CSI Cyber: Post Season Wrap Up
Well, season 1 of CSI Cyber has come and gone. For what it’s worth, it’s a halfie season, and that is often a very hard place to work from. For a show like this, it’s likely that most of the season was “in the can” before the first episode even went on air, which means they haven’t been entirely able to react to the way people have seen and reacted to the show.
First, the good news: CBS renewed the series for a second (full) season. That wasn’t a sure thing when after the first couple of episodes the ratings sort of tanked. But as the 13 episode season went on, they stablized, only dropping off at the very end with a confusing three episodes in two nights thing that sort of hurt the ratings at the end. But the show has some pretty good 7 day viewing numbers (that includes people who Tivo’ed the thing), and for those who track it, the episodes seem to have fairly decent distribution on the popular piracy networks.
However, the bad news: The series didn’t get it’s legs under it. Working a shortened season means that they producers and cast sort of had to guess what was working and what was not working. So for the first four or five episodes, they sort of fire hosed us with all sorts of potential show types, from reasonably intelligent, hard thinking detective work to the horribly staged police SUV running through town fishtailing all over the place chases that didn’t add urgency, just added humor. Can anyone really drive that badly in real life? Anyway, if you can think of a gendre, they tried it out at least in part here. The first episodes were both incredibly good (neat new story ideas) and incredibly bad (overly obvious attempts at character development, somewhat confusing logical jumps, the typical “people upstairs” bad boss routine, etc). It showed in the ratings, plenty of people tuned in hoping to get more of the great pre-series CSI episode Kitty that introduced the Cyber division, and instead they got plenty of fluff and barely passable technical explanations, and plenty of people tuned out.
More importantly, none of the characters around Arquette seemed to develop up to her level in the show, leaving her to be the one calling all the shots and having “all the answers”, which made things a little too predictable I think. CSI (the original) worked well because you had many tiers of players, but each tier had many people involved. Generally, the bosses (Grissom, as an example) was also a field investigator and got out there to do the dirty work – equal in many ways to the half dozen CSIs around him. Then you add in the coroner’s people, the lab rats, and the decent interactions between the groups, and you had a rounded cast of characters, any of which could take the lead in an episode. Cyber so far is pretty much all Avery, all the time, and she really has nobody to bounce ideas off of or to give her a different view or opinion.
That in turn gave us some good news. It does appear that the last few episodes were re-edited and somewhat re-imaged. Some of the characters finally started to show some depth and emotion, and the nutty SUV driving all but disappeared. The stories amped up a bit as well, and basically from the 9th episode (L0m1s) on, we actually got to see characters with more than 1 dimension, stepping up a bit and taking more leading roles. It did though sort of separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and that inevitably leads to changes for the fall return.
So how does it look for a second season? Well… for some, it looks pretty good. There are two odd people out in my mind at this point, Simon Sifter (Peter MacNicol) has been dropped (the writing was on the wall since his “new boss” sort of ripped him a new eye hole). The show has made it clear that this isn’t that MacNicol did a bad job, rather it’s a creative change in the show. This has freed up money and space to add in a new character, which we will get to in a moment.
The other one I think is on the rocks is going to be Raven Ramirez (Hayley Kiyoko). She’s been around since day one but seems mostly confined to a role that at best reaches secondary or intermediary status. Very little of her input has been germane to solving the crimes, perhaps the writers haven’t come up with enough uses for her social media inputs. Her character, except for running defense for Brody Nelson (Shad Moss), has been pretty much on the level of “anyone in the room could have done that”. I like her as a character but clearly the writers don’t know what to do with her, and her “job” at Cyber seems very light weight for someone who is apparently such a great hacker.
So what do I see in season 2? With Simon Sifter out of the way and the CSI mothership series coming to a close with a single 2 hour finale, Ted Danson will be moving over to Cyber as DB Russell. If I read the stories correctly, this isn’t so much as a replacement for Sifter, quite the contrary. DB Russell is a smart and somewhat offbeat character and a good sideways thinker. This will fix one of the most glaring problems in Cyber, the lack of characters on the same level as Avery Ryan. It may also allow the show to have a little more intelligence and a little less “grunting guys with guns and flashlights”.
CSI Cyber has bew renewed and is scheduled to return to the 10PM Sunday night slot it started in. This will (sadly) make it run against NFL Football for part of the season, but it should do okay. If the ratings sit around 10 million per episode, you can expect the show to be around for the full season and perhaps even a little longer than that. That’s probably a good thing, as this is the last scrap of the CSI feast that is left for us to enjoy.