Of course truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense – Mark Twain
Instapunk [via Instapundit] gives an interesting insight into the success and history of the CBS’s highly popular CSI (for Crime Scence Investigator) shows. Being a geek, I like shows where scientists and techies solve crimes. My favorite of the CSI’s is “CSI: Las Vegas” purely because I like the hutzpah evinced by setting the show in such an outrageously over-the-top fictional city.
If you haven’t seen the show, the city of Las Vegas is a gloriously baroque creation. Supposedly it is a major metropolitan area out in the middle of the Nevada desert whose entire economy is based on gambling and related entertainments! And not just any gambling but gambling that takes place in gigantic casinos made up like massive black pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, the New York skyline or the city of Venice! My personal favorite is the one with a sign with a 60ft articulated neon-light Cowboy. Bet they blew half their computer graphics budget on that one!
The city is full of all sorts of other quirky things like drive-through wedding chapels where people can get married by ministers dressed like space aliens or even Elvis! Gotta wonder what the writers were smoking when they thought that up. Of course, all the people who live in the city work as card dealers, show girls or manufacturing gaming equipment. Although, they did give it a major university so they could have storylines about the murders of sexy coeds. All the city elders are casino owners or the like with shady pasts and everybody from the mayor on down gambles, drinks and pinches showgirls.
They create pretexts for stars and entertainers to do cameos as themselves by pretending that big entertainers routinely come to do big shows at the casinos. There is this one particularly funny running gag were a singer called Wayne Newton has been putting on some of the highest grossing live shows anywhere for decades. His bit has to be seen to be believed.
Oh, and did I mention that the story is that whole town was built virtually from scratch in early ’50s by the Mob using money they looted from East Coast unions! That is hilarious!
Sometimes the sheer silliness of the setting intrudes on the suspension of disbelief needed to watch any TV show, but I think the city of Las Vegas is supposed to be some sort of metaphor contrasting the folly and absurdity of human nature with the discipline and reason of the crime solving scientist. I think it’s very innovative and even courageous that they started the series with such odd conceit.
The other two CSIs are set in relatively drab real-world cities, Miami and New York, and I think they suffer a bit for it. I don’t think the writers had a choice. How could you create something wilder than “Las Vegas”? You would have to set it on a moonbase and populate the place with aliens!
That would have been a little too much.