If you’ve been watching CBS at all for the past three weeks, you already know that the debut of the long-awaited cybercrime version of “CSI” is on deck to debut at 9 p.m. CST, Wednesday, March 4. In one sentence, TV Guide tells you only that it is “Agents with the FBI’s Cyber Crime Division investigate illegal activities on the Internet.” If you’ve been starved for science since CBS decided against a second season for “Intelligence,” at last there’s another high-tech, fast-paced show with solid star power in place to entertain appreciative audiences.
If you’re just now finding out about tonight’s series premiere, here are just a few reasons to tune in. Yes, you do know that the season finale of “Suits” is on USA Network in the same time slot but you know they will wait until the repeat episode to catch or DVR and watch it within three days to make the TV Guide ratings. Looking for reasons to watch?
1. It’s all new, even if you think you already know the premise of every “CSI” series. Yes, it’s the fourth in the series spun from the minds of Executive Producers Carol Mendelsohn, Ann Donahue, Anthony Zuiker, Pam Veasey, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Jonathan Littman. Yes, they are your same old friends from “CSI” (2000), “CSI: Miami” (2002), and “CSI: New York” (2004), but this is a new wrinkle. If you’ve watched the promo all week, it’s based on crimes that “start in the mind, live online, and play out in the real world.” It’s more hacking, less blood.
2. Patricia Arquette’s stock as an intelligent actor was already high, from the CSI spinoff episode, “Kitty,” that aired May, 2014. She was perfect casting for FBI Special Agent Avery Ryan. In her acceptance speech for earning the 2015 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in “Boyhood,” Patricia brought Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez to their feet with her focus on wage equality for women.
3. The pilot episode, “Kitty” was so strong in the “CSI” series last spring because it focused on “the 96% of the Internet that no one sees” being used to solve the murder of a casino owner’s wife. Well written, well acted, and it established Arquette as the only logical choice to play Special Agent Ryan.
4. Expect interesting techno product placement in the series. Microsoft Windows has made a strong, calculated entry into television shows and you’ll just have to overlook how the agents will pick up a tablet and the camera will flash onto the Windows start screen.
5. It’s a television series based on real-life, and as CBS notes, the drama is “inspired by the advanced technological work of real-life Cyber Psychologist Mary Aiken. Check out her website to see that she could easily be a television star in her own right, ever as much as a super international cyber sleuth, “focusing on virtual criminal profiling and cyber behavioral analysis.”
6. Dawson is back; yes James Van Der Beek is cast as Agent Elijah Mundo. It’s true that Van Der Beek’s work as Dawson Leery was a long time ago, and yes, he was a popular, solid dramatic actor in everything from “One Tree Hill,” “Franklin & Bash,” “Law & Order SVU,” among other shows, but he comes in like gangbusters for the “CSI: CYBER” series. Fact of the matter, he probably should have been cast Scott Bakula’s point man over at “NCIS: NOLA” (what were they thinking? Lucas Black? Really?), but Van Der Beek has a better showcase with this role as the man named Mundo.
7. “CSI: CYBER” also makes up for what you are missing from the old CBS favorite, “Numb3rs.” It’s been a long, hard winter dealing with David Krumholtz portraying a campaign strategist for Julianna Margulies’ Alicia Florrick as she campaigns for State’s Attorney on “The Good Wife,” but he’s not comfortable there. And yes, everyone misses “Numb3rs.” However, what “CSI: CYBER” gives us is our old friend, reliable Peter MacNicol, who plays Simon Sifter, and the promo running shows MacNichol running strategy on “CSI: CYBER” as a “self-proclaimed action junkie who is an expert in battlefield forensics.” And the crowd goes wild!
8. CBS prime time dramas must have characters with quirks and nuances that make them just outside mainstream but “bright anyway.” It’s a little disconcerting to think that every genius has to have some level of personality issue but for an hour a week, all is forgiven as personalities develop and audiences engage and relate with the characters as the scripts allow them to be seen. Supporting cast and newcomers include Charley Koontz as Daniel Krumitz, an “introverted tech genius with a quick wit,” but he’s different from the guy on “Scorpion.” Then there’s Shad Moss as a rhyming hacker-cum-cybersleuth, Brody Nelson. Speaking of “Scorpion,” if you’re looking for the Katharine McPhee “socially welcome at every party” character in the group, look no further than Hayley Kiyoko, who portrays Raven Ramirez, “a rookie tech who is an expert in social media, cyber trends and international relations.”
9. These supporting cast characterizations are not intended as cynical or derogatory. The bottom line is that audiences demand a level of the familiar to go along with the quirky nuances found in those of superior intelligence and supreme creativity. Add in strong plot lines and even stronger actors, and you have cause to watch. What will bring you back each week is the definite exploration of the dark side of the web, previously only alluded to in one episode of “The Good Wife” and in the spinoff preview episode of “CSI” and not many other places. The debut episode is called “Kidnapping 2.0” and the FBI will be looking into a case of hacked baby monitors.
10. Every franchise in the “CSI” family makes Pete Townsend just a little bit wealthier, but when you choose an anthem by The Who for the first theme song of a series, you have to stick with them for every spinoff, if only for the luck and tradition. What’s on deck for “CSI: CYBER” is, pleasantly, “I Can See For Miles.” Click on the video above and sing along: “I know you’ve deceived me, now here’s a surprise; I know that you have ‘cause there’s magic in my eyes…I can see for miles and miles…” And tonight, come 9 p.m. CST, all eyes will likely be on the CBS eye. The eyes have got this one, and it’s coming on strong. Wait, watch, and see.