CSI:Cyber, or Hatewatching is the New Black

I hatewatch CSI:Cyber and I don’t care who knows about it.

I’m a junkie when it comes to procedurals. Maybe it comes from my dad being a cop or my skewed sense of righting a wrong or unraveling a mystery I actually don’t have to solve. I like seeing how things work and walking back a crime. As a writer, I’m an armchair forensic pathologist. I know my petechial hemorrhaging from my parietal lobe.

Simple detective series like Murder She Wrote, Matlock and In The Heat of The Night have led to Law and Order, NCIS, and of course, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and they all helped mold my admittedly simple view of what it takes to solve crimes in entertaining and often bloody ways.

That’s why I was a little excited to see the CSI: Cyber announcement. I’ve mostly liked the CSI franchise, even if I didn’t always like the characters, and I liked the crime solving, because it uses inventive visuals and witty banter. The new series would have a lot more computers, and I’ve had a computer since I was 16. Clearly I could potentially relate to this series.

Plus, I’m a 21st Century girl. I know how stuff works.

It was touted as this special unit solving crimes that “start in the mind, live online, and play out in the real world.”

Honestly, this could describe a lot of meat (real) world events, as the Internet is where most people live in a broad sense. So, okay. Let’s give this a shot.

The soft launch was last season on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigations” (which I guess has been shortened to CSI:LV), and while I wasn’t entirely sure how a a premise like that could extend to an entire series, I was still willing to give it a shot.

I mean, crime procedurals.

It was hitting all of my ISTJ buttons. So I tuned in to watch the official 1st Episode, titled, “Kidnapping 2.0”, and settled back to see this fancy woman-lead team break some track balls and kick some cache.

They've all just watched the Pilot and they're feeling a little sick.  Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
They’ve all just watched the Pilot and they’re feeling a little sick.
Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

It didn’t happen. From the gate it turned the unbelievable into a scare-mongering artform.

A recap: bad people are hacking into baby monitors (just go with it) and then breaking into homes to auction off the babies. While still in the home. You know, instead of hacking into monitors, collecting the info, stealing the baby and *then* auctioning it off. That’s how I would have done it, but I’m not a criminal genius who likes to make things more difficult than they have to be. What were they afraid of – getting a bum baby they couldn’t sell? Not to spoil the climatic ending, but did you see who they handed off the baby to? When you lay down the groundwork and then leave the culmination of your evil plans to a few biker/redneck/meth heads, chances are you won’t be in the evil genius business very long.

Anyway, while we’re looking for kidnapped babies on the interwebs, we’re also learning about our ensemble cast, which means EVERYONE has three minutes to be front and center and memorable. This also means everyone is reduced to pithy lines to prove how cool and integral they are to the team. There are better ways to do this over a few episodes, but I don’t write for CBS so what do I know.

We also learn terms like “Black Hat”, “White Hat”, “Deep Web”, “Social Media”, “Code”, by which I mean they’re repeated so many times you could conceivably create a drinking game and be dead of alcohol poisoning before the second commercial break.

Since the pilot of CSI: Cyber, I have hatewatched this show every week often in the company of my friend PJ. We fulfill our need via Facebook and it’s just like being in the same room except we can relive the special moments later. We don’t watch in the hopes it will get better, because we both know it’s not ever going to get better. It can’t, not with the current writing staff and storylines. You certainly couldn’t consider this show informative because there’s so much misinformation about how things really work. They have these black information cards in every episode for things like “phishing”, “location services”, and “crowd sourcing” that are so wildly inaccurate, I now wonder if the cards are there to tell us, the Audience, these are how the terms are being used and understood in that instance, so never mind about the actual definitions.

So why do we waste our time on such a terrible show? I don’t know, the unintentional comedic factor, perhaps?  The earnest delivery of technical terms used incorrectly, the plot jumps, inconsistent character development, all to show how technology is dangerous but thank Gods there’s a woman in charge to fight it?

We’ll talk about that later.

It’s clear the target audience is the 55+ demographic and unfortunately, by 10PM on Wednesday Night, they’ve already gone to bed. Ageism, someone is screaming, but if you see the storylines, no one in the coveted 18-49 group believes any of this nonsense is possible. I guess because as a whole we understand how computers and technology work.

The writers of CSI: Cyber don’t. The plot lines sound like something conceived in focus group/pitch sessions run by the tin-foil hat (SILVER HAT – take a drink!) club of AARP. And while someone will undoubtedly come along and point to isolated cases of baby monitor fueled auctions, ride-share serial killers, and pyromania via networked printer, the idea that there is a master criminal hacker out there using their computers to target very specific people in very over-complicated plans is beyond far-fetched.

On top of that, your perpetrator is usually not a master criminal, but some jilted lover or grief-stricken parent looking to make a soft point about something so specific, the fact they went to the trouble of involving the Internet seems short-sighted and over-complicated. Like this show.

It’s always the guy you least suspect, right?

Yeah, no. It’s exactly they guy you suspect but you need another 38 minutes of painful set up, mis-direction, and arresting the wrong people (a lot) to showcase how completely incompetent this hand-picked team is.

"Talk into my good ear, honey - it ain't been right since I fell through the ice to save my brother." Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
“Talk into my good ear, honey – it ain’t been right since I fell through the ice to save my brother.”
Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

And if that was the goal of CBS, then well-done.

I haven’t figured out what part of this show bugs me more – the lack of actual science in the “cyber” part of the show or the fact that for a psychologist, Special Agent Avery Ryan can’t tell the difference between a multiple murder and a serial murder (to date, there have been no actual serial murders in this show, but let’s throw around the phrase anyway because ratings).

"Am I Sciencing, now?" Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
“Am I Sciencing, now?”
Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Because CSI: Cyber is set up to be nearly impenetrable with the faux terms, bickering techs, and absolutely clueless Team Leads, it’s painted itself into a corner and forgotten the fun part of procedurals – the investigation (sloppy) and the reveal (expected and a little lazy).

This show was essentially set up to fail and I’ve got a few more posts to blog-examine why. I’ve been really enjoying diving deep into the dark webs of this show and peeling back the necrotic layers of a series that’s essentially a visual handbook on how not to write episodic television.

This post is part of the thread: CSI:Cyber Hatewatch – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.