Patricia Arquette’s Oscar win last month for her supporting role in “Boyhood” made many people happy for a variety of reasons.
It is always gratifying to see a hardworking performer rewarded mid-career, and Arquette has always been an interesting woman. Her acceptance speech calling for equal pay for women sparked an invigorating conversation about feminism, sexism, privilege and the political role of celebrities.
But surely no one was as happy as the folks at CBS, where she stars in the new “CSI: Cyber” (10 p.m. Wednesday).
Introduced in a two-episode backdoor pilot on “CSI” last year, Arquette’s Special Agent Avery Ryan is a psychologist and head of the FBI’s Cyber Crime Division. Like virtually every modern TV detective, she is dedicated to the point of obsession.
Unlike her “CSI” colleagues, who are, for the most part, limited to their location, Ryan has a digitally defined jurisdiction.
“Any crime involving electronic devices is by definition ‘cyber,’” she says in the pilot.
So that’s pretty much every crime not limited to someone knocking over a liquor store – that is, in which there are no electronic devices. Creator Anthony Zuiker and his team make this very clear with the pilot, which opens with the kidnapping of an infant. If nothing else, the episode guarantees a collective parental freakout over baby monitors.
Soon Avery and her team have been assembled, and what a team it is. For supervision, she’s got Simon Sifter (Peter MacNicol); for field action, her second in command Elijah Mundo (James Van Der Beek); for geeky insight, there’s Daniel Grummitz (Charley Koontz of “Community”); and as the young hacker with potential, Brody Nelson (Shad Moss).
Each will thrive or fall depending on chemistry with Arquette. And she is, even with the current concerns about cybercrime, the reason to watch the show. Arquette won multiple awards as lead of the drama “Medium.”
One of Arquette’s most admirable qualities is her ability to portray characters who are alive in the moment but also infused with the life they’ve already lived. Although forced to do the predictable things leads must do – look at screens and rattle off orders amid reminders that “we’re running out of time” – Avery is personally intriguing.
Like its mother ship, “CSI: Cyber” runs on plot, but as television drama grows deeper and more diverse, a successful show needs to constantly balance the procedural with the personal. It’s a tougher job than it seems. But Patricia Arquette? She can do anything.