Moody and taciturn, Steppenwolf Theatre co-founder Gary Sinise makes for an ideal addition to the "CSI" stable.
As lead detective in the latest spinoff of the hit crime juggernaut, "CSI: NY" (9 p.m. Wednesday, WBBM-Ch. 2), Sinise comes with an air of danger and malevolence that gives an edge to his crime-fighting. He exudes a dark side, more so than William Petersen, another Chicago stage veteran, and David Caruso, of the ongoing L.A. and Miami-based outings. In Wednesday's entry, which is actually the second in the new series (its pilot played as an installment on "CSI: Miami" last spring), Sinise is working 24 hours a day, avoiding sleep and clearly grappling with inner demons.
We learn what those demons are at the end of the episode. Meanwhile, Sinise and yet another team of hound-dog detectives with exemplary scientific know-how are in pursuit of a serial bad guy at work in the Big Apple.
This particular sicko boasts an especially harrowing obsession. He seeks not to actually murder victims, but instead mess with their physiology in ways that send them into what's called a "locked in" state. As a result, the victims aren't dead, but plunged into irreversible comas.
The result makes death seem kind: These victims are frozen in bed, hooked to life-saving devices, unable to do anything but blink, doomed to intensive care for the rest of their days and probably fully aware.
The style, pace and plot progression of the new show are all right out of the patented "CSI" playbook: melodramatic conclusions delivered portentously just before the commercial break; see-through, magnified medical X-rays that here, among other pleasantries, include the snapping of a neck bone; and matter-of-fact police technicians dutifully carrying out their tasks, only intermittently betraying a human side.
In the first episode, "Blink," we only get to know Sinise's Mack Taylor in any depth, and that's mostly through a finale it would be unfair to tip off. In the detections, he will be helped by professional partner, Stella Bonasera (Melina Kanakaredes), who hints early on she will work to counter Taylor's stoic tendencies. After he glumly tells her as she arrives one day that he stayed up all night, she retorts, "A good morning would be nice."
Other assistants include Danny (Carmine Giovinazzo), Aiden (Vanessa Ferlito) and coroner Sheldon Hawkes (Hill Harper), a reclusive sort as moody and workaholic as Taylor. They solve the case with the speed, determination and Gothic imagination typical of the series, tracing down one victim who's alive and hooked to machines in a dungeonlike basement in Queens.
Your tolerance for all this may depend on how many crime procedurals you need on your calendar. For some, this one may prove one too many.
But there's no doubt Sinise offers a perfect template for personal asides and emotional subtexts, murky detours that may occasionally cloud -- and liven up -- all that steamrolling, high-tech efficiency.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times