Who Are You, CSI?
By Bill Arnett
From Vegas to New York. From Miami to Cyberspace, the CSI franchise is responsible for nearly 800 episodes and countless DNA swabs. Not a fan of the show, though am a fan of the band responsible for all four CSI's theme music: The Who. It's an odd loyalty mostly because as a fan of The Who I can also say that the songs they picked are completely wrong for the shows' brand of crowd-pleasing, who-done-it, shoot-em-ups. Despite the power chords and ear-splitting volume of their music, many of their songs have deeper meanings. Let's break it down.
CSI (Original). Theme song: Who Are You
This makes sense, right? The chorus has lines like “Who are you?” and “I really want to know." Perfect for a who-done-it detective story, right? Well, no. The song is actually about a man asking the question, “Who are you?” to himself. His life has fallen apart, he’s drinking heavily, passing out in Soho doorways, crawling back to a rocky marriage. “Who is the person I’ve become?” he asks. Perhaps the producers knew that and wanted to imply that once you’ve spent your life looking at horrific crime scenes you begin to question your own life. Perhaps not.
CSI Miami. Theme song: Won't Get Fooled Again
It's easy to imagine cops on the trail of a serial killer who manages to evade them with planted clues and cunning escapes. “Well,” say the police, “you’ve managed to elude capture with elaborate red herrings but, rest assured, we won’t get fooled again.” A cursory listen to the lyrics, however, reveal themes of revolution and change and celebration. Revolutions are a tricky thing with a funny pattern of not working like we thought, often followed by the call for a new revolution. The last one didn’t work but we won’t get fooled again. But, of course, we would be fooled again. And again. And again. The song is about the futility of revolution; an indictment of the attitude, seen on both sides of the political divide, that if we can just get it right this one time then the ship of politics will be on the right path once and for all and we won’t need another revolution. That’s heavy for a prime time police procedural.
CSI: New York. Theme song: Baba O'Riley
You may know this as Teenage Wasteland. I don’t know where to begin with this one. It’s a stretch to make this work. It's an obvious example of the producers blindly grabbing the biggest remaining hit from The Who’s catalog. Maybe big city crime, especially among the youth, creates a jail-street-jail cycle that prevents people from ever achieving their full potential: a wasteland for teenagers. Maybe? Not really. It’s a song about leaving. Leaving home, leaving youth, and leaving the orthodoxy of the establishment. We are told to not raise our eye or look over our shoulder but to leave, besides, what we’re leaving is just a teenage wasteland. Not wasted as in getting drunk but wasted potential and opportunity, frittered away on the trivial concerns of youth
CSI: Cyber. Theme song: I Can See For Miles
Bingo! this one works. This is a straightforward song about a guy who suspects his lover of infidelity while he’s away. Despite attempts to hide her transgressions, he knows because, though out of town, he can see for miles and miles. With the ability of the internet to reach into the personal lives of all people, regardless of distance, the Cyber Cops can functionally see for miles and miles, too. Nailed it.
Perhaps a thoughtful, more patient drama series will come along. A show with deep characters that struggle with personal demons as well as those of the outside world. One that leaves its audience wondering about their own choices in life; perhaps after each episode, Joe and Jane Viewer will embrace and quietly look in on the children sleeping. This show will certainly need a deeply meaningful theme song with a highly relevant literal message and deep spiritual truths... it will also need to be a thunderous, genre-defining rock anthem. I know Who to call.