NCIS was a spinoff, of sorts, from the popular military lawyer show JAG. You could say that NCIS is the Order to JAG’s Law. The NCIS is a real government agency that deals with criminal activity inside or involving the US Navy or Marine Corps. The show has proven even more popular than its parent series. Today that means branching out like the CSI and Law & Order franchises have done so well in the past. The next step in the ladder is NCIS: Los Angeles.
The series was previewed in a two-part episode of NCIS entitled Legend. A dead Marine in Washington led to a terrorist cell in LA, where Gibbs and McGee join the LA branch to bring down the bad guys. Here we meet the new characters and get a chance to get comfortable with them. However, by the time the show aired its first episode, there were some pretty major changes for the show already. It’s not uncommon and the Legend episode was really a back-door pilot. The location would be completely scrapped. The show would get new digs in a covert building that appears to be a condemned water plant on the outside. I’m not quite sure why a public agency needed a secret hideout, but there it is. The show retained its high-tech look. They have a Minority Report-style computer system which remained the centerpiece of their operations room.
The show differed in several ways from its sister show. While LA was still a military show, that angle is downplayed here. The atmosphere for the team is more civilian-looking all the way around. There are seldom folks walking around in uniforms. The operations utilize more of the standard surveillance and undercover work. In the back-door pilot, the leader of the group was an agent who had history with Gibbs. Her name was Macy, and she was played by CSI alum Louise Lombard, who was gone when the series premiered in its own right. Later we are told she was killed. There’s a lot more street work to be found here. That means car chases and lots of shootouts. The cases often deal with terrorists, so these guys break a lot of the rules. They don’t let any silly Constitution stand in their way.
The role of head honcho went to Linda Hunt as Hetty. You might remember her as one of the prominent judges from The Practice. She plays a character with a rich back story. She appears to have once been a Hollywood costume designer and has plenty of stories about the big celebrities she knew, and hints at sleeping with. She’s a strong mother hen for the group, both nurturing and demanding. The lead undercover officer is Callen, played by former Batman sidekick, Robin, Chris O’Donnell. He doesn’t know his first name, only that it starts with a G. He’s a little Jason Bourne. He knows little of his own past but has those mad instincts and ability to think on his feet. He was orphaned and has some security issues. He moves a lot, never staying in one home more than three months. He’s a natural undercover with great instincts that allow him to blend into any situation. His partner is Sam Hanna, played by rapper LL Cool J. He’s a former Navy Seal with the brains to go with all of that bulk. The team also includes Kensi Bly, played by Daniela Ruah, who was born in the US but spent most of her acting career on Portuguese television shows. She’s the prerequisite supermodel that it seems every cop show has to have. Fortunately, she also has solid acting chops. The character is the CSI-styled forensic expert on the team. She’s the one who combs the crime scenes for those hidden clues. Nate Getz, played by Peter Cambor, is the team psychiatrist. He’s an expert at profiling and reading body language. He’s the guy you want observing a suspect who is being questioned. Eric Beal, played by Barrett Foa, is the tech guy of the group. He does all of that computer hacking that every show does these days.
You get all 24 episodes on 6 discs.
Each episode of NCIS: LA is presented in its original broadcast 1.85:1 aspect ratio. At the time of airing you might not have been watching in HD, so these prints will be a welcome treat for you. While there is at times a bit of grain, the presentation is mostly pretty solid. There are some sweet ocean scenes that appear to shine in color and depth. There are a lot of earth tones here, so don’t look for a particularly bright mood in the presentation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 offers a few nice ambient moments, but mostly you’re getting dialog here. It’s all fine and well placed; just don’t look for too much ear candy.
There are a couple of cast and crew Audio Commentary tracks on select episodes.
The release includes the two-part back-door pilot from NCIS.
The extras are all on Disc 6:
Inspired Television: (16:17) The producers talk about the challenges of creating a new NCIS show that could capitalize on what the fans love about the original but make it different enough to avoid accusations of cloning the other show. The idea development and casting/character choices are covered in some detail.
The LA Team – Meet The Cast And Crew: (20:54) This piece profiles all of the regular cast and characters with feedback from crew and each of the cast members themselves. It’s a good way to get to know them, but don’t view it if you haven’t already seen the entire season. There are some very important spoilers here.
Inside The Inner-Sanctum – The Set Tour: (12:17) Production designer Thomas Fichter is the tour guide through the sets of the series.
Do You Have A Visual: (10:18) Video footage from within the show is the focus here. They talk about all of the places people are captured on video in their lives and how it is a big part of this series.
Lights, Cameras, Action: (10:15) This feature looks at the stunts for the show.
This was one of the most popular new shows to come out last season. It’s a solid performer and delivers a constant mix of action and procedural drama. The episodes are pretty much stand-alone, so you don’t have to worry about catching just a few of them at a time. The last two episodes of the season, however, do delve into Callen’s past and are mostly a mythology season finale. It all finishes strong and looks to be one of the anticipated shows this fall. CBS has quite an odd assortment of show titles these days. Three CSI‘s and now 2 NCIS shows. “That’s a letter not a name.”