Wednesday, February 10, 2010

CSI: NY - The Formula Episode Review from Racing Fan Point of View

On Wednesday night's (February 12th), the CBS television show CSI: NY featured an episode clearly catching the attention of XSL Speed Reporter. In the episode called "The Formula" the CSI team collects evidence to solve an accident occurring during an exhibition run between two drivers played by Antonio Sabato Jr and real-life racer Danica Patrick. This is a second time that professional open wheel racing has become the focus for a CSI plot. In 2003, an episode of CSI: Miami called "Grand Prix" revolved around a fictional Champ Car team. The crime in this episode involves Sabato's character's car explodes on the race circuit setup inside Manhattan. The racing series and race are all fictional with the actual vehicles looking like Formula Ford cars (I'm not quite sure but they were definitely not Indy or Formula 1 cars).

The directors behind the opening of this CSI: New York have clearly never watched an auto race. In classic 1966 racing movie Grand Prix, film director John Frankenheimer made viewers fall in love with the speed by allowing the racing action to occur around the film camera. Of course there was some trick camera work or visual effects in Grand Prix but those were marvels for the 1960s. CSI: New York use of quick camera cuts were blindingly fast. This opening lacked any appreciation to the sport of auto racing.

Another problem I had with the episode was how the car exploded. Perhaps another case of Hollywood special effects taking liberties on reality, fire wouldn't have rushed towards the driver's compartment. Beyond weight distribution, rearward engine placement in open wheel racing was incorporated because it wouldn't engulfs the driver as it did on CSI:NY.

Final, having some knowledge of the technical part of motorsports, it's important to note that CSI: NY's depiction of the energy recovery system (called a VIC) was inaccurate. Known in motorsports as Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS), the function and operations of the system was correct but the anatomy of the electrical-type regenerative braking was not correct. The electrical generator, which the plot indicated was a factor in the victim racer's eventual death, was placed behind the driver's seat. Typically open wheel cars place the fuel tank behind the driver's cockpit. Also, electrical versions of KERS would have included a battery to store the electrical energy for when the power boost is initiated. There was no mention of a battery.

I do give respect to the writers and producers in the story and that the characters identified with the sport of auto racing. Personally, I prefer the New York version of CSI since their still somewhat based on the science and investigation while the other CSIs runs far too heavily on sensationalized violence. I continue to the lead actors/actresses likable and particularly enjoyed Detective Taylor (Gary Sinise) sharing his long-time love for auto racing.

As for Danica Patrick's acting debut, I think it will be fair to say her ARCA stock car debut at Daytona last Saturday was more noteworthy. However, I have never known an particularly strong acting performance coming from a race car driver. Patrick's acting has been limited to commercials and that appears apparent through her acting performance as her lines were delivered clearly.

A good, fun episode overall, "The Formula" ended with IndyCar, and this year's NASCAR, media darling dropping the green flag on a race between Detective Taylor and his colleague Stella. Beyond excusing itself from the real-world risks of liability issues relating to the final scene, it still remains to be seen auto racing will one day get the respect that many other sports receive.

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