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Looking to the Fall: NCIS: Los Angeles

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The fall – and the "traditional" television season – is rapidly approaching.  So, like any good TV reviewer, I've been watching pilots.  Now, anything that I say about a pilot is not a review, it's a series of thoughts, of ruminations, of contemplations based on what may be, what might be, what could be should these shadows remain unchanged.  That's right, think of it like A Christmas Carol – Scrooge saw his own death, but that was his death if he didn't change, anything I say about a television show whose pilot I've seen is the same sort of thing – it's what could be if they remain unchanged.  Tiny Tim did not die, and none of these shows have to either (nor need they live).

That being said, what we're talking about today isn't a traditional pilot – it's a back-door pilot.  Thus, it's still mostly filmed in the style of the show it's based off of and has aired, making it possible to review the original show, but not so much what the new one will be like, except to say whether they characters (which may change) are stultifyingly dull or have potential.  In the case of the stars of NCIS: Los Angeles (which is being spun-off of NCIS which was spun-off of JAG), they show potential.

I've never actually watched an episode of NCIS prior to watching the two-parter "Legend," in which the Los Angeles team (a team which has since been tweaked) is introduced, but I actually liked the original NCIS enough where I've since TiVoed and watched more episodes (I always find it weird when I like a CBS procedural, what with my not being even close to 40 yet).  But, Mark Harmon isn't going to be appearing on the new show on a regular basis, and he was a big part of why I liked "Legend."  Instead, NCIS: LA is going to star LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell.

The team – mainly O'Donnell's Special Agent Callen – specialize in going undercover and smoking out the baddies that way.  LL, who plays ex-Navy SEAL Sam Hanna, was mainly in charge – at least in "Legend" – of staying back at headquarters and playing with all the expensive toys that the Los Angeles branch outfits their office with (they are, after all, the Office of Special Projects).  He did find himself in the field during the two-parter, and I'm sure that he'll continue to on a weekly basis however.  The show isn't going to exist without shoot-outs and backup being called in and stings going badly, that kind of thing.  In other words – it's your standard procedural.

So, without seeing the new team as it will truly exist in the final version of the show (one case change includes the addition of Linda Hunt) in action and the look of the show, am I just wasting your time and mine discussing it?  I don't think so.  CBS is pushing the series and have already announced crossovers between the papa and child, plus they've given the new series the slot right after the original.  They obviously believe in it and think it's going places, plus, depending on how you count, CBS might be the highest rated network on television. 

I do have to say though, "Legend" relied a little too much on the high-tech end of things with fancy touch-screen computers and "throwing" things from one screen to another.  It was like they saw last season's revamped Knight Rider and thought it was pretty cool when they did it there.  It wasn't, it was foolish and ridiculous.  NCIS: Los Angeles needs to have good storytelling to go with the fancy-shmancy stuff, otherwise it might find itself going the way of Michael Knight (though the safe money is against that).

As for the ultimate question – will NCIS: Los Angeles find a spot on my fall viewing schedule, I think it might.  It's set to air Tuesdays at 9pm and I certainly won't be watching the dancing shows that air opposite it.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • Autumn Gray

    Give NCIS: LA a chance. There’s nothing standard about NCIS, and there will be nothing standard about NCIS: LA. It was designed to be high-tech, yes, but 80% of the technology there will be real, believe it or not. And I have no doubt the storyteling will improve with time. It’ll be better than expected, I think.