Is David Caruso Too Good to be True?

That red-haired guy and CSI: Miami put us back on the media map

In any case Caruso seems proud of his portrayal, and considers the new character significantly more complicated. "Horatio Caine can handle himself on the street and he's not a person to be messed with. He's not to be taken lightly because he will take care of business and will meet you on your level if you force him to. But he's also a very sophisticated man.

"The difference between the character on NYPD Blue, for instance, is he was, y'know, a man that I admired, but he was a vastly different man [from] Horatio Caine; [Kelly] was a street detective with a limited arsenal of tools at his disposal ... he's simpler. And he was wearing his heart on his sleeve. You knew who John Kelly was -- a character people admired. They felt for him. But there was a limit."

With CSI: "I do believe in the [more complex] function of people like Caine, the necessity of people like him to exist independent of the fiction we're creating," Caruso says. "In the real world, they are the stopgaps. They are the protective layering. And the truth is, you'll never know how many terrible things have been prevented from reaching you because they are so good at their jobs."

So Caruso's working-class hero-worship seems heartfelt, and yet another glimpse of that anachronistic moral sensibility that he imparts to his characters.

"I'll give you an example," he says. "The other night we're coming home very late from a location. We're on a real dark stretch of highway. And I saw this officer standing at the window of this very scary-looking vehicle, with three really scary individuals sitting in it. I'm passing by, I'm looking at this guy with his flashlight and his hand on his gun. This might be the last moment of his life. And he deals with that every single night.

"We don't know who he is. We'll never know his name. He'll never be paid enough to compensate him for what he has to deal with every day ...

"These are the guys like Horatio Caine and the people from CSI and Miami-Dade investigators and so on. These are the people holding society together behind the scenes. Because the people who have no regard for your life or my life number in the thousands. If these people are not kept in check and pursued and dealt with, the situation in this country will fall apart overnight."


From the beginning, Les Moonves, the CBS president, wanted to cash in on the phenomenal success of what is now the top-rated show on television, CSI; he wanted to do it with the clones working so well for the various Law & Orders proliferating on rival NBC. Moonves himself came up with the idea to locate in Miami. It was brilliant. The original CSIis set amid the glitzy neon and casinos of Las Vegas. What better counterpart for the Sin City in the desert could there be than the Sun City on the ocean? They're flip sides of the same con. They're supposed to be. Watch carefully: Both shows revolve around the world of forensics and rely on computer-generated closeups to zoom into body cavities and race along arteries, and both use the Who in their lead-ins ("Who Are You?" in CSI;"Won't Get Fooled Again" in Miami). In Vegas, almost everything in CSI happens at night, while Caruso is constantly having to duck under sun umbrellas between takes.

"You go to Vegas to escape," Zuiker says. "You go to Miami to be seen."

Or to hide. While it's true that Vegas is a place for every brand and variety of fun, Miami also is a place to run. "It's always been that way," says Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami Heraldcrime reporter and mystery novelist Edna Buchanan. "Because even when Miami was a sleepy Southern resort city, it was the destination for people [fleeing] from all over the country -- people running from the law, from each other, from bad experiences.... And if they ran long enough, they'd wind up [here]. It's like the last jumping-off place."

Zuiker grew up in Vegas. He'd never been to Miami until he and the other producers came to research the show. They went for a ride-along with Miami-Dade Police and wound up in a room with the badly decomposed naked body of a man, dead on his bed for three days and grossly swollen from body gases, with porn playing on the TV. A cop lit a cigar to cover the stench, which Zuiker and the others thought was very cool. Then somebody yelled, "Stand back for the piercing!" And Zuiker and the others watched as the man deflated, making a farting sound.

"It was a rocking good time," he says. "Yes, it was."

And those only-in-Miami scenes, like the one where cops find a body in a trunk that's been sitting for days right on Collins Avenue just blocks from where actors are filming a crime show, came to be expected.

"It's hard to write fiction in a city where the truth is stranger," says Buchanan. "There's something about being down here at sea level. It does something to people. The barometric pressure drops, the full moon rises, the temperature soars, and all hell breaks loose."

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