The Painful Pleasures of CSI: Miami

Curator's Note

I find myself unable to stomach CSI: Miami's combination of fetishized gore, glossy decor, and David Caruso's underplayed overacting. But I find this fan video, a labor of love & hate, oddly compelling. Distilling the tone of the show down to Caruso's mannered one-liners punching the teaser into the credits, this endless juxtaposition highlights the essence of such procedurals: all is formula and ritual, presenting exactly what we expect each week with just enough variation to keep us enthralled. Caruso's variations are subtle - on what word will he pause inappropriately? When will he put the shades back on? How will he make make light of a murder with utter seriousness, and strip a joke of all humor? Perhaps what makes this video for me is my ability to identify with Roger Daltrey's cut-off howl, a mocking rimshot of ambiguous disgust or approval endlessly replayed. Is this the work of a dedicated fan or an even more dedicated anti-fan? Was it made to mock or celebrate, cause pleasure or pain? Or, as Horatio Crane might say: remember that in Miami... (pause to put on sunglasses) the pleasure is the pain.


Wow! I'm still picking my jaw up off the floor. I've only ever seen a couple of episodes of CSI Miami, and now I remember why. You hit the nail on the head in terms of formula, to the degree that one could easily conceive of similar videos for every procedural drama that's ever run (including, of course, the other CSIs). These moments are precisely pleasurable, where the rubber of TV form and ideology meets the road of audience expectations and desires. They keep us coming back. Remember, CSI Miami is the #1 TV drama in the world, after all. That said, I don't think they're limited to procedurals or even episodic series. It'd be interesting to do a similar experiment with Lost, for example. The teasers won't have identical character quirks like these, but they will have variations on the "WTF?" moment that marks our entrance/return to the mysteries of the island.

I'd also point out that the conventional formula creates the foundation for defamiliarizing these programs. Oftentimes, the changes in a generic narrative formula are subtle (e.g. CSI's replacement of the police detective with the forensic scientist and the corresponding changes in the tools of the trade). At other times, these changes are far more profound (e.g. the serialization of Hill Street Blues or Homicide or adapting the procedural's formula to a "doctor" show like House). In the end, none of this changes the fact that Caruso turns my stomach and this clip was a great way to start my morning (I didn't need that breakfast anyway). My favorite moment happens when Caruso turns to the camera during a crane shot to deliver the second half of his cheesy line. What in the world was he looking at anyway? I couldn't help but think of the way Stephen Colbert lays bare the camera techniques of a newscast or how the contestants on American Idol "mature" through course of the season and learn to play to the audience at home.

I too dislike David Caruso intensely and for this reason have only watched CSI: Miami once. It was good to watch this clip and be given a good reason for not watching it again. I wonder if the CSI: Miami viewers keep watching it precisely because of its formulaic quality. Maybe they find its predictability reassuring.

As someone who watches CSI: Miami (though not religiously -- if it's on, I'll bite) and enjoys it, I'd say that Caruso's lines are part of the joy. I love the show's visual style, precisely because it's surface without depth (the oranges and blues and music don't really *mean* much to me), which allows me to enjoy the show effortlessly. And Curuso's acting and silly one-liners really allow the viewer to see through him, and restrict most attempts to find depth in him or even the series. So I can identify with the fandom/anti-fandom that might lead one to make such a clip, celebrating as it does the joy of watching something quite silly. That said, let me put on my sunglasses and sign out...

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