TV's most inconsistent show?

21:00, May 19 2013

After sitting through the worst episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation that I can recall watching, coming in a season that has actually been pretty good (at least by CSI standards), I'm ready to announce the long-running crime series as the most inconsistent show of the year.

(Warning: spoilers from the latest episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation follow.)

In case you missed it, this week's instalment had the team chasing a killer basing a series of murders on a 16-year-old poker hand: grief-stricken murderer Katy was avenging the suicide of her father, Bowe, who killed himself after being cheated out of victory in a 1997 poker competition; a group of players, dealers and groupies were responsible for his devastating loss, which resulted in Bowe hanging himself from a set of monkey bars in a public park.

It might sound like typical CSI fare, but this was a particularly groanworthy hour of television. The episode opened with a poker player murdered in a hotel elevator - and I almost checked out after it was revealed that the murder weapon was a playing card which had been flicked from the hallway as the elevator doors closed.

Hey, I've seen people flick playing cards across a room. I've also seen people get paper cuts. Slicing open a jugular with an ace of clubs seems like a bloody giant test of believability.

Then there was a series of terrible poker- (and magic-) related puns. CSI is known for its puns, sure; the show opened with a bad pun almost every week when Grissom was on the scene. But this week's episode had some truly terrible examples. For example, young team member Morgan is at a crime scene, investigating the latest murder by the poker-inspired killer - after a co-worker asks if she is feeling OK, Morgan replies "Until this killer folds, no, I'm not." Insert your own groan here.


It didn't stop there. After discovering that a suspect - a magician - can't be found, Morgan comments that "Jimmy's pulled a vanishing act." And in the final act, after her father invites her to dinner, Morgan says "Yes, I'm all in, let's do it." Even Brass pulled one out of thin air, proclaiming "ta da!" after producing a search warrant for the magician suspect.

When you combine the poor writing with the ridiculous nature of the killings (one suspect is beheaded with an axe modelled off the portrayal of a king on a playing card, while another is force-fed seven chicken hearts to symbolise the seven of hearts), it made for the worst episode of the season so far. Maybe the worst episode in a decade.

It's a shame really, because this season hasn't been too bad. In fact, I'm enjoying the Ted Danson-Elizabeth Shue era on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The Las Vegas edition has had a hard time filling Grissom's shoes since his departure a few years ago, but the current team - filled out by long-time regulars Jorja Fox, Eric Szmanda and George Eads - does a good job.

At least, it isn't too bad most of the time. A large majority of the series has been passable, entertaining television to chill out to for an hour. But the problem with the show - and the reason I'm willing to dub it the most inconsistent show of the year - is that the really good episodes this year (Wild Flowers, about a girl murdered at a rave; Dead Air, about a newsreader killed during a live broadcast) have been balanced by terrible episodes like this one.

I can't think of another show where the quality from week to week can rise and fall so dramatically. Criminal Minds and Bones suffer through the occasional episode that is much worse than usual. Some shows can start to lag in the middle of a season; Once Upon a Time is in the midst of a rut right now.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, on the other hand, can be among the best shows one week, then among the worst a week later. It's frustrating as a viewer, and a fan - you never know what hand you might be dealt.

Have you noticed the inconsistency on CSI? What other shows are inconsistent from week to week? And are you enjoying the current season of the Las Vegas-set crime show?

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