Culture of Pop

Review: CSI: Cyber Premieres on CBS

CSI: Cyber is CBS’s latest installment in their CSI franchise. While most procedural variations simply change up the location, this one actually claims to be about an entirely different kind of crime with the “cyber” hook. However, after only one episode it’s very clear that CSI: Cyber won’t actually have any major differences. The premiere gave us a straightforward kidnapping plotline with a few references to tech thrown in.

CSI: Cyber is also very clearly not an especially smart procedural. At one point two detectives take half a scene talking it out before they realize a baby cam can record things. You know, like all cameras do. Then when they realize the cam’s memory card is gone, one detective declares “smart kidnapper”, wanting us to be impressed that a kidnapper thought to remove the memory card from a camera pointed directly at them while they were committing a crime. There was also a line where a detective tracked two bad guys by saying “evolutionary survival skills will take them to higher ground.” I can’t help be a little skeptical of that line, especially when they have a lab full of tech that could’ve been used to explain how they found these guys. That said, the episode did pack in a lot of big twists so the plot was at least entertaining if you turn your brain off a little.

But, it’s really never the plots that make this type of procedural sink or swim anyway. It’s all about the cast of characters. CSI: Cyber got off to a good start by assembling a great cast. Patricia Arquette leads the show, coming off her big Oscar win. The rest of the cast includes Peter MacNicol, who was great on Ally McBeal; Charley Koontz, coming off a stand out recurring role in Community; the always wonderful James van der Beek of Dawson’s Creek fame; Hayley Kiyoko from the live action Scooby-Doo prequels; and the very adorable and charismatic Shad Moss, better known as Bow Wow. That’s a lot of likability crammed into one ensemble, which made me really want to root for this show. But, the question is, did the show write characters that utilize the cast?

Our heroine, Arquette’s Avery Ryan, is by far the most intriguing character. They definitely put you on alert to get ready for a tragic backstory, with a scene where she pauses too long before telling someone that she doesn’t have kids, followed by another scene where we see her with a baby and she seems very comfortable and experienced for someone who’s never had a kid. MacNicol’s Simon Sifter mostly provides emotional support for Avery and their friendship is pleasant to watch. We get some conflict in the form of the relationship between Daniel Krumitz (Koontz) and Brody Nelson (Moss). Daniel is straightlaced, while Brody is a former blackhat hacker who’s working for the team instead of serving a prison sentence. Daniel immediately doesn’t like Brody or the fact that he’s being trusted. Brody has a more amiable relationship with Raven Ramirez (Kiyoko), who you better believe it’s a pretty lab girl with quirky hair. They have a cute scene together that is mostly there to assure audiences that we might get to see attractive young people kiss eventually. As for James van der Beek’s Elijah Mundo, is just a Great Guy and he pulls it off well. Something about James van der Beek heroically diving into a body of water to save a baby just feels so right.

There’s nothing new in CSI: Cyber, which you probably could’ve guessed from the fact that it’s a CSI show. It does a better job of making the characters interesting than other recent procedural iterations I’ve seen (looking at you, NCIS: New Orleans). I can see a lot of potential for the characters and relationships to become audience favorites. If you’re a fan of other CSI, NCIS or Criminal Minds iterations and looking for a new comfort food show, this could easily do the trick.

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