NCIS: NoMo Orleans

In a coincidental bit of symmetry, the last post I wrote (“NCIS: Spin-off Spin-out”) before writing 14 Westworld posts in a row, was about my disappointment with NCIS: New Orleans and how it was getting really hard to enjoy anymore.

Here now is a bookend post making the breakup official. The show has turned into something (or maybe it always was) that I don’t find any value in watching anymore. The fourth season has ended and, with it, so has my viewership. This is the second NCIS spin-off I see as a fail, which is sad when I’ve loved the original for so many years (15 of them, in fact).

It was the spectacularly stupid season finale that was the final straw (I mean, seriously, who writes this crap)…

The biggest irony, and I’m not sure if this is intended irony (I lean towards not) or if they’re really that oblivious, is that a running theme this season has been how various official authorities are unhappy with, and concerned about, Dwayne Pride and his team because of the tactics they use.

The thing is, Pride and his team do use exactly those tactics, often violating civil rights of people who — of course — turn out to be bad guys. And the script always makes it clear that Pride and company were right, the danger was real, so it’s all good in the end.

The premise here is that we must trust in Pride’s beliefs and actions — trust he doesn’t make mistakes. But in the real world we often make mistakes, sometimes with serious consequences.

As a side issue, how can we complain about a world that increasingly values expedience and material success over moral and social law when our most popular shows disdain these values? Our entertainment certainly reflects our social sensibilities. The question is how much is enables or furthers those sensibilities.

Moral considerations aside, the real sin here for me is that the show has become lame and stupid — cardinal sins in my book. The stories, and especially the villains, are silly and cartoonish. The writing is cliché and hackneyed, the plots are glaringly obvious (or painfully stupid).

These are some of the same sins that took down the first spin-off, NCIS: Los Angeles. That show also became cartoonish, lurid, and stupid. (See: “Not My NCIS” and “The End of the Affair”)

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As I said, the season four finale (“Checkmate”) was the final straw for all the reasons:

¶ The obvious betrayer. Lou Diamond Phillips. Did anyone not know, immediately upon seeing him in his first scene, that he had to be a Black Hat?

Roger Ebert’s “Law of Economy of Characters” alone should have told you to keep an eye on him. The way he gets Pride on the boat in the final act should also have been a huge glaring air horn of a giveaway.

¶ At one point, the show turns into a caper story, wherein our “heroes” break the law to steal stuff in the name of “saving the day.”

Hunting buried pirate treasure wasn’t enough. Now they’ve gone full-on Mission: Impossible mode. (I would have said Leverage mode, a much more recent, and fun, show, but wasn’t sure how many would get the reference.)

¶ Techno-magic with the “deep fake” photo that supposedly showed Pride driving the van allows (in the nick of time!) the White Hats to see the actual driver, hooray!

Except preposterous. There’s no way — no way at all — to bring out the original in such a doctored photo. That data simply doesn’t exist in the photo’s pixels.

It’s by no means the first time the show resorts to techno-magic. It frequently uses the troupe that a good enough hacker can do anything with a computer.

¶ The plot requires that the mayor’s motorcade drive down a road directly on the river. (A road that is entirely exposed to river traffic.) The plot also requires they “hunker in place” during an alert, thus making them a motionless target from the river.

When a plot requires stupid behavior to work, it’s a bad plot. It’s one of the things that makes a work hackneyed. The use of coincidence, or last-minute magic saves, is along the same lines of lazy plotting.

¶ The plot requires that people who’ve previously demonstrated faith in Pride to quickly switch their opinion of him. And then quickly switch back when, of course, he was right all along.

Convenient plot beats are convenient. [sigh]

(I’m reminded of the one thing that really bugs me about Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski series: Despite all the times V.I. has been right in the past about some weird conspiracy, all her friends are always really skeptical about the latest one she’s stumbled on. I can only guess there was a whole bunch of times (never novelized) when she was wrong.)

¶ The massive conspiracy by a government higher-up cliché.

Yeah, okay, I know, but it isn’t so much art repeating real life as that real life has become cartoonish and lurid and corrupt. And even so, presumably our real life political asshats don’t go so far as murder.

A big part of it is that, last season ended with Pride taking down Mayor Hamilton (Steven Weber), who went from being an interesting adversary with an off-white hat to a murderous cartoon conspiracy villain. A huge waste of Steve Weber.

But here again, in season four, we’re ending with Pride taking down a powerful authority figure with an evil plot. How original.

¶ The suicide end cliché.

Ah, nothing like giving the Black Hat a gun and letting them administer final justice. Saves on court costs!

¶ LaSalle, who just took over dad’s company, finds said company in IRS trouble!

Given that I don’t like the LaSalle character — at all; he’s just a big dumb brute — I’m deeply in the “don’t care; please move on” zone on this one.

Characters do need backstories, but the modern tendency to give major characters soap opera lives is sad and silly to me. At least the parent show, NCIS, has mostly avoided that.

¶ And, ultimately, a predictable zero-tension ending with no surprises.

Oh, yeah, sure, there was that final bit, which was telegraphed so blatantly the moment Pride says he’s going upstairs, but, really, so what? Killing off the star of the show, you think?

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To sum it up, say the show has become increasingly paint by numbers and hackneyed in its use of techno-magic troupes and plot points.

There is also that I really can’t stand Sebastian (who’s a horrible field agent and who’s screwed up big several times now proving he’s a horrible field agent), and LaSalle is just a big zero to me.

And while it’s cool seeing Daryl Mitchell on TV, his hacker character is absurd. He might as well be a magical techno-elf with electro-pixie dust.

Percy and Gregorio manage to be both mildly annoying in their abrasiveness and not very interesting. None of the characters is particularly interesting to me — I have, in contrast to NCIS — never once imagined hanging out with them.

Very much in contrast, because I’d love to hang out with anyone on that show! They are all interesting to me.

And ultimately, the problem is the show’s main character, Dwayne Pride. He is exactly the hot-head he’s accused of being. So is his number one, LaSalle, and so, for that matter, are Percy and Gregorio. It’s a whole unit of hot-heads!

And, I realized, at least for me, offensively so.

I’m just not interested in that bullshit. Sadly, it’s the bullshit that people love these days. Hot-heads with guns, low on thoughtfulness, high on action.

Definitely high on action. Both definitions.

All those comic book movies, Marvel and DC, are the same mindless shit. It is, oh my god, so silly and — worse! — boring.

The idea is that we’re to trust these low-thought, high-action “heroes” with their own system of value ethics and justice. It’s okay to trust them to violate civil rights of only bad guys, because that gets the job done.

And when it comes to Dwayne Pride on NCIS: New Orleans, it’s fascinating to me that a key theme is exactly that — Pride is a dangerous hot-head — and the show demonstrates (perhaps unintentionally) the very truth of this in most episodes.

It’s only through the magic of script that he gets it right every time.

And it’s an interesting counterpoint that, on the parent show, NCIS, in season seven, Gibbs added a painfully acquired new rule: #51. Sometimes you’re wrong.

Also, there’s that, while Gibbs can be a bit of a hot-head at times, he’s also a former Marine, so he’s disciplined and knows how to follow orders. And his team is likewise disciplined while being generally cool-headed and highly intelligent (except for growed up Fez, who is the first NCIS team member I’ve felt I could do without; seriously, why is he on the show).

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True, it’s only a TV show, and if I don’t like it I’m free to not watch it (which is exactly my plan going forward).

It’s just a little sad to me that both spin-offs of NCIS have been such fails to me.

After all, NCIS, which I love, is itself a spin-off of JAG, which I also loved.

And I think I can see why I love those two but find little of interest in the two NCIS spin-offs.

Essentially, they lost the core idea.

Probably intentionally, seeking a different audience, or to deliberately not copy the parent, but in doing so they made themselves the same usual crap.

JAG and NCIS both feature a military background, but ultimately are about people: victims, survivors, and perpetrators. JAG focused on the legal aspects while NCIS focuses on the police procedural side. And even JAG was often investigative. Between the two, you have a kind of Law & Order thing going on.

The two NCIS spin-offs distance themselves from the military aspect and focus on grand sweeping plots with grand cartoon villains — often terrorists (hated by one and all, so perfect story villains). And both tend to have lots of guns going off, which has become more and more of a turn-off for me.

It may well be a matter of taste (the spin-offs are quite popular), and if so yet another spin-off is very much no longer to my taste.

So good-bye and so long to NCIS: New Orleans. Odds are I won’t miss the second one any more than I do the first. (Which, to be clear, is not at all.)

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Speaking of NCIS, yet another long-time regular, Pauley Perrette, left the show late this season. Which is sad enough, but there was also a bit of inter-personal conflict angst about the situation.

Apparently Mark Harmon’s dog bit a crew member rather severely, but the dog wasn’t banned from the dog-friendly set thereafter. (Supposedly the dog was kept confined in Harmon’s trailer.) Perrette was greatly distressed about this, and it led to a rift between her and Harmon.

Such a rift that their scenes had to be filmed on separate days.

And you’ll note the odd way their final scene doesn’t involve them hugging (which, given their past, you’d really think they’d have to). In fact, that final scene shot them completely separately — the editing is what combines them.

The contrast between the actors and the characters they play can be very stark. Usually those characters owe so much more to the writers than they do the actors playing the role, that it’s not the actor that you come to know. Really, all the actors bring is flavor.

[I’ve mentioned before my shock upon discovering the contrast between Bebe Neuwirth and Dr. Lilith Sternin. There was a similar shock with Loretta Swit and Maj. Margaret Houlihan. More recently the contrast between Lisa Edelstein and Dr. Lisa Cuddy. Said shock coming from being very attracted to their highly intelligent characters but much less so the actors playing them. What’s next? That Lucy Liu isn’t much like John Joan Watson? No…]

In any event, not knowing the dog-bite situation or the people involved, I have no opinion on the rift, although it’s sad for something like that to create such a break. One can’t help but wonder about underlying currents.

But no matter, the point is the art is one thing, the artists another. (With a deeper point that the actors aren’t really even the bigger artists here.)

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Which brings up the Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee fracas.

Which is a post for another time (this being long enough), but I will say this much: Those two are not the same thing. At all.

FWIW, I’ve never liked nor respected Barr, and I never watched the original show. Nor did I watch the reboot.

In some ways I wish it hadn’t been cancelled, because I wanted to see if, over time, the ratings failed. They were trending down, but now we’ll never know. But I see failing in the ratings as a greater indictment than being cancelled over a tweet.

(And, yes, ABC’s real mistake was getting in bed with Barr in the first place.)

With regard to Sam Bee, I loved the show at first but haven’t watched in a long time. I grew tired of what is essentially a feminist scream of rage. Not because I in any way disagree or find it wrong or inappropriate.

Indeed I quite agree and generally support the points of view, but for me it’s screaming at the choir, and it got old. (Plus, I see it as divisive and not helpful in solving the issues.)

More on that another time. (Or not. Pretty much said what I had to say.)

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Tangents aside, farewell to Pauley Perrette, Abby will be missed!

And farewell to NCIS: Spin-Off #2. You won’t be.

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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