When I first dropped my jaw to the unbelievably laughable backdoor pilot for NCIS: Los Angeles on the original (slightly more plausible) NCIS, I had hoped that the cruel, unforgiving, and powerful figure who fancied him/herself a deity that commissioned the series in the first place would realize its mistake, and pull the plug on the project before unleashing the obviously failed television entertainment equivalent of an abortion on an otherwise unsuspecting public. [Yes, I do talk like this in real life.] Alas, unlike the Dane Cook series Next Caller, such a thing did not happen — and TV viewers have been suffering ever since.
Sadly, most of them don’t realize they’re in such agony. Now, for those of you who fall into that category, please allow me to point out the show’s two biggest flaws: alleged actor Chris O’Donnell, and supposed singer LL Cool J. Granted, I liked the latter — back in 1985 — but that was only about five minutes before it dawned on me how truly awful his debut album was (to say nothing of his stage name). The former, however, has always been a cumbersome burden to anyone who has ever thought to themselves “Hmm, I wonder if this new Joel Schumacher Batman film will be any good?” or “Hey, let’s go see The Bachelor tonight and find out if it holds up to the classic Buster Keaton and Three Stooges shorts it was taken from” (to say nothing of the greatest movie ever, Vertical Limit).
But that’s all rice under the Batmobile, kids. We’re here to take a deep dark look at NCIS: Los Angeles – The Third Season — something I cannot willingly do in good faith. Not because I hate it, mind you (and I do), but because it’s so goddamn awful, that it physically pains me to watch it. From the very season premiere — wherein Callen (O’Donnell) and Co. travel to Romania (well, Southern California with a little hue added) to rescue their colleague, Hetty (Linda Hunt), from some bad guys — it is obvious that the writing has not improved since before the program first aired. In fact, it’s even worse than before, with corny dialogue that would make Ed Wood blush with shame and twists that even a pretzel maker would find banal.
The mark of quality continues well throughout the rest of this season (which saw the show’s lowest ratings ever), presented in its entirety here in a standard CBS/Paramount-style six-disc set, and takes viewers upon even more fantastic worldly and exotic locations to be found in Southern California, tossing in appearances by Claire Forlani (who almost became popular in the ’90s), Miguel Ferrer (who just can’t seem to catch a break in Television Land), even poor Christophe(r) Lambert (who hit rock-bottom a long, long time ago). Special features include several making-of featurettes, some deleted scenes, an audio commentary on one episodes, and a crossover episode from the new bastardized Hawaii Five-O series (yes, not only did it start out as a backdoor pilot on one show, it has since joined hands with another — a sure sign of faith on its creators behalf).
The A/V quality here is as bright and crisp as can be expected, boasting a beautiful transfer overall, and the 5.1 English Dolby Digital soundtrack brings out all the awful chitchat and rumble-happy tunes the men and women at the music companies push on us just so people will go out and buy records.
Now, if only LL Cool J had written “It’s All About the Benjamins,” I could have ended with something witty. Oh, well, at least I can end with this classic standby: Vertical Limit. Boom!