There’s not much to explain about CBS’s new spin-off-of-a-spin-off procedural NCIS: Los Angeles. Even if you aren’t familiar with its sister show NCIS (or its mother show JAG), NCIS: L.A.‘s two-partners-solving-crimes-and-shooting-bad-guys format should be evident simply because, like practically every other cop show on television, its title contains an acronym.
After recovering from the gunshot wounds he received during the obligatory back-door pilot appearance in NCIS, G. Callen (Chris O’Donnell), a supposed master of undercover investigation, returns to work with his partner Sam Sanna (LL Cool J), with whom he, along with a group of tech experts, conducts criminal investigations out of a restored hacienda that involve the Navy and Marine Corps.
The show has all the subtlety of a freight train. Any sense of mystery or discovery is immediately undermined by every character’s impeccable intuition. The intermediary investigative scenes mostly feel designed to show off the NCIS lab’s giant CNN-like touch screen as the characters effortlessly spew exposition. The dialogue is typically cute and punchy, but after countless procedural shows filled with cute and punchy dialogue, it’s hard not to wish everyone wasn’t so damn witty all the time. Of course, in the end, nothing is as it seems, and the guy least expected to be a criminal turns out to be a criminal, and the good guys learn a lesson and tidy everything up before the credits roll.
Most of CBS’s procedural shows try to shake things up by throwing psychics or ghosts into the mix, but NCIS: L.A. comes across as deeply uninspired.
It’s an overused premise dressed up with new cars, bright sun, and cool shades. But while CBS may have 10 procedural shows to their name already (The Mentalist, Medium, Cold Case, Ghost Whisperer, Numb3rs, Criminal Minds, NCIS, and three versions of CSI), who can fault them for adding an 11th when the network pulls in the highest ratings on television?