
"Now you’re telling me we have three babies in the wind?" She’s required to stare off into space while the CGI folks in post-production put up screens tracing the travel routes of suspects and, in one case, holograms of corpses "virtually teleported from the Medical Examiner’s Office.” Not a heavy workload. Depressing, but not onerous.
Which is what I’d say about the entirety of CSI: Cyber. Although this latest spinoff of the CSI franchise (obligatory theme song by the Who this time ’round is “I Can See for Miles”) is full of fancy tech and jargon exclamations like, “Uh-oh! There’s malware!,” it’s really just like all the other CSI shows. There’s a Stalwart Team Leader With a Hidden Past (that would be Arquette), the Muscular-Hunk Right-Hand Man (that would be James Van Der Beek, with an impressive set of pecs popping beneath his trademark cereal-box-shaped head), the Dweeby Male Tech expert (Charley Koontz), and the Eccentric-Hair-Color Female Tech Expert (Hayley Kiyoko, who has some magenta highlights going on). Then there’s the Young Black Man Who Feels Like an Outsider, who begins rapping his deductions because, he explains, “I think better when I talk it out in rhyme.” He’s played by Shad Moss, aka Bow Wow, whom I’m sure in real life can think without first converting his thoughts to rhyme. Together, they all report to a Fussy but Honest Boss (Peter MacNichol, another excellent actor breezing through overwrought lines like, “That is truly horrifying!”).
The chief problem with CSI: Cyber is its need to hype crimes into emergencies to which the Cyber team’s reaction seems way out of proportion. The opening episode involves a baby stolen from her crib, as recorded by a nursery-room baby-cam. The crime occurs in Baltimore, and as soon as it’s reported, the entire team is galvanized: “Pack your bags, we’re going to Baltimore!” yells Arquette’s Ryan. Pack your bags? Baltimore is, what, an hour from the FBI’s D.C. headquarters? The CSI team is going to be home before dinner, for pete’s sake.
Now, I know the abduction of a child is tremendously upsetting, but do you really think any time that happens in the country, an entire FBI team drops everything and runs to the crime scene for days? I doubt it. I also doubt that seasoned agents say things like, “A baby’s life is at stake!” and “I know what it’s like to be violated.” That last line is what Arquette’s character says to the upset parents by way of acknowledging that, while she herself is not a parent, she feels their pain. Or some kind of unrelated pain. Equating Agent Ryan’s “violation” with a baby-snatching seems a reach to me, but, hey, it’s obvious CSI: Cyber will take its emotion wherever it can pump it up.
Indeed, I suspect that, in thinking through his concept, CSI founder Anthony Zuiker decided that, since the tech-talk required for a show like this might make the atmosphere seem chilly and (heaven forbid) cerebral, the actors and the scripts had to supply the heart-pounding melodrama.
Cyber marks the return of Arquette to TV — she won an Emmy for Medium, a show so memorable I had completely forgotten it. I hope she’s getting paid a heckuva lot for striding through this new hour of televisual malware.
CSI: Cyber airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on CBS.