Video Games and The TV

Video Games according to CSI: Miami: Urban Hellraisers.

Featured Post Image - Video Games according to CSI: Miami: Urban Hellraisers.

I’m one of many ideas. Long ago, back when I was an aspiring YouTube guy, I had this idea for an internet show where I would review a TV show that depicted the world of video games in a hilariously bad light. This was back when The Nostalgia Critic was a big thing. Unfortunately, the issue of using clips from a TV show for mockery purposes could get me in legal trouble, so that idea got canned. But hey, it’s 2013, and I’m in the mood to revisit old ideas, this time in written form. Least they can’t sue me for copyright on a blog post.

I wanted to look at TV shows – sitcoms, dramas, news reports, stuff like that – and how they inaccurately depict video games. Some will be funny. Others will be tragic. Hopefully you’ll be entertained along with me.

Yeah, it looks like crap. I’m a writer, not a graphic designer.

The show I decided to write about first is CSI: Miami. The first spinoff of the long-running CSI TV series, it starred David Caruso as Horatio Caine, where he head-tilted and mumbled his way through ten seasons of the iconic police procedural.

I’m not a fan of CSI: Miami – hell, I am not a big fan of CSI or these kind of criminal investigation shows in general. I didn’t mind the original series until William Petersen was replaced with Morpheus. Things just weren’t the same in Vegas after that. Heard they replaced Morpheus with Sam Malone now, which is an even weirder casting decision.

During CSI: Miami‘s fourth season, they decided to tie video games into a crime, hot off the heels of the various Grand Theft Auto controversies throughout the 2000s. The result was “Urban Hellraisers,” an episode full of hilarious and inaccurate video game references mixed in with terrible acting and writing. At one point, they added a subplot involving a minor character and Emily Procter’s character just because the plot was so paper-thin that they couldn’t fill it into a 45-minute episode.

I’ll avoid giving an in-depth recap, this is not a CSI: Miami fan site after all. Instead, I’ll just give a rough summary of the events of the whole episode.

The episode begins with Eric Delko (played by Adam Rodriguez) disputing a charge at a bank. Suddenly, three dudes with plastic masks charge in and rob the bank, shooting all the cameras, shooting a bank teller, stealing one whole bag of money, and holding the bank manager – played by a then-unknown Joel McHale – hostage. At one point, one of the robbers sees a female customer and tells one of his buddies to “tap that.” Thankfully, any implied rape doesn’t happen as Delko pulls off his mad firearm skills and kills one of the crooks.

After that action-packed intro, the rest of the CSI team comes in and assesses the situation, including realizing one of the dudes wore heelies – which I didn’t know anyone over the age of six wore – and questioning their seemingly “bizarre” actions. This leads to Horatio giving his obligatory one-liner for the episode.

If this was Tumblr, this would be a four-picture animated gif.
Rather than steal the image off the internet, might as well make my own. Ignore the CTV watermark.

As the episode goes on, they find the bank manager hostage at the ice rink of Miami University, which leads to the second part of the heist, where one guy tries to hold two bank managers with a TEC-9 pistol, resulting in being apprehended by Caine and his crew. As they arrest the guy, he starts talking that he’s “still in play” which leads to Ryan Wolfe (played by Jonathan Togo) piecing the clues together: They must be talking about those pesky VIDEO GAMES! Just go with it, it makes sense in this bizarro world version of Miami, Florida. Complete with the ridiculous yellow mood lighting.

Urban Hellraisers sounds like a Newgrounds game, or the next big hit by Devolver Digital. Same thing, really.

Ryan shows Horatio footage of a game called “Urban Hellraisers” – which is basically a rip-off of Grand Theft Auto — and notice that level 1 is exactly like the bank heist, and that level 2 was about to play out the same way until the CSI team intervened. Wolfe tells Caine that these crazies were emulating the video game. As they interrogate the suspect from earlier, he talks about losing “1000 points” – which no sane person would ever say – and later question a guy who designed the game, saying the product is “proprietary.” Admittedly I do not know legal laws, but if the police ask for your game as evidence for a crime, you hand it over, proprietary or not.

Realizing that asking for the game code or how the game unfolds was a bust, they opt to play through the game itself – rather than look up cheat codes or buy a strategy guide. I can understand why, because if they opted to go to GameFAQs, the show couldn’t show off these “cool” animations they made! Somehow this looks worse than Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, a game that came out a year prior to this episode’s original airing.. I’ve seen Poser animations done better than this.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but this doesn’t look good these days. Much like a lot of stuff during the PS2 era.
I see this and think of Total Distortion: You are dead, dead, dead…

Ryan starts playing through Level 3 just to see how it plays out as they try to figure out the criminals game plan. It takes place in a police station, where the criminals must retrieve the crime scene evidence from the previous levels. How fitting, as the CSI team procured the mask of one of the perps who left theirs at the crime scene earlier. Then, the best line in the entire episode is said:

I couldn’t stop laughing. That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard on a police drama, and I’ve watched a lot of police dramas. Someone actually put this to paper. Someone was hired on as a guest to scream that line at that actress. I’m surprised he was able to say it with a straight face, I bet this took several takes to get right.

Eventually Horatio intervenes and kills one of the criminals while wounding the other. The rest of the story goes into illegal arms dealing by the guy who made the Urban Hellraisers game, and even a scene where a guy played Urban Hellraisers so much that he suffered renal failure, alluding to stories of people dying from dehydration and exhaustion from nonstop gaming.

The genre that the game is based on isn’t clear. Like, it’s going for Grand Theft Auto vibes alongside other notable action games, but it’s also treated like an MMO with a persistent world, something that wasn’t standard for that game series at the time. It’s like the writers of CSI: Miami tried to figure out what they knew about what “video games” were and just smashed them together and see what stuck. It’s just rough.

Back to the main plot, the CSI crew gives them hints on finding the final suspect. Earlier in the episode, a woman comes in with the dye-soaked money bag, saying she found it in the laundry room and the dye bag exploded on her. Turns out she was one of the heisters at the beginning. She was boasting to the officer that she had “the most points” than anyone else in the game, and was trying to outdo her peers just to get recognition. The typical “Girls can do the same things boys can do” kind of plot that just felt tired and boring even by 2005.

During this flashback summary, We are supposed to believe that this lady, played by Lea Moreno, is the same person who acted on the heist at the beginning. Here’s a problem, though: The beginning heist clearly has three guys performing the heist. Not two guys and a girl, three guys.

When they flashback to the heist, they show her yelling at them to “eat the floor,” which sounds nothing like the criminals who said the same thing at the beginning. She doesn’t even do a “fake man” voice, it’s her normal voice, which doesn’t match any of the guys voices in the beginning. I don’t use this word often, but this was a major continuity fail. I guess they realize how stupid their audience is that they didn’t bother to make sure this was ever consistent.

Everything is solved and it them leads into a teaser for a plot later in the season, but I’m not that invested in the show to find out. Besides, the point is to cover the dumb video game episode, not the show itself.

I know that there’s an internal battle between writers on who can make the dumbest video game plot, and this was a strong contender for the dumbest. This was also my first experience with CSI: Miami as a show, and it gave me a bad impression. Never mind the fact the episode was poorly written, the cast just takes a backseat to David Caruso chewing the scenery and trying to come off as a bad ass a la Chuck Norris, but it doesn’t come anywhere close.

I bet the rest of the series isn’t any better than this episode. I understand that these kind of shows are dumb entertainment, but it doesn’t even do that very well. It just makes me want to watch the original CSI. It’s just… bad.

Nowadays, CSI: Miami has been relegated to reruns on cable, and I doubt it’s a classic even among the glut of CBS crime dramas. I guess you could say CSI: Miami… (puts on shades) …is DOA.

I couldn’t resist.

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