CSI: Cyber Review – TV CBS

CSI: Cyber has much in common with its acronym-titled brethren, which is likely to be equally good and bad if you’re trying to guess how well it will play to audiences.

The inclusion of the word “Cyber,” and James Van Der Beek, among other elements, means we’re aiming for a slightly younger demographic than your average crime drama with such a title, but the show also has to appease those who are desperate for any new acronym to round out their schedule. Thus, the obvious hackers and cyber-crime, but you have to keep it so that everything “cyber” is pretty easy to explain. Also, there’s a lot of flashy elements to the visuals, and the editing is slightly choppy, apparently because… short attention span, I guess.

This actually makes for a very tricky combination, and one that is trying to be so broad, that it might not work for anyone. It becomes a mix of whatever bad elements there are in similar shows, and a new crop of them. Our agents are meant to be rather clever, but they can’t do anything without telling you what they’re doing, because otherwise you’ll get lost… because you are not so clever.

photo: CBS
photo: CBS

Hackers are geniuses, doing unbelievable things (that we are very scared of) with computers, but we can explain it all in two seconds, and give the impression that anyone could do it. Most people involved in crimes are actually idiots, and thus say really stupid things, and otherwise act appropriately, because we want to feel comfortable that “bad guys” are easily recognizable morons.

We have to show a “cyberized” flashback of the events as we move through figuring them out (which, okay, are pretty cool), because you’re watching the show, and thus, again, aren’t that bright yourself, and you won’t be able to follow what’s going on otherwise.

Computers and video games work in ways that computers and video games don’t actually work, but in the way that it seems like they work to people who don’t use them that much. If a certain, mostly goofy, idea moves the plot along in a way we like, then Shazam! that’s how they work.

If our villain has to do something that they clearly would never do (unless they are idiots, which is an angle we’re working, so…), because it sells the cornball plot we’re after, fine.

If we solve the crime, or at least get closer to catching our bad guy, because we thought of something fantastically obvious that our otherwise genius criminal didn’t think of, fine.

It goes on and on.

By the time we shake the whole thing together, we end up with something that isn’t as slick, or generically “anti” as Scorpion, but it isn’t as cartoony either, and something that can’t quite remove itself from anything else “CSI,” (or any other acronym). Of course, it isn’t completely trying to remove itself from them, as I said, but it is definitely faking the idea that it is trying to, at least, set itself apart.

All of this means that the plot is thin, loosely (and almost insultingly) constructed, and at the end of the day oddly like watching a fake court show (America’s Court leaps to mind), with people pretending to have the problems we’ve ripped from the headlines. It’s borderline guilty pleasure, but moderately fun viewing for those who aren’t too interested in being too interested.

The plus of the show is that the cast is about as good as you’re going to get. Patricia Arquette, fresh off her Oscar win, delivers a balance that is meant to be the “audience-identifier,” and she does an impressive job with the role. She isn’t quite the “geek,” she just has a team of them. Thus, she doesn’t have to throw out tech-speak, and is instead just good at catching bad guys, and knowing where to put the people who work for her. She’s oddly infectious, pulls you into the show, and isn’t responsible for her lines.

Van Der Beek is solid, though we may be working a little too hard at selling his door-kicking, and he plays a good point to Arquette’s lead. Again, he’s not really responsible for the punches he throws in order to take down someone who clearly would have just been shot, but here we enter the realm of thinking too much about the show.

Overall, CSI: Cyber is almost sadly in line with its own Universe. If you’re a fan of the rest, you’re probably on board for this one, and it isn’t the worst of them. If you think these shows are generally things that aren’t for your own demographic, you’re right.




CSI: CYBER stars Emmy Award winner Patricia Arquette in a drama inspired by the advanced technological work of real-life CyberPsychologist Mary Aiken. Special Agent Avery Ryan (Arquette) heads the Cyber Crime Division of the FBI, a unit at the forefront of solving illegal activities that start in the mind, live online, and play out in the real world. While other agents search for criminals in dark homes and alleys, Ryan searches the “dark net,” a place deep in the bowels of the web where criminals are anonymous, money is untraceable and everything is for sale with just a keystroke.





Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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