Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NCIS, "Legend, Pt. 1": The man of one face

"NCIS" is, as I've said before, the show I watch the most while blogging about it the least. (In fact, going through the archives, I couldn't find a single actual episodic review, though I mentioned it in passing a bunch of times.) It's light, it's entertaining, it does the retro job it sets out to do, and I never have much of anything to say about it beyond that.

However, having watched the first half of the two-parter setting up the spin-off with Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J (just as "NCIS" itself spun off from a "JAG" two-parter), I have to again ask: Who thought it would be a good idea to build a weekly TV show around Chris O'Donnell? More importantly, who thought it would be a great idea to cast him as a brilliant chameleon of an undercover agent? Sure, he can fake a Russian accent if he absolutely has to, but he has two expressions at most and is as lacking in the charisma department as any actor I can think of who (briefly) was considered a bankable movie star. O'Donnell sucked most of the life out of the episode, and Louise Lombard sucked out whatever was left.

Did anybody else watch? Are you more optimistic than I am about the spin-off?

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

All of the best parts of the episode involved the original NCIS characters interactions with each other, while all the new characters were very bland and uninteresting. I agree with your assessment.

Anonymous said...

I found the "new" NCIS to be in love with gimmicks. LL Cool J spent the entire show moving images around on a big screen. Why was so much time spent on that? The leader of the group didn't impress me. It was a let down from the character-driven NCIS to the "Let's do something cool with no interaction" NCIS. I don't think the new NCIS will be on my "must see" list.

pgillan said...

I don't think I've ever watched a spin-off episode without knowing what it was before going into it, so that was kind of neat, but I'm not sure that there's any real life in the new team. They didn't seem to have any chemistry together, they weren't that interesting or compelling, and I don't know whether it's a positive or a negative, but I spent most of the episode thinking "that guy looks a lot like Chris O'Donnell." It's probably a negative, given that I wasn't motivated enough to check while the episode was on, and then forgot about it until I read your post.

So, I think I concur with your hearty "meh."

I think what will ultimately make or break the show is whether or not they can make using that CNN touchboard look natural. When LL threw the image from one screen to the other, there was so much flourish on the move it looked like he was finishing up his floor show at a gymnastics event.

Taleena said...

Wow, Chris O'Donnell is the spin off character? I'd rather see Victor and Sierra from Dollhouse get their own show. I thought for sure it was Ziva's pal Michael; though it should be D'Nozio. You can replace just about every other character in that show with the exception of Michael Whetherly or Pauly Perette and it doesn't lose much.

The director, replaced. Ducky? Like the geeky ME he's trained. Ziva, replace her with another straight arrow hot chick. Tim? He can go off and write another book.

Gibbs? Well, they have already had him leave and come back and frankly I liked seeing Tony step up and run the show.

which I guess answers the question of why the show is not getting spun off D'Nozio. Pretty soon though he is going to be in the Commander Riker situation - why aren't you being promoted if you're good enough at your job that you've held command before?

Anyway. my two cents

Anonymous said...

I've fond of NCIS & watch pretty frequently, so I made a point of tuning in last night, but wow, was this bad. O'Donnell in particular is completely miscast, & the rest of the new team aren't much better. I spent all their scenes wishing they'd go already & get back to familiar faces. I'll watch the rest of the story line on NCIS, but unless things get much better quickly I can't see myself tuning in to the spin-off.

Anonymous said...

Tony was offered a promotion before, but decided to turn it down, didn't he?

Karen said...

Tony was offered a promotion before, but decided to turn it down, didn't he?I'm pretty sure he was after Gibbs returned from 'retirement.'

This show is pure comfort viewing for me. It's light, entertaining, and doesn't ask anything of my brain. The cast has great chemistry and the writers know it. And mostly, they aren't afraid to have fun. So many crime driven dramas think that they have to either push the dark and atmospheric, or embrace a quirky lightness. NCIS manages to walk a pretty skillful path between the two.

HautieTx said...

In order for me to "want" to watch a new show I need to like one of its characters. Immediately.

I did not like any of them working NCIS-LA.

Didn't like how there is the allege sexy back story with Gibbs and Mason to explain their knowing one another already.

Everyone trying to be all bad-assy cool in LA just isn't my favorite thing to watch.

Anonymous said...

The only bright spot of the new cast was that psychological analyst (or something like that, the geeky guy). I could see myself tuning in for him, but he'd probably get the same screen time as Palmer.

Both LL and Chris do nothing for me, they just seem too out of place to do anything good. They're too serious for a show that's both drama and comedy, so I'm thinking the new NCIS will be light on what makes NCIS so great.

I also can't stand the new NCIS's set. It's just so bland and industrial.

Elena said...

I enjoyed it as an episode, but didn't realize it is supposed to launch a spin-off. As such I agree with the others here, thus far I won't make any effort to tune in, although the regular NCIS is one of my favorite "junk food" shows.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Everyone trying to be all bad-assy cool in LA just isn't my favorite thing to watch.

Yeah, it feels very much like "CSI: Miami," which dumped the heart of the original show (the geeky humor, and the focus on the science) and traded it in for cool toys (everyone drives a Hummer!) and an uber-serious tone.

Which means, of course, that "NCIS: LA" is going to be a huge freakin' hit.

So Cal said...

Last night was the first time i had watched hte show, and.....MEH. Pretty boring stuff, nobody on either cast did much for me.

I will watch the continuation next week but they will have to do alot to have me come back next year, to either show.

floretbroccoli said...

Every time the original show mentions an agent who works (or trained) in California, Gibbs has always said something like "Oh, he's a HOLLYWOOD NCIS agent." Now they expected us to take HOLLYWOOD NCIS seriously?

Hatfield said...

Whoa, you posted this pretty much exactly when I asked about it in the Reaper post. Mind meld, Sepinwall!!

Anyway, yeah, the new cast is lame, except for maybe Mr. Dry Psycho Babble and the girl agent, who may have been cute. The leader sucks, LL needs to be doing something other than playing video games, and Chris O'Donnell was terrible, even though he clearly tried to play it understated. Although, come to think of it, that may just be his lack of personality. It was funny to watch Harmon act circles around him while doing the same thing.

What are they gonna call this, anyway? NCIS:OSP? That would be laughably bad.

That said, I love NCIS a lot, and I'll certainly watch the 2nd half next week, and possibly any early episodes of this new one if they include any of the original recipe players.

One other question: is it a foregone conclusion that this will get picked up, based on the Bellisario and NCIS brands? And if so, will they have another "pilot" episode to establish stuff again? Ok, that was two.

Juanita's Journal said...

Chris O'Donnell was the only person I didn't have a problem with.

Everyone else - including Mark Harmon and the regular cast members - were boring as hell.

Isaac Lin said...

The new character doing the psychological profiling was the most interesting one to me. I didn't find this introduction to be very compelling, but to be fair, I didn't find the NCIS introduction on JAG to be terribly good, either. (At least TPTB kept the theme music this time; I hated that the wonderfully upbeat JAG theme was replaced when Gibbs and gang were introduced.)

Stef said...

NCIS is comfort food for me, too, and I totally agree with your review. LL was the only new cast member that had any appeal to me, and he seemed totally wasted. I actually spent about 10 minutes trying to think of Chris O'Donnell's last name and it drove me nuts. "Chris... Klein? NO! Carter? NO! Dangit..." before I finally checked the IMDB.

EOTW said...

CBS = bland. Even HIMYM has Ted!

mjryan said...

How many spin offs that start like this (integrated into the original show) are good/appealing from the get-go? I'm guessing that JAG viewers felt the same way about NCIS back in the day when it was spun off. For that matter, how many pilots for ultimately successful shows started out shaky? Friends is one that comes to mind. From this season, I think Fringe fits that description and from everything I've read, Chuck has drastically improved over time (I've only watched this season of Chuck and can't say from experience). I thought about giving up on Fringe earlier in the year but stuck with it and am so glad I did. So, I'm not going to be so quick to judge the series based on this try out.

I also think it's too early to judge re: chemistry between the cast. Since they have to split the time between the new and old, there isn't enough time to get a good feel for the newbies and what they have to offer. In short, I'm willing to give the show and the actors more of a chance to find their footing and voice.

Personally, I like Chris O'Donnell. I think his everyman quality would actually make him perfect for undercover work, giving him the ability to blend in to multiple situations. *shrugs* I also love LL Cool J and am interested in seeing what they can do with a real bromance, one thing NCIS is lacking.

I'm going to make a bold prediction that this spin-off has a better chance of being picked up than Chuck has of being renewed. It completely fits CBS's tried and true procedural formula. They may not get the ratings NCIS does from the beginning, but NCIS was a slow building show, too. CBS tends to have much more patience than NBC does, which is why I fear for Chuck.

Anonymous said...

I've only been watching NCIS since season 4, and seen a few season 2 and 3 ep reruns, never watched JAG, never knew Kate pre-Ziva, etc. etc. With that said, NCIS has been on my weekly watch list for 2-3 years now, with only Lost, House, BSG, and BBT along with it.

That said, I'm not automatically going to watch the new NCIS just because it's a NCIS. While the show may improve, also, as some are saying not to judge too hastily... I don't think you can start judging cast chemistry too early.

"The only bright spot of the new cast was that psychological analyst (or something like that, the geeky guy). I could see myself tuning in for him, but he'd probably get the same screen time as Palmer."
"Anyway, yeah, the new cast is lame, except for maybe Mr. Dry Psycho Babble and the girl agent, who may have been cute."
"The new character doing the psychological profiling was the most interesting one to me."

As these three folks said, the only truly interesting character in their own right so far is the psychological profiler dude. I liked the way he pushed his boss's buttons (wasn't she on CSI with Grissom for awhile? I liked her okay there, but this new character doesn't seem... right).

So... one character good, the others... seem bland. Hopefully they'll improve, but right now psych dude with each of them in fun 1-on-1 convos seems to be all I can look forward to.

"I also love LL Cool J and am interested in seeing what they can do with a real bromance, one thing NCIS is lacking."

If you don't recognise that McGee and Tony are a real bromance, then I don't know what to do for ya.

Davy said...

I'm in agreement on the psych analyst being the most compelling character. I didn't mind the Louise Lombard character, although her interaction with Gibbs was annoying. But since he won't be on the show, that shouldn't be a problem for me. Must admit, however, I liked her better as Sophia on CSI.

Chris O'Donnell? I was looking forward to him here, but then it was just soooo wooden. Meh.

Matt said...

Well, NCIS:OSP, or whatever the hell they call it, has basically a 100% chance of being picked up (though where CBS puts it is kind of a question. They don't have a ton of flexibility. Really, it's:

Sunday (replacing Cold Case or The Unit)

Tuesday at 10 (replacing Without A Trace)--unlikely, since I think they want to spread the NCIS "brand" to another night.

Wednesday at 8 (I think this is the likely slot, giving them a carbon copy of their successful Tuesday lineup--three procedurals back to back)

Thursday, either bumping Survivor or out of CSI.

Friday (extremely unlikely, but CBS still programs it with non-reality stuff)

JustJoan said...

I fell asleep. Twice. On succeeding nights. Don't think I will be watching this anytime soon, and that's saying a lot, because I, too, find NCIS consistently watchable. When there is nothing else on the tube and my book does not excite, I seem always to be able to watch an episode on some channel, somewhere. But nothing about this probie series excites.

mjryan said...

If you don't recognise that McGee and Tony are a real bromance, then I don't know what to do for ya.I don't see Tony constantly picking on and making fun of McGee as a sign of affection and real regard. I've also never been a fan of a man and woman's bickering being a precursor to true love, which IMO, is in the same vein as the Tony and McGee interaction. I've no doubt that I'm in the minority on this opinion since bickering couples and the like are standard Hollywood stereotypes.

Anonymous said...

I watched this because I love NCIS, and agree with others that it is "comfort food." I'm willing to give the spin-off crew another chance because I think they will get better as they become more comfortable in their roles. My exception would be Chris O'Donnell, whom I think is horribly miscast as the Super!Agent. I think he might have suited the Techno-Geek part better.

Anonymous said...

"I don't see Tony constantly picking on and making fun of McGee as a sign of affection and real regard."

Hey, I hear you on the fighting shouldn't equal caring/love thing, and about hollywood stereotypes in relationships and all, but...

Tony is a kid, basically, and what do ... say... middle school boys do when they like a girl? yeah. irritate the hell out of her.

Tony definitely cares about McGee. Sure, he acts jealous when McGee, say, gets to go to LA with Gibbs this ep, and lords it over him when he's the one getting the "better" task to perform, but... it's more of an older brother routine than anything.

Look at how Tony is with Ziva for a similar example. It's just how Tony is with his peers.

Anonymous said...

I didn't find this introduction to be very compelling, but to be fair, I didn't find the NCIS introduction on JAG to be terribly good, eitherExactly.
The intro on JAG was not good. The first season it was called "Navy: NCIS" from the department of redundancy department. It took a while to finalize the cast (McGee didn't show up until halfway through the first season, and sporadically then. Palmer & Ziva are both replacement characters). No, that wasn't great. But they've got time to figure out what's not working, CBS isn't about to cancel it for the first 10 episodes at least, and make it better.

Anonymous said...

I watch like this show and watch it often but after the first 30 minutes it was so boring I turned it off.

H E Pennypacker said...

God I haven't watched this since Kate got shot! Continues to be a ratings meghit here in Australia though

floretbroccoli said...

I'm not as impressed with the electronic toys as they want me to be. I love how that had McGee saying things like "gotta get me one of those!" in case we didn't realize how very cool the gizmos were. Yawn.