5 reasons you should watch CSI:Cyber (the Best Worst Show on TV)
Yes, I know this show is terrible. It’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever seen on TV. But, God help me, I also love it. It gives me the same self-indulgent feeling as getting stuck into a bag of BBQ chips, if chips had the power to make me laugh hysterically at their poor construction. So really, this show is infinitely better than a bag of chips…which might just be the highest praise I’ve ever bestowed upon anything. So without further ado, here are the top 5 reasons that you, too, should indulge in CSI:Cyber.
“He is a loathsome, offensive brute, yet I can’t look away”
1. Stock characters…TO THE MAX!!!
Because this show is so committed to awfulness, the writers don’t deliver plain old stereotypes; they give us stock characters who are so extreme, so maxed out, that they become parodies of themselves. It’s caricature upon caricature – and it’s glorious.
Avery – Badass Boss
“Find the computers. Get into them.”
We all know Avery’s type; she’s a no-nonsense, 40-something boss-lady with a ‘dark past’. However, it’s Avery’s mad psychology skills that set her apart. Who else but Avery could know – immediately – that a sickening rollercoaster crash was caused by a whack-job with carnage-fetish? And this was no fluke; in the printer firebug episode, Avery also knew – immediately – that some creep was getting off on the whole thing via webcam (Avery’s especially good at detecting weird sexual motives). I have no idea how this magnificent woman achieves such miraculous leaps of insight. All I know is that it makes for great viewing.
Simon Sifter – Useless Boss
“That URL cannot remain online!”
Peter MacNicol plays Simon Sifter, the affable, non-threatening superior who backs his team from on high. He’s also the most clueless boss ever. Poor old Sifter is surprised whenever his team describes a new technological exploit, and shocked – shocked, I tell you! – that anybody would take advantage of one. He’s like the sweet old man in the corner, shaking his head and tut-tutting about the youth of today. Fortunately, nobody seems to expect much from him, and I suspect he just comes in for a coffee and an indignant chat.
Elijah Mundo – Action Man
“Of course! I’m going to wire the tablet’s battery into the car’s starter!”
The Beek plays Mundo, a handsome single dad in his late 30’s who rounds out the show’s ridiculous-name quota (the guys who came up with ‘Elijahmundo’ also scarf down pizzas, hang out in sewers, and fight kitchen utility-inspired villains). As a Former Marine™, Mundo also rounds out the team’s action quota. In fact, Mundo’s action-cred is so staggeringly high that no action is even possible without him. When a dangerous criminal is located in another city, everyone waits for Mundo to fly over so he can personally apprehend the guy. When a bomb is about to go off in a crowded venue, everyone waits while Mundo drives there to give the evacuation order directly. Sure, the cyber-team could have placed a few urgent phone calls and saved a few extra lives…but I guess you can’t put a price on personalised service.
Daniel Krumitz – White (Hat) Hacker
“Even that malware’s got malware!”
Charley Koontz plays Krummy, the overweight, bearded computer guy (aka Linux user). However, Krummy isn’t just any old white-hat hacker; he’s the best white-hat hacker IN THE WORLD!!! This is because CSI:Cyber only takes the best. Krummy is also a sensitive, big-hearted softie. Because nerd.
Brody Nelson – Black (Hat) Hacker
Something something this guy’s “codes”.
Shad Moss plays the reformed bad boy from the ‘hood. He brings the requisite ‘bro speak to the show, and is basically there as a counterweight to Krummy. I like where they went with Nelson. They resisted the temptation to drag down his pants and flip up his hoodie, instead elevating the tone of the show with a waistcoat and tie. Of course, this was probably the only way their focus groups would tolerate a young black criminal, but still…surprises are hard to come by on this show, so I’ll take what I can get.
Raven Ramirez – Cute, Smart ‘n Asian™ Chick
“Mmm-hmmf rmm mrrrrmm.”
Aaaand now we’re back to stereotypes. Hayley Kiyoko is Raven, the resident smart computer chick. By definition, therefore, she must be Asian, because we all know that pretty non-Asian women can only work as secretaries or sassy reporters. The writers squeeze every bit of Gen Y/Z out of her type by ensuring she’s:
- creaky-voiced to the max
- a victim of bullying
- did I mention cute?
- WAY into self-styling
- incapable of clear enunciation (seriously, she sounds like she’s trying to talk through a mouth full of marbles. Kids these days!)
I think she might have been a black hat or something once, but no one really cares or considers her a threat because she’s too cute and they’re all too busy. She was also completely absent for 3-ish episodes, which just goes to show; if you’re young and pretty, it doesn’t really matter if you’re intelligent or possess valuable skills. You’ll still be dismissed.
2. Real-time exposition!
Whatever glass ceiling there was on TV exposition, CSI:Cyber – like the the idiot-savant spawn of daytime soaps – has totally smashed through it.
The actors on this show don’t just recap previous episodes. Hell, they don’t even stop at recapping the previous scene. Instead, CSI:Cyber makes the bold decision to recap every major plot development while it’s actually happening!! From multiple perspectives! In case that hasn’t quite sunk in, allow me to explain further. For every new piece of information, we’ll see at least two characters talking about it – slowly, with different metaphors – as though they’ve suddenly turned into nurses on a dementia ward. One person will say something, then another will paraphrase it. It’s like this paragraph, again and again and again.
It’s no secret that the real villain of the show is Technology.
The target market is obviously technophobic, vague and easily incensed, so it’s only natural that the showrunners should play to this group’s paranoia. They even coach their viewers on what they should be tut-tutting about this week by having various members of the team launch into diatribes over the social ills of technology (watching these young and supposedly tech-savvy people sanctimoniously nodding at each others’ condemnations might just be my favourite part of the show).
However, in an effort to hammer home their message (Technology = BAD), Cyber‘s writers go one further than heavy-handed social commentary. They also ensure that the human baddies are fuzzy, ill-defined, and just plain silly. For example, we have the ZoGo (aka Uber) killer, whose child was run over by one of the company’s fleet, and is now exacting his revenge by killing random ZoGo users (?!??!). Then we have the guy who hacked a hotel’s automated system to fake the time of his victim’s death, thus attracting the attention of the FBI. It’s clear that these aren’t criminal masterminds. Despite the thin veneer of validation that Avery’s voodoo psychology affords these perps, we all know they don’t pose a serious threat. The real threat – and the real villain – therefore remains front and centre.
The end of all things.
4. Hilariously awkward character interactions
I absolutely delight in every single one of Avery’s ‘overshare’ moments, in which she blurts out her deepest feelings in an intense monotone. It’s like someone slipped Veritaserum in her morning pumpkin juice, and how she’s forced to tell us things against her will. Plus it’s all layered with that ridiculous self-aware counsellor-speak. Bonus!
Then there’s Nelson and Krummy’s bromance. I get it – opposites attract, and all that – but considering that the relationship mostly comprises Krummy’s tragic attempts to be ‘street’ (and Nelson’s creepily sincere indulgence of Krummy’s behaviour), I usually wind up pulling my blankie over my head to shield myself from the humiliation.
Finally, there’s the behaviour of various random extras, which – apart from being served with a healthy side of ham and cheese – borders on the surreal. Take this fine example from an episode title “Selfie 2.0”, in which the team visits the mother of a missing girl. The woman swears her daughter wouldn’t just ‘run off’; it’s not in keeping with her character. Nor is she swayed by the fact that the girl’s ‘Friend Agenda’ page is still being regularly updated. However, when Avery & Co suggest that the missing girl might be the victim of an abduction, the woman expresses such horror, disbelief and shock that she exits stage left, and is later found sobbing on the bathroom floor.
Seriously, what does she think happened to her daughter?
Is this woman the most unimaginative person in the world? Does she lack basic reasoning skills? Oh no, wait…the writers need her on the bathroom floor so Avery can indulge in one of her trademark overshare moments. Credit to the writers; they gave us TWO slices of terrible for the price of one.
This show is extreme & paranoid, so it should come as no surprise that it possesses
more than a few idiosyncrasies. One of them is naming everything – and I mean everything. Offscreen children, one-time witnesses, and even a pet dog (the dog wasn’t even crucial to the story; he was just a doggy-extra. Perhaps the names of dogs are important to technophobic viewers?).
They also have an odd fascination with counting out loud. I can think of at least 3 separate occasions when somebody reads out a counter that is clearly displayed on-screen. It’s weird.
And then there’s the face-pulling. There must be a bonus 6-pack for whoever can nail the “I’m suffering from food-poisoning and someone just ran over my kitten” look. Arquette (Avery) and MacNicol (Sifter) are the frontrunners, and while I’d like to include pictures, you really should go and see for yourself.
Let’s get in on the joke
I could get on my high horse and rant about the sheer awfulness of this show and the incompetence of its writers, but here’s the thing: I think they know exactly what they’re doing. These are successful, gainfully employed writers in a highly competitive industry. When they write plotlines that are surreal in their stupidity, surely it’s no accident. And when experienced actors make daytime soap stars look like masters of nuance, surely they’re in on it too. Even the director must be in on the gag: why else would we see frenetic ‘action’ montages, complete with rave soundtrack, applied to soldering a phone’s motherboard?
I’m convinced these professionals know damn well they’re getting paid to make a stupid show, and they’ve decided to make CSI:Cyber the most monumentally stupid show they possibly can. That way they can at least have a laugh.
So instead of judging them, let’s get in on the joke and laugh along with them. And give them credit for one thing: at least we’re being entertained.
Call to Action!
I gave you 5 reasons to watch CSI:Cyber, but honestly, there are so many more wonderful surprises. Impossible tech, holograms, hammy acting, giant plot holes, logistical nightmares, crazy tech montages, printed onscreen definitions of cybercrimes, the word ‘cyber’ being used as a prefix to almost anything…it’s all there, waiting for the viewer bold enough to venture into this strange new world.
There’s also one more reason you should watch this show: it’s so bad that it might be cancelled at any time.
So whether you believe the writers are evangelists, propagandists, shrewd moneymakers, or just plain bad at what they do, make sure you indulge at least once before this history-making gem leaves our screens forever. Trust me, you don’t want to be one of those people left out in the cold, wondering what might have been had you only taken the plunge.
Remember, it can happen to you.