NCIS: Spin-off Spin-out

Some of you may know that NCIS (the one with Mark Harmon) is one of my favorite TV shows. And, absent the occasional clunker, they still are turning out very good episodes in their 15th season. It’s quite an accomplishment to remain a top, and high quality, show for 347 episodes.

Some of you may also know that I forsook the first spin-off, NCIS: Los Angeles, because it is — in my view — a silly-ass, lame-ass, stupid show (with too much gun play). I haven’t watched it in quite some time, and I haven’t missed it one iota.

And now it looks like I’m going to forsake their second spin-off, NCIS: New Orleans, because it also has gotten too stupid for me to enjoy anymore.

My biggest ask, when it comes to storytelling, is don’t make me mad! Don’t fill me with so many “Yeah, but…” moments that it breaks me out of the story!

Things that make me mad include:

  • Tired old clichés and obviousness
  • Character idiocy (when a character has to be stupid to miss an obvious thing that would immediately resolve a conflict)
  • Character violations (when a character acts completely out of that established character’s behaviors in order to drive the plot)
  • Technological or historical nonsense (either as nemesis or deus ex machina)

My tolerance for these things, my ability to forgive, depends on the quality of the story overall. The better the story, the more I can forgive. TV shows, in particular, can earn forgiveness for bad episodes if the series is good.

A very good example of this is Halt and Catch Fire, a show with an egregious treatment of computer technology and programming, but with a compelling enough drama and story that I found it worth watching.

But if I get to a point where I’m really wondering why I’m even watching the series, my forgiveness evaporates. (In some cases, as with Fargo or Once Upon a Time, I’m not happy with the series from the beginning, which puts it on borrowed time. I bailed on Fargo halfway through the eighth episode; I’m still hanging in there with Once.)

After initially liking NCIS: New Orleans, I’ve been a bit on the fence lately. The most recent episode, “Treasure Hunt,” just may have pushed me off that fence. And not onto the favorable side.

Because: Secret Coded Pirate Treasure Map!

One of the things I really like about NCIS is how realistic it is. The writers rarely use plot devices (let alone entire plots) that aren’t grounded in some sort of reality.

The thing about pirate treasure maps is that they are fantasy! And to the extent any pirate ever made a map, it wasn’t some clever National Treasure tricky secret code. Let alone a fucking puzzle box.

There really just isn’t such a thing as buried pirate treasure. It’s not that some pirates didn’t bury treasure; it’s that they usually dug it up pretty quickly. Or someone else did.

More to the point, historians will tell you that there never was a pirate treasure map, let alone some clever coded secret one. Pure fantasy.

(Seriously: Go Ogle for “are pirate treasure maps real” and read a few links. Even the Wikipedia entry for Treasure Map will clue you in.)

This episode really pissed me off. It made me restless. It was both boring and torturous to watch the whole thing.

It was boring because I knew who the real villain was almost immediately (the redhead, duh). It was torture because the plot was so idiotic and on, oh, so many levels.

Given that the more I watch the show, the more I question why I bother, the time may have come to dump this one. I guess I can thank CBS for making it just a bit easier to cut the cable. I’m down to NCIS, Madame Secretary, and Bull. And I’m a little iffy on Bull.

One key aspect of NCIS is that I really like the characters — they’re people I’d love to know and hang out with. Pretty much every single one of them.

(I’ve spent something like 240 hours with them over the years. At least with the ones who’ve been on the show its entire length.)

Contrast that with NCIS: New Orleans where I only semi-like Dwayne Pride (Scott Bakula, whom I usually like a lot) and — with the exception of Loretta (CCH Pounder) whom I do like a lot — am only so-so with the others.

And I rather actively dislike Sebastian (Rob Kerkovich) now that he’s a field agent. (As a forensics geek, I liked him fine.) Hard to believe that guy could pass the physical, let alone the psychological, requirements to be a field agent. Do they really let people with that many phobias run around with a gun? Yikes.

I also don’t find much to like in LaSalle (Lucas Black). He’s dumb, impulsive, kind of a jerk, and — unlike, say, Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) on NCIS — he doesn’t seem to have much in the way of useful skills.

And I just don’t find anything charming about the childish way the characters interact with each other. As one example, both Sebastian and Tammy (Vanessa Ferlito) missed obvious clues about the redhead because they were both lusting after her (and arguing about which of them she liked).

And, you know, putting your main characters in life-threatening jeopardy is pretty boring when you know they need to return for next week’s episode. (I don’t watch the show or read the books, but you do have to credit Game of Thrones for the way it dispatches key characters on a regular basis.)

I’ve spent over 60 hours with these NCIS: Nola folks, and it may be time to send them packing.

I suspect that a big part of the problem, at least for me, is that NCIS is at its heart a realistic police procedural with military trappings. Both spin-offs distance themselves from the military aspect and try to be a different show.

I think that’s a mistake. The lack of realism, the attempts to make them more action-y, and the absurd flights of fancy, all work against the parent show’s key ethics.

But maybe that’s just me. Both shows seem to be holding their audiences.

According to Wikipedia, the show’s ratings have declined every season, but they are still a highly ranked show. They’re in season four now and are in syndication on TNT, so it looks like there will be a season five.

Odds are I won’t be one of its viewers.


NCIS is a steadily top-ranked show and almost certain to be back for season 16. (And I’ll be right there with them.)

Apparently we’ll losing Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perette), and that’s going to be a hard one to take — she’s been such a key, and delightful, character. I do wonder if the most recent episode, “One Man’s Trash,” introduced a possible replacement.

But the show (pardon the pun) weathered the loss of Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), now starring in Bull) as well as Ziva David (Cote de Pablo, and whatever happened to her?) and others.

Still, I like the new people as much as the ones who’ve moved on, and there really isn’t a single one I wouldn’t hang out with or call friend.

Also, for the record, Gibb’s Basement Boats, my theory: He’s teaching himself to build boats. Everyone wonders how he gets them out of his basement (and he just smiles when asked). I don’t think he does. I think he takes them apart once he finishes (or gets far enough along that he’s learned what there is to learn about that one).

When he retires, he’ll build himself the perfect boat and go sailing away…

Just a theory.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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