CSI's other trademark - a quick flash to the uncensored cinema of the forensic veteran - was also in evidence. It works like this: someone on screen will use a bit of jargon - "dump-job" say - and the image suddenly cuts to an explanatory sequence of a corpse being tossed on to the banks of the Hudson River (ker-flummppp!). Or the pathologist bent over the slab will have a sudden flash of inspiration about the killer's arcane strangulation method and in an instant you see it in slurred close- up (arghh-glahhh-crick!). It's rather like a multimedia Encyclopedia of Violent Death, complete with The Who's "Baba O'Riley" on the opening credits to give it a bit of rock top-spin.
The staffing arrangements don't deviate much from the established pattern either. There's Sardonic Ethnic Lab Guy, Seen It All Before But This is a New One On Me Pathologist, Hot Career Woman One (don't touch) and Hot Career Woman Two (maybe, if you play your cards right) and, most important of all, a team leader in what looks to be the final stages of clinical depression. In Las Vegas this important role was taken by William L Petersen and in Miami by David Caruso, but Sinise has a geopolitical edge on both men because his wife was killed on September 11. In between tracking down the crazed Russian emigre who had been trying to paralyse women and store them on life-support, he keeps himself cheerful by leaning up against the guardrail at Ground Zero and sobbing uncontrollably. Like the other outlets I suspect it will do well, and I look forward to the arrival of the first British franchisee: CSI: Cricklewood.
Philip Glenister would surely have a good shot at the role of the depressive Chief Investigator, a certain ambiguous melancholy being one of his qualities. It served him well in the first episode of The Stepfather, the whole point of Simon Booker's thriller being that you can't work out whether Dougie (who'd just managed to get his feet under the table of a comfortably middle-class divorcee called Maggie) is just sad or seriously bad. At first glimpse, he is a central-casting psycho, patrolling the streets in his battered minicab and holding one-sided conversations with crack whores. At second glance too, come to think of it, since his embedded gloom stems from the mysterious disappearance of his teenage daughter three years before. Fortunately Maggie isn't the suspicious type, but when her own daughter disappeared she belatedly started to ask questions about her new husband.
The Stepfather is stock two-parter stuff, but so far at least it has a few more pixels to it than the usual run of psychodramas, and Ashley Pearce's direction has a nice eye for the visual accidents of city life, little dramas on every street corner that somehow made this one seem a little less two-dimensional.