CSI: NY is one of those projects in which ''the city itself is a character.'' The investigators toil amidst blue fog in their moody headquarters; inside the office they're ominously shadowed by a fan's ever-rotating blades, and boy, is everyone exhausted and whispery. This eager, overdone noir is sort of poignant a version of New York City that exists only in car ads, and now, well, here.
CSI: NY is the third in the increasingly cynical franchise from creator Anthony Zuiker, who, having had a well-deserved hit with the Vegas-based CSI, took his show on the road. The formula felt less bouncy with CSI: Miami; in NY, the lack of inspiration is palpable. (Palpable like the mean, stinky streets of this damn dirty city, and...no, must...fight...bad noir!)
NY stars onetime Oscar nominee Gary Sinise, whose terse line readings and furrowed brow seem to say, ''I'm onetime Oscar nominee Gary Sinise why am I here?'' Sinise plays Det. Mac Taylor, who embodies one of drama's favorite clichés, the Guy With the Dead Wife, thereby explaining his workaholic drive as well as his saintly detachment from all women. Joining him is Providence's Melina Kanakaredes, who's like a pretty placeholder for some more-interesting actress. As Det. Stella Bonasera, Kanakaredes asserts her feminine toughness in awkward and outdated situations: We first spy the detective suffering ambiguous sexual harassment from a co-worker (Carmine Giovinazzo), who calls her...dear. ''Do I have a tail back there?'' she wheedles. Working women unite!
Bonasera also indignantly harangues the father of a rape victim after the man dares to say that boys are tougher than girls. Her speechifying wouldn't be so unpalatable were it not for the fact that NY's first two episodes featured elegant shots of a half-naked woman strapped to a bed and a beautiful young raped girl stumbling into a black-tie function like a wounded ballerina. It's a tad smarmy to weave feminist messages into a show featuring Kanakaredes taking a sensual shower for no clear reason.
As for the cases themselves, the techie CSI work that was so intriguing in the original series has been undazzling thus far, as have the ''local'' cases, which include a sushi restaurant where patrons dine off of naked models (yet another reason Betty Friedan would be so proud) and a rat who swallowed a bullet (a story clearly inspired by Robert Sullivan's more engaging rodent tale, Rats). Even the twists are limp. Sinise actually nailed one bad guy when the killer called his victim by name. ''Jordy? I thought you didn't know him,'' Sinise smirked, all Jessica Fletcher-like.