Let's celebrate the CBS procedural turning 15
Not all superheroes wear capes — some wear sunglasses.
The Flash has his speed. Wonder Woman has her strength. Hawkeye has his… something. Horatio Caine has his epic delivery of wild one-liners as he stands over a dead body and puts on his shades.
A great cold open is an art form, whether it’s Brian spilling chili on The Office or Alec Baldwin screaming, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night Live.” And while comedies ordinarily have the best opening bits, one CBS procedural was able to consistently provide the most ridiculously entertaining pre-credits scenes on television.
When CSI: Miami premiered 15 years ago, it was a much simpler time: the Stranger Things kids didn’t exist, there was only one Fast & Furious film, and Mariska Hargitay was starring on Law & Order: SVU (wait, she’s still on there?). Looking to capitalize on the surprise success of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the soon-to-be No. 1 show on TV, CBS traveled to the only place with crazier crimes than Las Vegas: Florida. More specifically, Miami.
Making his triumphant return to television was NYPD Blue alum David Caruso in the spin-off’s lead role of Horatio Caine, the director of the Miami Dade Crime Lab. Rounding out the cast were talented actors like The West Wing‘s Emily Procter and future Magic Mike star Adam Rodriguez. And still, the most important costar would prove to be Caine’s choice of eyewear.
As all CBS police procedurals do (and there have been approximately 17.2 million of them), episodes of CSI: Miami kicked off with a crime, usually a murder. Then, the man fondly known as “H” arrives on the scene and gets the rundown from a member of his forensics team or Detective Frank Tripp (Rex Linn). And from the very beginning, the series’ creative team crafted the perfect cold open formula.
Step one: Someone lobs a softball at Horatio. Example: “The verdict is already in.” Step two: Horatio responds, makes sure to say the name of the person he’s talking to, and, then, leaves a long pause. Example: “The verdict is in, Frank…” Step three: Puts on his sunglasses and finishes the sentence with an amazing kicker. Example: “But the jury is out.” Step four: Our minds are blown. Step five: “YEEEEEAAAAAH,” opening credits roll.
For 10 seasons, Caruso managed to keep a straight face and flawlessly deliver lines that were ludicrous, laughable, and genius all rolled into one. Sometimes, they were shocking. “You were the last one to see her alive?” Frank asks Horatio, who responds, “That’s correct. And Frank, you better move quickly, because right now, I’m your only suspect.” Other times, they were short, sweet, and amazing. “No matter how you cut it, divorce sucks,” opines Frank as they stand over a dead body. Horatio shoots back, “Frank… it’s a killer.”
Like anything great, the “Caruso” as I’ve deemed it, has inspired plenty of imitators, including the stars of Supernatural and Jim Carrey’s pitch perfect recreation and breakdown of Caruso’s “scene-buttoning” skills.
Yet, no one will ever be able to do it like Caruso. The Golden Globe winner hasn’t acted in any movies or TV shows since the series wrapped over five years ago, but he’ll always have those cold opens on his résumé. And the shades? They belong in the TV Hall of Fame, right alongside the Iron Throne and Michael Scott’s “World’s Best Boss” coffee mug. “You know what they say, readers… sunglasses make everything hotter.”