CSI Cyber, or, How Can We Save James Van Der Beek’s Career?

Patrica Arquette and James Van Der Beek on CSI: Cyber
CSI: Cyber (Photo: CBS)

CBS managed to make a show dumber than Intelligence, y’all! Why is James Van Der Beek lowering his worth being attached to CSI: Cyber?

Spoiler: CSI: Cyber is stupid. Like, offensively stupid. I get it—the CSI franchise is on its last legs, but this show is the Law & Order: Los Angeles of the family. First, when was the last time the prefix “cyber” has been used with any sort of seriousness1, especially with as broad a definition as this show has provided? Patricia Arquette plays Avery Ryan, a psychologist who heads an FBI team in cyber crime investigation. She informs her boss/the audience that any crime using electronic devices or communication is by definition cyber. Soooo…..any crime where the perp uses text messaging, e-mail, or a cell phone camera falls under your purview? Have fun with that caseload.

Ryan’s team includes a ragtag group of cyber misfits. Yeah. I mean, when you also have Scorpion in your lineup, these characters come across even flatter than originally imagined. It is almost a competition to see who could be the worst caricature of the bunch. The award in the pilot probably goes to Bow Wow, who plays a hacker trying to turn his life around. As you may have seen in the ubiquitous promos for the show, we see him making up a rhyme while trying to solve a problem because it helps him when he thinks out loud. As one of the few non-bad-guy people of color in the cast, this just screams of racism. Shut up, CBS.

But I’m not here to talk about this show that no one should watch. I’m writing out of concern for one James Van Der Beek, who plays weapons expert Elijah Mundo. Full disclosure: JVDB was my first celebrity crush and so I have been keeping close tabs on his career. He, like most of his co-stars from Dawson’s Creek, managed to escape the shadow of that show. However, his star is not shining as brightly and I can’t put my finger on why. JVDB has no problem at poking fun at himself, including a gif series called James Van Der Memes and videos on Funny or Die.2 He co-starred on ABC’s short-lived Don’t Trust the B, playing a heightened reality version of himself. Much like Josh Groban, I appreciate that JVDB is in on the joke with everything that he does.

In this process, he must have made friends at CBS, because he has been getting work there. Last year, he was on the God-awful Friends with Better Lives, playing the Barney Stinson role for the show that was supposed to replace How I Met Your Mother. Now he’s getting to do slow-motion action sequences on the pile of spam that is CSI Cyber. Even he seems a little baffled by it. Live-tweeting during last night’s premiere, JVDB posted this:

When one of your show’s stars questions the creative direction of the pilot episode, you know he has boarded the wrong ship. You are better than this, James. We need to find the right project for you.

  1. Fine, I’ll give you “cyberbullying,” but even that term has been out of fashion for a couple of years.  
  2. DILF Khakis should have gotten an EGOT, in my opinion. 2011 was a magical year.  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv