"It appears putrefaction has set in," Det. Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) observed as he examined a corpse early in last month's premiere of the third CSI series. "That's what happens when a franchise is played out," I thought to myself, already leaning toward the conclusion that the new show wouldn't measure up to CSI: Miami or the original CSI: Crime Scene investigation, which is set in Las Vegas. After watching a couple of episodes, though, I'm thinking most fans of the Sun Belt CSIs will be satisfied with the New York version.
Those other CSI shows are known to favor crimes that are bizarre and more than a little disgusting, and no place does gross like Gotham, right? The second episode featured a case in which a rat chewed on a dead junkie's gunshot wound and ingested the bullet. Of course, we didn't merely hear about the rodent's meal. We were treated to a succulent flashback and later to a "ratopsy" in which Mac determinedly dug out the evidence.
Fortunately CSI: NY has something in common with its predecessors besides a taste for the distasteful: a solid lead performance. Sinise, an Emmy-winning character actor (George Wallace), has tough acts to follow in William Petersen and David Caruso, but he draws viewers to his character by giving him a low-key professionalism tinged with sadness. (The detective's wife died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.) There's an appealing modesty to Mac, even when he delivers CS7-brand aphorisms like "Everything's connected" and "Have faith in the evidence." As Det. Stella Bonasera, costar Melina Kanakaredes projects dedication and some of her old Providence sensitivity.
A few of the supporting players lay on the New York attitude, as if to compensate for the fact that the series is shot mostly in Los Angeles. Vanessa Ferlito (24) works to come across as feisty and sexy, and the cops played by Eddie Cahill and Carmine Giovinazzo are so cocky that you almost hope they foul up.