Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NCIS Los Angeles: More Of The Same

Photo CBS

The spin off of CBS’s late bloomer, "NCIS", the new NCIS Los Angeles seems to be a big hit, reportedly the top new show on television this season. I wonder - does it have enough to keep its great ratings as the season progresses?

It took years for the original NCIS (the show was a spin off of another CBS series, “Jag) to build viewership, possibly because it ran against other strong shows – like American Idol – at times. But over time, the cast with quirky and sometimes immature characters seemed to lure in viewers who were looking for crime shows with a lighter twist. It helped that it had Mark Harmon and Michael Weatherly, who seem very popular with female viewers. It also had old favorite David McCallum in a role as the medical examiner, Dr. “Ducky” Mallard, and Pauley Perrette as the over-caffeinated, Goth tech whiz, Abby. All made for a cast with great chemistry and fit perfectly for a show about crime mixed with humor.

But for me, NCIS Los Angeles, which airs immediately after the original recipe NCIS, just doesn’t seem to have that same kind of cast or the same kind of magic. Chris O’Donnell, who plays the agent with an initial for a first name, “G. Callen” is just fine, but the rest of the cast seems devoid of personality and interest, and LL Cool J simply cannot act. Worse, because it airs right after NCIS, I find that two hours in a row of the same formula becomes boring. Ennui sets in for me at about 20 minutes in to the show. An article in the recent Ad Age says:

Taking the cookie-cutter route will only get them so far, executives said. Over time, said Ms. Tassler, the characters will grow and develop, allowing for some degree of originality and creative choice-making. The original show features actor Mark Harmon driving a group of investigators, while the new version is more of a "buddy" show, said Mr. Brennan, with LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell as leads. He likens the concept to the interaction between "Miami Vice's" Crockett and Tubbs or the leads in "Starsky & Hutch." Even so, both programs feature broad teams that include a veteran actor -- David McCallum for "NCIS" and Linda Hunt for "NCIS: LA" -- who offers advice and counsel.

"You can't introduce a new show with new characters and have the audience hold them up in comparison to the characters on 'NCIS,'" said Mr. Brennan, who suggested he wouldn't stand against the development of a third "NCIS" program if there were demand for it. "The trick is to make sure if there is a third one that it has strong characters and once again shines a light on [the concept] that doesn't repeat what [viewers] have already seen on 'NCIS' and 'NCIS: LA'."

Is it possible that the current success of NCIS Los Angeles is due to the fact that there aren’t any scripted dramas running against it at this time? Will the show tail off one American Idol starts up? Since American Idol has been off my viewing list for a while, and seems to be dropping in viewership with every subsequent season, NCIS Los Angeles may have plenty of time to work out the kinks and develop the characters before AI starts back up and threatens to suck away viewers from NCIS LA. For me, I am willing to give the show more time, but won’t give it forever.

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