When horse racing is mentioned on TV, and it's not about a real race, most of those familiar with the game know what that means: If it's a fictional TV show -- if horse racing is used as a plot for a weekly series episode -- here come the crooks, there go the degenerates, will you look at all the loafers. If horse racing is the subject for one of those "news" reports, "news" in the contemporary sense standing for somebody good-looking angling for an award, the non-fiction story figures to be about some cruel and unusual atrocities. Anymore, "news" is live video, period.
No sport is handled worse on TV than horse racing.
It's not the physical movement of the sport that throws television. It's the plots that are uncoordinated to the point of injuring a career. But when you're talking about something like "CSI: Miami," craft advancement obviously isn't the point, getting paid is.
A new non-fiction series called "Jockeys: Win or Die Trying" starts on the Animal Planet cable channel Friday, Feb. 6, a title that doesn't suggest a picnic in the infield; but horse race riding danger is real.
Keeping it real is more than you can say about most of "CSI: Miami," which did horse racing last week. Bloody murder was committed in a suite at what appeared to be a packed track. Granted, bettors might step over a body in a wagering line; elsewhere, somebody might notice.
"CSI: Miami" is one of the forensics trilogies, surely the prettiest, with South Beach in hot pinks and bright greens and Disney-colored water, and female forensics employees in brief skirts and breezy tops appearing to have just come out of a cake at a coach's convention, not the morgue. "CSI: Miami" is surely the goofiest of not only the crime scene contingent, but of all forensics shows ever made, or ever rejected, and one of the nuttiest cop-type shows of all-time history.
It's the Keystone Kops without bumping into lamp posts, without the pratfalls, but w with the funny logic.
The star of "CSI: Miami" is the gutsy David Caruso, who drives a Hummer to the mass murders and the horse race fixes; never can tell when the meat-wagon van will be full and you might have to toss a few corpses onto the leather seats. He's gutsy because surely he hears things about this show.
Didn't this Caruso guy used to be, well, if not good, better?
Here, he is in charge of solving the unsolvable as he tries without success to establish his sunglasses as a dramatic prop similar to the great Rod Steiger's gum in "In the Heat of the Night." Here, the character named Horatio Caine has been given the unenviable task of trying to end each scene with a meaningful rejoinder, something like: Now, Mister Johnson, that's what I call a dead heat.
He has invented one memorable acting move whereby he yanks off his shades and circles with his head and shoulders down and around and then up on the one guilty of murder, a reptilian move before a strike like: Now, Mister Smith, that's what I call a killer marriage.
The "CSI: Miami" show last week was about, guess what, fixing horse races, about a crook who talked a reputable owner out of a valuable horse, and then started doping procedures right and left. Among those doped were horses and, presumably, network executives and TV critics. The best horses in a number of races were doped. Left unresolved was how the doper was able to figure which was the next best horse in order to collect on all the big win waters.
What the industry could use is a Committee for the Ethical Treatment of Horse Race plots.
Write to Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org.