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CSI Set to Take on Hackers with CSI: Cyber

Bob Chipman | 15 Sep 2014 12:00
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HD: CSI Cyber social

This spring, CSI will tackle cyber-crime with CSI: Cyber.

Y'know what gets annoying if you work on the internet (or anywhere adjacent to the "tech" business, at this point)? Nitpicky snarking about how "wrong" television/movies/etc get the presentation of computer technology.

On the one hand, it can be immensely educational to learn how things being dramatized for entertainment actually work in the real world. But too often the "analysis" is rooted in a place of smug superiority, presented from an assumption that the inconsistencies are the result of ignorance on the part of the filmmakers rather than the need to make things visually interesting: Yes, friend. I am aware that not even MI6 has the kind of computer setups that ordinary Miami detectives are shown routinely using on TV -- do you honestly think nobody on the production knows that? Or did they just recognize that it's hard to make working at a terminal interesting, even if you are trying to solve a triple-homicide.

But even I'm at once dreading and hotly-anticipating the latest entry in the CSI franchise (for those keeping track: earlier spinoffs CSI Miami and CSI NY have both ended their runs, leaving only the Las Vegas-set original still on the air for now), the ominously-dubbed CSI: Cyber. The mind reels at the thought: The CSI formula (creepy/sleazy/sensationalist murder stories viewed through the lens of forensic investigators via editing and music to make forensic investigation look a lot more exciting than it actually is) applied to "cybercrime?" It's easy to picture endless scenes of cameras 360-degree panning around actors pretending to type very, very fast ala 90s "cyberthrillers" like The Net.

On the other hand, CSI in general long ago abandoned the pretext of their Crimes of the Week having to be something that a forensics team would be at the forefront of solving in favor of "Here's a salacious murder premise: Figure out how it would need to be solved by microfibers instead of anything else," so maybe there's hope that the computer-crime angle could be just the latest excuse for another hour of Sweded Se7en a week.

Fortunately, while the actual series won't air until 2015, we can get a glimpse at how it might go now: The 14th season of CSI-Classic included an episode called Kitty that served as a backdoor pilot for Cyber, with Patricia Arquette making her debut as Special Agent Avery Ryan who will be the main character of Cyber -- and the first female leader of a CSI-Universe team (CSI: Voyager?) -- who uses her special skills as head of the Quantico Cyber Crime Division to help solve a case that has the regular CSI guys flummoxed. Spoiler: she does exactly what they do, but with Computer Magic instead of Microscope Magic.

So what do we have to look forward to (apart from James Van Der Beek as Agent Elijah Mundo and Peter MacNicol as Assistant Director Stavros Sifter)? Let's take a look at Kitty...

We open (as is customary) on flyover-footage of Las Vegas, but instead of the usual plot-appropriate contemporary pop-music the score is affecting a bass-heavy synth tune of the type that generally designates "techno-thriller" as opposed to "thriller." The touchscreen security system of a posh ranch-style McMansion seems to disable itself (Oh no, Ma! It's them hackers from the CNN!!) and a shadowy figures strides in with a gun and shoots a sleeping woman to death. Lovely. She's clothed fairly conservatively (a nightdress instead of inexplicably having fallen asleep in expensive lingerie) which in TV Crime Show language means she's probably an innocent victim of whatever the story will be.

The cops arrive (in the form of Paul Guilfoyle's Captain Brass, who generally represents the entirety of the non-CSI Las Vegas Police Department in the series) amid a throng of press, which means the victim was famous. Moments later: The other regular good guys are pulling over the fancy car of the victim's husband, Lee Berman, who does the "Do you know who I am??" thing so we'll think he's the bad guy for a while. They find gun-residue on his hands and arrest him, but he looks surprised that his wife is dead.

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