Why CBS shouldn't pick up the NCIS spinoff
by Allison Waldman, posted May 15th 2009 1:35PM
Next Wednesday, CBS will be announcing its schedule for the new season, and while rumors have swirled that Cold Case or Without A Trace might be on the chopping block -- despite good ratings -- one sure thing seems to be the spinoff from NCIS.
Well, now that I've seen the two-part NCIS episode that served as a pilot for the show, I'm hoping that CBS gives this new series a thumbs-down. I don't expect that to happen, but if it were my decision, I wouldn't dump a solid series with a loyal viewership like Cold Case or Without A Trace, for the hope of LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell's overly fussy, overly procedural NCIS derivative step-child.
Here's the thin:, because NCIS has emerged as something of a phenomenon for CBS, i.e. a series that is getting more and more popular as it goes on, the network is psyched about capitalizing on that success. The problem for me is that while I love NCIS and give it props for what it's accomplished, the spinoff just didn't show the potential of the original series.
A pilot has to have that promise or it's doomed to failure. What I saw in the two-parter was a lot of bells and whistles, a lot of action and car chases, and a real lack of characters that would make me come back for more. And believe me, the strength of NCIS is in the characters. It's the interaction between the team, Gibbs and DiNozzo, Ziva and McGee, Ducky and Abby. Even the scowl on Vance's face when he goes up against Jethro is all character driven. NCIS fans tune in not for the forensics and murder scenes; we're there to see the guys dealing with each other while doing serious crime solving.
The spinoff tried to make the Callen character mysterious and compelling, even leaving him in critical condition at the end of part two after being shot down in the street. Chris O'Donnell's a good actor, but the character was a dud. I was shocked that he was shot, but I didn't care if he made it. LL Cool J's character was so vacuous that I don't remember his name. He was too busy playing with the Minority Report touch screens in the high-tech loft that housed the OPS branch of NCIS to really be evaluated as a character. I guess he looked proficient with the screens, kind of like John King on CNN last year during the election coverage.
As for Louise Lombard as the chief of the unit, she lacked any of the brio or power I'd expect from a leader. She left me cold, and I don't think she ever got out of the loft. She was watching the action, not part of it. Compared to Gibbs, she came up very short.
So, on Wednesday, I'll be really curious to see how CBS plays it. If the show gets a spot in the fall lineup, I won't be surprised, but I also won't be watching.