Wednesday, March 28, 2007

New York: CSI City of Choice

Law & Order may have Fred Thompson as the DA New York ought to have, but CSI: NY is my choice for crime drama, standing head and shoulders above the other franchise cities. It has the best Who theme song, “Baba O’Riley,” although it applies least to crime solving (“we don’t have to fight to prove we’re right?”). It does have some sharp writing that is among the most center-right friendly currently on television.

The lead played by Gary Sinise, is Det. Mack Taylor, a former Marine who served in Beirut, whose wife was one of those murdered on 9-11. He is a practicing Catholic, not lapsed or questioning. Early in season one, we saw a photo of Pres. Reagan in his office. If that does not make him likeable enough, last season we even learned he plays electric bass at a fictional jazz club called Cozy’s.

The recent storylines are also notable for elements that break the mold of conventional Hollywood leftist clich├ęs. Last week’s episode, “Daze of Wine and Roaches” (Season 3, episode 66), a celebrity chef was murdered by a weird pseudo-animal rights/environmental wacko to prevent him from smashing a cockroach. We also see Det. Taylor’s investigation of a murder involving the UN hamstrung by the department’s obsequiousness to French diplomatic demands.

Another recent episode, “The Ride-In” (episode 64) did revolve around a Noah’s Ark sect, but the portrayal of fervent religious belief was actually handled with nuance and tact. The secondary investigation featured a tobacco company, but the perp turned out to be a union organizer campaigning for a costumed mascot local—not exactly your stereotypical Hollywood storyline.

CSI: NY is refreshing because the killers are as likely to be annoying hipsters as they are evil business executives, like the Mandala artist killer in “Murder Sings the Blues” (episode 54). Maybe Sinise’s influence is partly responsible. He certainly seems to be a good guy, having performed over 40 USO shows for the troops (youtube videos here). He also co-founded Operation Iraqi Children, a charity to help rebuild and literally re-supply the long atrophied Iraqi school system. (As part of the 2004 RNC Convention’s community service efforts, I helped the NY delegation assemble school supply kits in coordination with OIC.) Not to make trouble for Sinise in his chosen profession, but according to Newsmeat, his only donation large enough to surface in online searches was $2,100 to Mary Bono (R-CA) in 2004.

At this point, compared to Law & Order, CSI just seems to have the fresher brand, and New York has the smartest writing. Tonight’s episode is a repeat, which doesn’t contradict anything I’ve written, as best I can recall.