Our friends at RE/Search, publishers of the excellent "JG Ballard: Quotations" and the forthcoming "JG Ballard: Conversations," point me to Ballard's take on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, from the Sydney Morning Herald:
Television today is an ageing theme park, which we visit out of habit rather than in hope of finding anything fresh and original. At times I think the era of television is over, but then it suddenly comes up with something rich and strange.
A few years ago, I began to linger over a series called CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. After only a few episodes, I was completely hooked, for reasons I don't understand even today…
The series unfolds within an almost totally interiorised world, a clue to its real significance. The crimes – they are all homicides – take place in anonymous hotel rooms and in the tract housing of the Vegas and Miami suburbs, almost never in a casino or a druglord's gaudy palace.
A brutal realism prevails, the grimmest in any crime series. Suburban lounges and hotel toilets are the settings of horrific murders, which thankfully are over by the time each episode begins. Gloves donned, the cast dismantle u-bends and plunge up to their elbows in toilet bowls, retrieving condoms, diaphragms and bullet casings, syringes, phials and other signs of the contemporary zodiac. Faecal matter and toilet paper are never shown, perhaps reflecting American squeamishness, though evidence of anal intercourse and vaginal bruising is spoken of like tennis scores.
If the crime scene is brightly lit, the outdoor world is always dark. A car crash or street shooting always takes place at night, when the city seems deserted and dead. Light and safety are found only in the crime lab, among its high-tech scanners and its ruthless deconstruction of human trauma.