Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Lost Guilty Pleasure

When they first came on, I would now and then catch an episode of the CSI shows. I was partial to the second one, CSI: Miami -- lots of girls in bikinis and one of the female leads is from Baton Rouge, and I enjoyed hearing her accent ...

It was always silly stuff. The science has enough rubber in it to give every man in the world ten condoms and a set of truck tires. Instant DNA results? Feed a print or a picture into the computer and get a match in a few seconds? Uh huh.

I drifted away, finding other things to watch at ten p.m., or shutting the tube off to read.

The other night, channel surfing, I came across an episode on one of the cable replay channels and feeling too lazy to read, clicked on it. It wasn't new, probably at least a year or two old.

I missed the first few minutes of set-up, but like all of these shows, that doesn't much matter because they go over it from nine different angles as the red herrings are exposed and the guy who must have done it is shown to be innocent, which happens every show.

I'll spare you the details of this howler, but the upshot is this: A married rich woman of the rowwl cougar variety is watching four of her boy-toys play volleyball on the beach. They get hit by lightning from a cloudless sky -- the bolt from the blue -- and all fall over dead.

Terrible accident, right? No, no, not an accident! It was murrrrder ... !

Yeah, it was murder, all right.

It seemed that Madam Couger's husband, also with a mistress or twelve on the side, believed in the old double-standard. Okay for him to screw around, but not her. So, using a metal golf club, he made a lightning rod, put it up on top of a lifeguard shack, ran a bare wire from it under the sand, sprinkled a little copper sulfate over the surface to insure conductivity, and voila! the scene was set. After the bodies were hauled away, he went back, removed the club and wire, and how would they ever know?

That line of glass under the sand was the clincher.

I was agog.

There was a half-hearted demur from one of the CSI guys once the theory took hold. And a really lame attempt to allow that since, you know, there's a lot thunderstorm activity in and around Miami, chances were pretty good that it would work, you know, people get killed here all the time.

In the past fifty years, 89 people have been killed by lightning in Miami/Dade County, which works out to fewer than two a year. (In 2006, two got fried. In 2007, 'twas two, also.)

I expect there were meteorologists around the country had to be carted to ERs for hysterical laughter over this one. Not to mention the defense attorneys waving Act of God high wide and repeatedly. (He didn't mean to kill them anyhow, the horn-wearing hubby said, only to give them a good jolt. Best case: Involuntary manslaughter. Worst case? He didn't do anything illegal. Wasn't like Frankenstein hauling the monster up into the storm, all he did was set up a golf club, run some wire, sprinkle some stuff used to keep the fungus down on the golf course, and hope for bad weather. I'da been on the jury, he'd have skated. Might well leave a knife lying on the sand and hope somebody would pick it up and stab the others and then himself.)

It could have sat there for a hundred years and nothing woulda happened. That lighting struck at exactly the time the scriptwriter needed to it strike?

Geez Louise, spare me.

Jumped the shark, nuked the fridge, stepped over the silly-string line ...


Shawn R. said...

I watched the very first episode of the very first CSI show. While I have a masters degree in a forensic field, I didn't think it took specialized knowledge to point out that first, CSI guys don't interrogate suspects; and second, if they did, they would actually LOOK at the body during a gross exam before trying to get the suspect to admit he shot the victim, only to be interrupted mid-interrogation by a cop coming in to tell the CSI guys (AND the suspect) that the victim hadn't been shot, but instead was pushed off the building.

That was the point in my rant, 10 minutes into the show, that my husband took the remote away from me, changed the channel, and said, "You don't get to watch this show ever again."

Bobbe Edmonds said...

What kills this show for me are the ultra-advanced doo-dads that don't really exist, but they fill a vital gap in the plot.

A mass-spectrometer linked in to the national pedophiles database in Washington D.C. that allows you to automatically download vital information to your iPhone. Oh, and it's touch-based with a holographic 3-D interactive platform that cross-links into the FBI fingerprint database and a backwoods server farm in Langley, VA.

BULLSHIT! Even if such a thing existed, the police are the absolute LAST people who would ever get the budget for such technology! Hell, the DEA would have problems funding something like that!

They always pull something like this out of their asses, and it just annoys the hell out of me. Like Shawn, my wife won't let me watch the show anymore with her...!

Steve Perry said...

The suspension of disbelief is that they have all this techno-gear. The wrong cop procedural stuff? All the cop shows screw that up, as Shawn said. The technogeeks stay in the office and play with fibers, and a lot of them are civilians and don't carry guns.

Most of them never speak to a criminal suspect, save maybe to say, "I need a sample of your saliva."

Captains and Lieutenants don't routinely go into the field and investigate. They don't drive Hummers. They don't shoot folks every other episode and stay in the field that they don't go into in the first place.

They don't wear black leather in Miami, for God's sake.

It's all silly. This is why the show is a guilty pleasure. Or was, until it jumped the shark.

Justin said...

With so many of these shows (CSI, NCIS, Bones, etc.), it only stood to reason they'd run out of "perfect crimes" to then perfectly solve. The same would happen if there were 3 clones of House, MD on the air.

CSI: Miami is in the "campy to some, thrilling to others" category of TV show. I personally laugh more often than not.

I was on that one as well as CSI:NY during my time as an extra. Got to clear a room as a cop unit, then exited stage right with the murder weapon given me by Mr. Gary Sinise. If you're not going to get paid much to do something, you'd better get good stories out of the deal! Not to mention great craft services.

Brett said...

Personally, I want their magic printers. Those printers spit out perfect chemical matches with beautiful peaks of each molecule individually, out of a complex mixture, off of an IR spectroscopy machine. I run one of those in my lab on occasion and I'm lucky to get an 80% match when I run a single molecule sample against the exact same molecule in the library. It's all about those printers, I'm telling you.

jks9199 said...

Those shows have made things a lot harder for us in the real world, sometimes, too.

Some of it is legitimate education: There could be other reasons a fingerprint got on the outside of a car, for example.

But judges and juries and victims are now sometimes demanding things that just don't happen in the real world. And when it's not there... they doubt the cops. But let's look at fingerprints. Here's the very simple primer: Fingerprints are identified by the pattern of made by the ridges. These patterns are left in various ways when we touch things; sometimes they'll mold into the material (plastic), sometimes it's oils and sweat (latent), sometimes it's ink or paint or gunk you got on your hand (visible). To compare, you need enough of the print to actually compare them; there's no real set standard for a match. Now, the suggestion I sometimes make is this: next time you clean the windows, TRY to leave a nice, clean & easily recognized print on the glass. Then imagine someone picking something up or moving it... we don't tend to press our fingers evenly and smoothly onto stuff...

But let's assume we lift a recognizable and identifiable print. It's meaningless until it's matched to a known print! My prints are on file, in case of I accidentally lift my own at a crime scene. (It happens!) Steve's maybe, from some of his past jobs. But others? I'd be surprised...

And that's only one of the scientific screwups...

(Ain't it amazing how most of these guys are actually qualified experts in everything from accident reconstruction to zoology?)

Steve Perry said...

My wife works for a quasi-state agency and had to have a b.g. check for an ID card to get her into a federal agency. So they used one of the high-tech scanners instead of the messy old ink.

And they tried twice and couldn't get a full set of prints.

My prints went into the FBI and state database when I got my CCL, eighteen or twenty years ago. And I'm basically a law-abiding citizen these days. Still, if I decided to Do A Crime somewhere, I have heard about a high-tech way to defeat the fingerprint evidence, it's called "gloves ..."

Plus there is the not-too-difficult idea of getting rid of all the clothes you were wearing when you Did the Crime. Lose the knife or gun, wear a disguise ...

Mark Jones said...

My all-time favorite tv howler was on Hasselhoff's "Baywatch Nights" (a short-lived attempt to cash in on the X-Files style paranormal investigation bandwagon).

First episode, they have to deal with the Blob (with the serial numbers taped over). On an oil drilling rig. How to kill it?

Of course! Activate the drilling platform's COMPUTERIZED SELF-DESTRUCT SYSTEM! (Complete with elaborate activation process and computer voice count down, just like Ripley blowing up the Nostromo in ALIEN.)

It was the funniest thing I've ever seen on television. My ribs were aching before it was over.