Picks and Pans Review: CSI: Miami

updated 01/12/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/12/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

CRIME DRAMA

CBS (Mondays, 10 p.m. ET)

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With CBS reportedly contemplating another extension of the CSI franchise for next fall, it's an appropriate time to ask how the first spinoff is doing. The answer is quite well—if you're a David Caruso fan.

The Miami operation clearly belongs to Horatio Caine (Caruso), leader of the crime-scene investigating team, though his dark-hued wardrobe hints that he might be more comfortable in a different clime. (Okay, I still wish Caruso had stayed with NYPD Blue.) Since Kim Delaney's character exited during the show's debut season, Caine's primacy has gone unchallenged, and I sometimes get the feeling Caruso might bust any creep who comes between him and the camera.

The thing is, the star deserves almost all the screen time he gets. Caruso can make a telling point with only a flicker of expression, and when his character takes that sarcastic, insinuating tone with suspects, you know they'd better spill their guts and hope for mercy. Caine can also be surprisingly gentle with children and shy in trying to draw closer to police detective Yelina Salas (Sofia Milos), his brother's attractive widow.

The gross and the improbable are staples of this spinoff, as well as the original CSI. A crocodile's stomach is pumped and it spits up a human foot. A hurricane's wind picks up a spent bullet and "shoots" it into the gun owner. But I'm more concerned about the sleaze factor, which can be a distraction rather than a lure. In a November episode Caine's search for his brother's killer had to share the hour with a supposedly titillating subplot involving online voyeurism.

A final complaint: Must coroner Alexx Woods (Khandi Alexander) coo at corpses, calling them "baby" and "sweetheart"?

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