I have a confession to make, and this feels like a safe space where we can share things with each other without judgment, without acrimony, without sighing heavily, crossing our arms, and walking out of the room in profound disappointment about someone else’s unfortunate life choices. We’re all friends here in this browser window, and we should cherish this time together. Nothing we say here, no matter how shocking, should ever change the fundamental beauty of that relationship. OK, here it goes:
I’ve been watching CSI: Cyber. I watched the pilot episode of CSI: Cyber, wrote some things about CSI: Cyber, and then, overriding all the self-preservation instincts that keep us from doing things like drinking gasoline straight from the pump or walking blindfolded into five-way intersections, continued to watch CSI: Cyber.
And I cannot stop watching CSI: Cyber.
There’s a term called “hatewatch” that is thrown around on the Internet like a cup of acid into the faces of smugly helmeted network executives who don’t care about your motivations, just your viewership. Sure, I’ve hatewatched things in the past. Who hasn’t?1 This CSI: Cyber situation is not a hatewatch. It’s a fascinationwatch. It’s a lazywatch. It’s a Patty-and-Vanderwatch. It’s a yes-I-asked-you-on-this-date-because-of-a-bet-with-my-asshole-friends-but-these-unexpected-feelings-are-real-nowwatch.
You, probably, if you lead a rich and fulfilling life.
And now I’m going to explain the reasons why you — hey, come back here, I haven’t even queued up “I Can See for Miles” yet! — should also be watching CSI: Cyber, the best-worst television show in the world. Maybe they’re not good reasons, or well-thought-out reasons, or convincing reasons. But if I’m going to continue to watch CSI: Cyber, I’m going to need backup. I’m going to need to feel less alone in the world. Or, at minimum, I’m going to need somebody to slap the gas gun out of my hand before the nozzle hits my lips, because, yeah, maybe this taste for 89-octane Cyber fuel I’ve developed isn’t all that healthy. Want a sip?
The Connected World We Live in Is a Terrifying and Extremely Dangerous Place
The entire point of CSI: Cyber is to examine our increasingly obsessive relationship to technology and to illustrate how easy it would be for The Bad People — the “black hats,” to borrow a phrase uttered no fewer than 15 times per show — to turn our overreliance on it against us. Imagine that every episode is a new, panicked email forward from your grandparents2 urging you not to open any messages with the subject line WARNING: SUPER DEATH VIRUS ALERT that you actually take the time to read instead of reflexively trash, opening your eyes to the hidden horrors of the digital world. As you sit on the couch among your favorite iThings, watching the Cyber team extract a ballistic hard drive from a shredded corpse, you realize that all of your devices are nothing but sleeper agents waiting to be activated by homicidal black hats to slaughter you remotely.
CBS knows its demographics.
Here are the ways technology has been corrupted to nefarious, often fatal ends:
Episode 1: Nanny cams are hijacked by an international baby-auctioning ring.
Episode 2: A hacked roller coaster is derailed. For sexual thrills. EVEN YOUR THEME PARKS ARE NO LONGER SAFE FROM MURDER-HAPPY GORE-PORN ENTHUSIASTS. Six horny flags will fly over all of our funerals.
Episode 3: The reservation system of an Uber-like car service is compromised, allowing a deranged killer to offer incredibly convenient and affordable door-to-morgue service, just like the real thing, which you will never use again without offering your driver a five-star rating in return for not shooting you in the back seat.
Episode 4: Malware — the entire show is run on malware — allows cyberarsonists to overheat networked printers and laptop batteries, burning victims alive in their homes. We repeat: Your HP LaserJet is a remote-controlled firebomb. Please fill up your bathtub and place your printer in it immediately.3
California residents: You’re going to have to take your chances.
Episode 5: iPad-controlled bombs are activated by either (1) a swarm of location-specific text messages in a theater, or (2) when the counter of a viral video of the detonation of the text-fuse bomb reaches 750,000 views during a cellphone company–sponsored EDM show. No one can hear you scream during a sick bass drop.
The only rational thing to do after watching CSI: Cyber is to stay in your home and await the next installment of CSI: Cyber. Your life depends on it. Maybe unhook your DVR and watch it live, just to be safe. And answer grandpa’s latest email forward with a heartfelt thank you. He knew what he was doing all along.
CSI: Cyber Is Amazing at Episode Titles
The titles of the above-referenced shows, in order:
“Killer En Route”
Still to come:
“Click Your Poison”
Patricia Arquette Has an Oscar
This has already won the coveted episode-title Emmy.
The Oscar is Hollywood’s greatest honor. And, tragically, its deepest shame when the network procedural you signed on for uses it as a weekly promotional reminder of the thankless paycheck you’re cashing, of the awards-caliber work that’s so impossible to find that you opt to take the sure thing of 13 episodes of shouting directions to people trying to short-circuit killer iPads with car batteries. Which is an actual thing that happened on last night’s episode.
If you tune in every week, maybe we can make Academy Award winner Patricia Arquette feel slightly better about her career options as she tries — and fails — to deliver dialogue so stilted and jargon-heavy that George Lucas himself would consider it irretrievably tin-eared. After the Boyhood win, she is America’s Mom. And we all owe Mom our unconditional love.
James Van Der Beek Has Trained So Hard for This
As Special Agent Elijah Mundo, the team member dispatched into the field to race against the always-ticking clock of iTerrorism, the indefatigable James Van Der Beek has, by far, the most physically demanding role on the show. And he’s put in the work. If you follow him on Instagram — you should follow him on Instagram, what’s wrong with you? — you’ll see he’s a consummate professional who takes his prep work seriously. This kind of dedication to craft deserves our respect and our loyalty as we thank him for his weekly cyberservice.
The Americans Doesn’t Even Have the Internet
Grantland is an Americans shop. We’ve sung its deserved praises, championed its ratings-hobbled cause, and urged you people, again and again, to watch it. Just as we are asking you to open your hearts to CSI: Cyber right now.
But for all of our affection for that still-underpolished gem of prestige TV, we feel we must point out that when Philip and Elizabeth have to kill somebody, the tools at their disposal are the bluntest kind, hampered by the burgeoning 8-bit world of the early 1980s in which they ply their trade. Guns. Knives. Garrotes. A sweet old gammaw’s heart medicine. Probably a Walkman, soon. They communicate by telephone — wired telephones, often with dials that you had to turn with your fingers, like filthy cavepeople — by handwritten code, by face-to-face interaction. It’s a prototechnological nightmare from which you can easily awaken every Wednesday night by simply tuning from FX to CBS at 10 p.m. for a cutting-edge, alarmist taste of the deadly future that’s already here, living inside our murderphones, waiting for the text-message command to activate the extermination singularity we all fear is coming any minute now, if we can just get two more bars of AT&T service in this goddman place.
Leave The Americans on TiVo until the weekend. It can wait.
CSI: Cyber demands our attention right now. Watch it with me.
I can’t do this thing alone.
But I probably will anyway.
After the third gallon, the gas goes down pretty smooth.